NEWS DAY | 7-UP or Schlitz? Setting Minnesota's legislative agenda

The legislature comes back to town next week, kicking off the 12-week session on Tuesday, February 25. After a couple of tumultuous years, what's coming up in 2014? Dayton spokesperson Tony Sertich and Dane Smith of Growth and Justice proposed competing beverage metaphors at the 2014 Legislative Session (Un-Session) Preview hosted by the McKnight Foundation on February 19.

Governor Mark Dayton, harking back to 7-Up's "un-cola" campaign, wants this year's legislature to be the "un-session." That means getting rid of unnecessary or redundant laws and regulations. According to Sertich, the governor also has two other priorities for the 2014 session: a robust bonding bill and raising the minimum wage, both of which add up to "a jobs session."

Dane Smith urged the legislature to "go for the gusto," a la the 1970s Schlitz campaign. Growing economic inequality and stubborn racial disparities were his targets.

While acknowledging that "co-opting of business memes and themes make some of wince," Smith insisted that competitiveness is a business-oriented common thread that explains to others why state spending is important. Examples:

  • education (To be competitive, we need a well-trained work force.)
  • reducing racial disparities (With Minnesota's very large racial disparities, we can't compete with other states that have more equal opportunity.)

Ann Mulholland of MoveMN delivered a rousing call for more investment in transportation — because of the importance of transportation infrastructure, because repair and maintenance is desperately needed, and because work on transportation creates jobs. "The urgency is beyond measure — we are going to run out of resources to fix our roads," warned Mulholland.

Hearing from the audience — Q&A session

An audience made up of high-powered representatives of advocacy and social service organizations also offered insights. Among them:

Shawntera Hardy, Fresh Energy - Praised the recently-released Minnesota Department of Health report on racial inequities and the health of Minnesotans and asked whether the governor has urged other departments to look at "real strategies for closing the gap, breaking down the barriers, dealing with the structural -isms." When making investments in transportation and development, look at impact on these communities and work with the communities to identify what's needed.

Russ Adams, Alliance for Metropolitan Stability - Seconded the need for a comprehensive transportation bill, and challenged the idea that legislature can't get it done in 12 weeks.

Mike Christenson, MCTC - Historic agreement with Summit Academy, St. Paul College and Minneapolis Community and Technical College (MCTC) to supply grads to Vikings stadium construction jobs - but not enough people enrolled in this program come from North Minneapolis, despite our recruiting efforts.

Mario Hernandez, Latino Economic Development Center - Focus on equity in transportation — some large transit corridors serve mainly big manufacturers and big box retailers, not providing connections that are useful to small businesses and lower-income communities. This is not necessarily the intent of their design, but that's how it works.

Bruce Corrie of Concordia University - A clear articulation of the economic contribution of immigrants as assets is missing in a lot of the discussion. Look at economic vitality contributed by immigrant businesses.

Related: Video: Preview of the 2014 Minnesota legislative session (The Uptake, February 2014)

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    Mary Turck's picture
    Mary Turck

    Mary Turck (maryturck [at] gmail [dot] com) is a freelance writer, editor, teacher, and lifelong activist, and former editor of the TC Daily Planet.