News Tribune Editorial Board
A billion-and-a-half-dollar pile of cash has nearly everyone, it seems — in St. Paul and across Minnesota — perking up with ideas and opinions. The state's just-announced budget surplus, its sixth in six years, promises to overshadow and influence just about everything that'll happen and be deliberated during the legislative session that kicks off in just 23 days.
Of the many failures of the Minnesota Legislature and Gov. Mark Dayton last year, this one may hurt everyday Minnesotans the most: the inability of the governor and lawmakers to align the state's income tax rules with the federal government's 2017 federal tax overhaul. They knew they needed to get it done and didn't. As a result, filing tax returns this spring will be "a nightmare" for most Minnesotans, as White Bear Lake, Minn., tax preparer Elizabeth Bystrom said in an Associated Press story over the weekend. "It's going to be very complicated."
At a legislative committee hearing last session in St. Paul, story after heartbreaking story was told about aging Minnesotans being neglected and even abused inside care facilities where they should have been safe — where they and their families should have been able to expect nothing less. One woman, in tears while sharing her mother's terrible tale of mistreatment, said, "This is not a Democratic issue or a Republican issue. This is a human issue," as Rep. Liz Olson of western Duluth recalled in a commentary in the News Tribune in March.
At least 15 times in four and a half tension-filled minutes, Superior Police officers instructed a man who indicated to them he had a gun to take his hand out of his coat pocket. The man was hesitant because of "what I want to do if I take it out of my pocket," he said during the Oct. 5 incident. "I'm going to shoot it," 19-year-old Joshua Michael Farmer can be heard telling officers on a video released last week recorded by officers' chest-mounted body cameras. "And either you're going to die or I'm going to die."
Did you know the speaker of the Minnesota House had the power, at the push of a button, to silence his lawmaking colleagues? Neither did lawmakers — until Republican House Speaker Kurt Daudt pressed his "chamber mute" button during what the Associated Press called "an acrimonious debate" during the 2016 legislative session. This was a year after Daudt had the button installed, giving him the power to turn off the microphones on all of his colleagues' desks all at once.
Duluth's legislative representatives are again making themselves publicly available so constituents can grill them, hear from them, and more actively participate in state government. Public town halls and other similar events are great opportunities citizens can strive not to miss. Elected officials can be commended for scheduling them.
Simple common sense may have prompted some ice anglers Saturday morning to take one look over Superior Bay, note the open water in the distance and the gusting strong winds, and say to themselves, "Nope, not the smartest or safest day to venture out onto this ice."
During his campaign, Minnesota Gov.-elect Tim Walz, during a sit-down with the News Tribune Editorial Board, talked a lot about thoughtful and responsible spending for education, transportation, and other core government services. He already had a reputation in Congress as a watchdog against waste. He even co-authored a bill to audit the Federal Reserve, and he pushed to audit the Pentagon to make sure taxpayers' dollars weren't squandered.
In 2016, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security imagined the unimaginable: a catastrophic failure of the Poe Lock, a part of the Soo Locks at Sault Ste. Marie, Mich.
Yes, a person can legally break the law in an emergency situation in order to prevent a greater harm. For example, a passerby can smash a car window on a hot day to rescue a baby forgotten in the back seat without fear of being cited or arrested for damaging property. A clear emergency. A clearly necessary action.