FREE SPEECH ZONE | Navigating the Political Landscape

NorthWay Community Trust co-hosted the March 15th panel discussion titled, “Navigating the Political Landscape”. The event was designed to introduce people to the legislative process, inform the public of important decisions pending legislative action, and encourage civic engagement. 

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No bonding bucks without economic justice

Minnesota lawmakers already passed a state bonding bill this year that DFL lawmakers say will put people back to work on construction projects around the state.But how many of the hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars are being spent hiring people from communities with disproportionately high-unemployment rates and other disadvantaged groups?Nobody knows for sure, and that’s the point of HF 3184 from Rep. Bobby Joe Champion, DFL-Minneapolis.Champion’s bill, and a Senate counterpart SF 2809 from Sen. Linda Higgins, DFL-Minneapolis, would require that before bonding money can be spent on a project, companies getting the contract to do those projects must put together a plan detailing how they will:* Recruit veterans, unemployed and disabled individuals to work on the projects, and target specific communities with disproportionately high unemployment rates from which to hire employees.* Recruit employees from job training providers.* Get word out about job opportunities to disadvantaged communities.* Demonstrate how much energy savings their building or construction project will generate.The bill is moving through committees in the House of Representatives this week and awaits  hearing in the House State Government Finance Committee before going to the floor for a vote.The bill language is similar to wording passed last year to deal with reporting on how the federal stimulus dollars are being spent in Minnesota.If it becomes law, the requirement would apply to state agencies, colleges and universities, counties, cities and other local governments.The bill requires a follow-up report from the agency, but does not include any language requiring agencies to hire contractors who submit the best plan, or even create penalties if contractors don’t follow the plan. It is a first step, Champion said. Continue Reading

Making MnDOT hire more women, people of color

Earlier this month, the Minnesota Department of Transportation announced a summer road construction season containing 283 projects worth $1.3 billion in state funding. So, how much of that public money is going to put people to work who are women or from communities of color? According to MnDOT, the state transportation agency was not able last year to meet even its own modest goal of making sure 8.75 percent of its contracts went to people who weren’t white males. Instead, it ended up sharing that public funding with contractors whose workforce contained only 6.59 percent nonwhite employees. Enter SF 2585 from Sen. Linda Higgins, DFL-Minneapolis, and HF 3099 from Rep. Bobby Joe Champion, DFL-Minneapolis. 
In their original form, these bills would have required the Transportation Commissioner to include in every bid contract a goal for hiring contractors and workers who meet federal Disadvantaged Business Enterprise definitions, and require contract bidders to note on their bids what percentage of their workforce comes from that pool of talent. Continue Reading