Notes From the Future

20Mar09

OK.  I got to looking today at the bills getting introduced into the legislature this session.  They are up to House File 1959 and Senate File 1808.  I found it interesting that SF 1729-1808 are listed as “introduced on Monday, March 23, 2009.”  (Hence the title of this posting.)  The page lists all the bills that are scheduled to be introduced on Monday.  It’s somewhat dry reading.  Several bills for acts relating to natural resources, acts relating to education, acts relating to health, courts, civil action, etc.  A few caught my eye.

SF1808 (also HF1959 introduced March 19) relates to employment–specifically minimum wage.  Nothing Earth-shattering other than that I realize that the reduced minimum wage employer could give tipped employees (tip credit) that Minnesota eliminated almost 20 years ago came back last July.  The federal minimum wage became $6.55 on July 24, 2008 but provides a reduced minimum of $2.13 for employees that receive gratuities as long as said gratuities bring their average wage up to the $6.55 minimum.  Minnesota’s minimum wage remains at $6.15 meaning restaurants could legitimately pay their servers the state wage of $6.15 per hour.  (I know of more than one restaurant that is not taking advantage of that fact.)  The proposed legislation would take effect July 24, 2009 when the federal minimum wage goes up to $7.25.  It provides for a state minimum wage of $6.55 as long as the employee receives enough in tips to reach an average wage of $12, otherwise they must get paid $7.25.

SF1792 (also HF1907 introduced March 19) relates to election recounts.  It adds an entire section for “Verification and Standards” such as verifying voter registrations as legitimate and in cases of errors essentially a state challenge to their ballot unless it is corrected at the polls before they vote.  Same day registrations will have their ballots marked as “unverified” until the elections official can verify the validity of their registration.  The other subtle part is the elimination of the word “manual” before “recount”.  It specifically calls for the recount to take place in the same manner they were counted on election day.  It also limits the scope of the recount to the votes “validly cast and counted on election day”.  That definitely would have taken a lot of the “fun” out of the Franken-Coleman election contest.

The last one I’ll touch on is SF1795.  This relates to counties, creating two new counties (out of three of the current ones).  Sherburne County would lose the Township of Haven and its portion of the City of Saint Cloud.  Those pieces would be combined with Benton and Stearns Counties to create . . . wait for it . . . Lake Wobegon County!  From my view I can see a couple practicalities about it.  First off you now have Saint Cloud contained entirely in one county instead of split between three, which I’ve heard has created some logistical issues in the past.  Then you have the benefit of two counties combined into one, hopefully resulting in some cost savings from not having to duplicate services.  (Are they small enough where it will be feasible?  And as important, is that what the citizens want?)

When I started this blog the plan wasn’t necessarily to comment on pending legislation.  I am definitely not a policy wonk and this is the first time I’ve looked at bills this early in the process.  Usually I only have noticed them when they hit the news at which point all you can do is try to convince your representative at the Legislature to vote it down.  Starting to look earlier in the process you might have a better chance to help shape things as they move along.

Update 24Mar09:  Some of the legislators from the St. Cloud area are holding a press conference today to announce the “Lake Wobegon County” bill.  It would be interesting to look at what bills get press conferences and which ones don’t.  And how many of the press conference bills actually pass.

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