10 Things I’d Like to See in 2019 Minnesota

  1. Legalize Marijuana – Legalizing marijuana serves several real life purposes. First, it reduces the unnecessary incarceration of people for a comparatively minor offense. Second, it reduces some of the African-American disparities in those incarceration rates. Third, it gives people with chronic pain a reasonable alternative to opioids. Fourth, it provides an economic boost for agriculture.  Fifth, it opens up real and factual investigation into the long term effects of marijuana. Up to this point research has been lacking and too often, the opponents point to problems that are more imagined than real. It is not like the trend for marijuana is not already moving in this direction, so let’s do it.
  2.  Gax tax increase. Republicans keep floating this ridiculous notion that revenue from other sources can just be sent over to transportation and somehow stabilize the ever growing need for roads, bridges, and transit, without affecting anything else. That is fantasy. There will come a time when a gas tax will not raise as much revenue as it could right now – because cars are getting more efficient and more are becoming electric. But the need is now and we need to take advantage of this potentially brief window. Dedicated transportation dollars via the gas tax is a ticket to stabilizing MNDOT budgets and keep both rural and urban transportation functioning for our economy.
  3. Renew the Provider Tax. More is going to be asked of Minnesota Care if we are going to find ways to stabilize health care in our state. We are actually very fortunate to have a viable public option in MnCare and the provider tax has worked well to keep this health care option solvent. This renewal is NOT a tax increase – it merely maintains the revenue stream that has kept MnCare in the black for so many years. And the idea that we should just let it sunset now, when we need it the most, is foolish.
  4. Making Progress on the Education Achievement Gap. One of the persistent and troubling aspects of an otherwise great education system in Minnesota is this constant difference in racial achievement. Kids of color have not been doing as well in our environment and every solution that tries to address this fails. We know it is there, but we do not know why it is there. If we have to address this with more resources, then we must do so, because we cannot head into our future economy leaving so many people behind. This should be a high priority for the new administration.
  5. Environmental Protection. As the Federal administration destroys our environmental safety nets, Minnesota needs to do more to close that gap for the sake of our own environmental resources. Mining will always be a controversial area that we need to tread carefully with, but that does not mean we relax the restrictions. If mining is going to be part of Minnesota again, then it must be on solid environmental terms. If that means red tape and delays, then so be it. As has happened in other places, once the damage is done, it can be permanent or at the very least a massive expense to fix. Get it right the first time and do not let the industry dictate terms via their complaints. That is what we are getting at the Federal level. Minnesota has to do better. But it isn’t just about mining. Farm land run off and chemical waste are particular issues in Minnesota industries. We need to take the same care in that regard.
  6. Serious Sexual Harassment Policy. The legislature needs to set the example on sexual harassment. Last session, we had some high profile issues that had nowhere to go for proper resolution. Something needs to be in place that gives a clear due process for complaints. If it can be done properly and successfully, then maybe the work place can follow suit.
  7. Gun Safety Regulations. Now is the time. Now is the time for Minnesota to get serious about legislation that can keep guns in their proper place. And let’s be clear – this is not about hunting. Minnesota is a destination place for hunting and fishing and no one wants to interfere with that. But ownership requires more than simple permits. We need to know that every gun is purchased legally with a proper background check. And this MUST include private sales. It is not an insult to have a check done on a family purchase. Why should there be any problem with that? It should be quick and simple. But it is necessary to assure the rest of us that any gun purchase is properly done. Yeah, I know that criminals will still get guns – not disputing that. But background checks with proper mental health information (and that must be addressed as well) and potential domestic abuse  backgrounds need to be available to stop dangerous situations when we can. Not being able to stop every problem, doesn’t mean we don’t try to stop the ones we can.
  8. More Stringent Police Training. Lethal force by the police needs to be addressed. Yes, I know that few officers actually ever fire their gun. I understand that and I applaud that. But when it happens, we need to know that we have trained these officers in every aspect of these confrontations. Questions need to be asked. Do we have methods of non-lethal force at our disposal? Do we have officers with racial biases on the street? Are officers kept up to date on best practices? In addition, we need to have some way to hold officers who kill accountable. If someone violates procedures to the point of going way beyond regular police actions, then there needs to be a legal remedy that makes sense and brings justice to the situation. I don’t think this is impossible, but it requires serious self examination by law enforcement.
  9. Budgets. Governor Dayton proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that asking more of the wealthy in taxes does not hurt our economy. In fact, it makes our economy work better. The constant gimmicky  approach of Republican legislators has to be done away with. Revenue needs to be stable and predictable and we have some catching up to do to make that happen. We need meaningful income tax revenues, a gas tax that stabilizes transportation, enhanced sales tax revenue for rail and transit…and possibly dedicating these stream for areas of need so that they cannot be raided by a false need for tax cuts. Our budgets do NOT need to be complicated.  And we should think about recession proofing our budgets so that we do not need to put ourselves in impossible deficit positions as we did during the last decade. Think forward and plan – that is not hard.
  10. Climate Action. The crisis of our time is not a border wall – it is adapting to climate change. I fear that we have lost the window of addressing this directly by our constant inaction, but we can still mitigate the drastic circumstances that are sure to follow. We need a more rapid turnover to renewal energy and because of our inaction, that may be a costly venture. But we have no choice. We need serious recommendation from climate experts and we need to follow those recommendation before it is too late to even address what we can.

That is lot to put on a legislative plate, but we can chew gum and walk at the same time. We need bold action and that means ignoring the whining of Republican tax cutting and working for the betterment of everyone in our community. Minnesota should lead the nation. Let’s get to work.

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