Senator's View: Job skills, infrastructure can be priorities
As we head into the new year, a new Congress presents the opportunity to get things done to support Minnesota workers and businesses and to continue building on the progress we have made. There is more we can do to make sure northern Minnesota's economy continues to expand and thrive.
One of our top priorities must be making sure that no good job goes unfilled because workers are not getting the right training. In the Minnesota 2018 State of Manufacturing report, 48 percent of respondents said it was difficult to find workers with the right skills and experience. That was up from 35 percent in 2017. We can fix this trend.
I worked to pass a bipartisan career and technical-education act this summer to help more people get the training they need to compete for high-skilled, in-demand careers. Now law, it included my provision to better promote career and technical education to students. I plan to continue to press for solutions that connect students and workers with good-paying jobs in their communities.
To accommodate a 21st-century workforce, we need to make sure we have 21st-century infrastructure. That's why I've been working with Department of Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao on a number of priority projects to strengthen safety, ease congestion, and improve mobility — like the recently-announced $20 million grant to reconstruct the Twin Ports Interchange in Duluth and the more than $10 million in investment this year to modernize and expand the Duluth International Airport.
No serious infrastructure plan is complete without addressing broadband expansion. There is strong bipartisan support for including broadband funding in any infrastructure package, and that's good news.
In communities that have access to broadband, we've seen life-changing results. Like Essentia Health's Virginia clinic, which has begun connecting patients with health services through the internet. Instead of spending hours traveling by car, people who need to see a doctor can now head to the local clinic and with the click of a mouse find themselves face to face with medical specialists from around the state.
As we expand access to broadband, we must also do more to protect people's data online. Going into the new Congress, I will continue to push for privacy protections like those in my bipartisan bill with Republican Sen. John Kennedy of Louisiana, which requires tech companies like Google and Facebook to use plain language when explaining how consumer data will be used while also allowing people to opt out of having their data collected altogether. And if there's a security breach, it would require these companies to tell all consumers within 72 hours and provide those affected with solutions to protect them from identity theft.
We also need to pass my Honest Ads Act to shine light on dark money online. Right now if a political ad runs on a TV station in Duluth, that station has to disclose who purchased the ad. There's currently no similar requirement for online ads. My legislation would require this disclosure and help prevent foreign interference in future elections and improve the transparency of online political ads.
I am looking forward to 2019. We've passed a number of important bills in the last few weeks, and I'm especially proud of our work in passing the Farm Bill, Criminal Justice Reform and finally reforming the congressional sexual harassment rules. As the new year arrives, I'm optimistic we can extend this bipartisan work and tackle the challenges we face so we continue to move northern Minnesota forward. Happy New Year!
Sen. Amy Klobuchar represents Minnesota in the U.S. Senate. A Democrat, she wrote this at the invitation of the News Tribune Opinion page.