Labor-backed measures pending in Legislature’s final days

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Measures to provide educational opportunities for immigrants, invest in public infrastructure and schools and to build sports stadiums are all pending as the Legislature meets in its final days of the 2006 session.

By law, the session must end by midnight Monday, May 22.

The labor movement is supporting several proposals still being debated by lawmakers.

Proponents demonstrated this week in support of the Dream Act, legislation that would allow young people who have lived in Minnesota and attended Minnesota high schools to pay in-state tuition at state universities and colleges, even though they are not citizens. Currently, many of these young people – who often come to the state as part of immigrant families – are priced out of higher education, proponents said.

The Dream Act proposal is being debated as part of a larger budget bill.

Likewise, conference committees are meeting on the bonding bill and stadium proposals. Unions support a large bonding bill to invest in schools, transit and other public needs and to create jobs.

The most money in the bonding bill is likely to be spent on construction at the University of Minnesota and the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities (MNSCU). Lawmakers also will consider funding a light-rail-transit line between the St. Paul and Minneapolis downtowns, bus rapid-transit lines running north from Apple Valley and Lakeville, prison expansions in Stillwater and Faribault, and major improvements at the Minnesota Zoo.

Many unions are on record in support of construction of new stadiums for the Minnesota Twins baseball team, Minnesota Vikings football team and University of Minnesota Golden Gophers.

“The Twins stadium proposed for the Rapid Park site would create 500 good-paying construction jobs for three years,” said Bill McCarthy, president of the Minneapolis Central Labor Union Council.

Constructing the Vikings stadium and the accompanying development of offices, retail, and housing is projected to create 4,000 construction jobs per year for three years and an estimated 9,000 permanent jobs, he said.

Labor-supported legislation to make health care a right guaranteed in the Minnesota Constitution appears to lack sufficient support for passage. The legislation was approved by state Senate committees but did not advance in the House. Proponents say an amendment is needed to force lawmakers to solve the health care crisis. Currently, more than 400,000 Minnesotans have no health insurance and premiums continue to skyrocket for just about everyone else.

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