- Associated Press - Wednesday, July 5, 2017

St. Cloud Times, July 1

Here’s hoping for a lengthy court battle …

Here’s a position the Times Editorial Board rarely takes:

In the wake of a judge’s ruling last week granting temporary funding for the Minnesota Legislature, let’s hope the lawsuit in need of the ruling drags on - and on and on and on - ideally until Election Day 2018.

Why? Perhaps if this lawsuit - paid for 100 percent with tax dollars - stays in the news that long, voters will have a top-of-mind reminder to finally cast ballots for state office holders whose top priority is public service through compromise, not political gamesmanship through stubbornness.

Will this lawsuit last that long? Probably not. But it also seems unlikely to be resolved by Oct. 1, which is the date Ramsey County Judge John Guthmann cited Monday in ordering funds be restored to keep the Legislature operating - despite a Dayton line-item veto of them back in May.

As you probably recall, Dayton’s unprecedented decision to cut most funds to the Legislature as of Friday ended (or did it?) the 2017 session.

He explained his decision as a way to get the Republican-led Legislature to negotiate a handful of measures to which he objected. And most certainly worth noting is that legislation forced Dayton to either accept the Republican tax bill or defund the state Department of Revenue.

Rather than negotiate with Dayton, Republican legislative leaders filed a lawsuit to determine if a governor can use his veto power in this manner.

As Twin Cities media reports about the hearing made clear, there has never been a situation like this involving Minnesota’s government. Perhaps that’s why those reports show anything but a clear path forward.

From Minnesota Public Radio:

“…Guthmann probed (Doug) Kelley (Republican lawyer) on what ability a governor would have to police legislative spending if his veto was curtailed as the Legislature’s lawsuit contemplates. Kelley responded that this veto “is basically saying I am doing this for leverage over you.

From MinnPost:

“Isn’t that one of the purposes of a line-item veto?” Guthmann asked. “I’ve been trying to think about why you would veto something. I thought about two categories: There’s the, ‘Over my dead body veto,’ which I’m not going to sign this no matter what form you put it in. And then there’s the, ‘I want you to do what I want you to do’ veto. … Aren’t those both legal uses of the veto?”

That singular statement from Guthmann symbolizes the complexities involved in this case. It also supports why the judge, in extending funding for 90 days, indicated he would like to see both sides settle their policy-making differences through negotiations.

More so, though, voters should not let the constitutional complexities distract them from the reason this is in the courts in the first place:

Despite negotiating in secret, both Republican legislative leaders and the Democratic governor failed again to reach compromises in doing the people’s business.

Again, how many lawsuits will it take before voters elect candidates whose top priority is public service through compromise, not political gamesmanship through stubbornness?


The Post-Bulletin of Rochester, July 5

Delay in teens driving isn’t necessarily a bad trend

Statistically speaking, there’s no more dangerous place for a 16-year-old to be than behind the wheel of a car — except perhaps in the passenger’s seat of a car being driven by another 16-year-old. In an average year, 30 Minnesotans between the ages of 16 and 19 die in car crashes.

That reason alone is justification for many families today to defy the tradition that when a teen turns 16, he or she should make a beeline for the DMV to get a driver’s license. According to a story in Monday’s Post Bulletin, nearly half of America’s teens are delaying licensure, with nearly 30 percent of high school seniors reporting that they don’t yet have a driver’s license.

We like this trend.

Just a generation ago, nearly every teenager took driver’s ed in high school and most received their driver’s license at age 16, but the world has changed considerably since then. Cars are much safer than they were 20 years ago, with sophisticated airbag systems and even collision-avoidance technology in some models But another piece of technology is wreaking all kinds of havoc — the cellphone.

Nearly one-fourth of all crashes involving teen drivers are due to distracted driving, and although there are plenty of possible distractions out there, the cellphone is the biggest culprit. People of all ages are distracted by their phones.

It’s illegal for drivers under 18 to use a cellphone for any purpose, and texting while driving is illegal for all drivers, yet distracted driving is now the fourth leading cause of auto accidents in Minnesota.

We’d like to believe that young drivers are following the law and turning off their cellphones, but the evidence and anecdotal observations say otherwise.

Think about how you responded the last time you forgot to turn off your phone while driving. When you got a text, were you at least tempted to sneak a peak?

Now consider what we know about brain development in adolescents. Studies in the past decade have revealed that areas of the brain involved in rendering judgments and making decisions aren’t fully developed until age 25 — which points to the likelihood that many cellphone-owning 16-year-olds simply aren’t mature enough to make always make the smart choice when they hear that “ding.”

So does that mean no one under 25 should be driving? Of course not — but even a slight delay in getting a license will increase one’s odds of living to age 21. Nationwide, the rate of fatal crashes per mile driven for drivers 17 and under is nearly double the rate for drivers who are 18 or 19.

Of course, safety isn’t the only reason teens are delaying getting their licenses. The cost of insuring young drivers is prohibitive, with the average Minnesota family’s premiums going up 97 percent when a 16-year-old is added to the policy. That’s the eighth-highest premium hike in the country for teen drivers.

Social pressures have shifted as well. There was a day when a 16-year-old with no driver’s license would have been stigmatized, but today, not having a license is perfectly normal, especially in larger cities. Kids get rides with their older friends or from their parents — or they (gasp!) ride a bike, catch a bus or call Uber, Lyft or another service.

Admittedly, there’s a downside to this trend — at age 18, an aspiring new driver no longer has to complete a driver’s education course. The ability to pass a written exam and avoid disasters during the driving exam is no substitute for spending hours in the car with a professional instructor.

So perhaps a good route for concerned parents is to have teens get their learner’s permit at age 17, which means they’ll still have to take the 30 hours of classroom instruction as well as behind-the-wheel instruction before they get their provisional license.

The money they’ll save by not insuring a 16-year-old driver will more than pay for a driver’s education course, and waiting that extra year or two might just save lives.


The Free Press of Mankato, July 1

State, region still lagging in broadband

If broadband access is the fuel that can power rural and outstate economic development, Minnesota is in need of a fill up.

For the last two budget cycles, Gov. Mark Dayton and Democrats have pushed to add from $60 million to $100 million to the state’s broadband grant program, and the Legislature has grudgingly provided $20 million. In the last round of funding, the funding requests were double the total amount of funding available.

Clearly, outstate Minnesota still needs broadband infrastructure. Some 22 percent of rural households in Minnesota, about 202,000, don’t have access to typical broadband, according to the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development.

This leads people like Casey Jelinski, an entrepreneur who used to live in Aitkin County, to move to De Pere, Wis., where the broadband was better. Her story was detailed in a Star Tribune report that noted she used to drive 60 miles to Duluth to get good broadband coverage.

Other such cases happen across Minnesota. Some 73 percent of the households lack typical broadband in Aitkin County, the worst coverage in the state.

In the Mankato region, broadband coverage is worst in Martin and Sibley counties, with about 45 percent of households without broadband coverage. Some 30 to 40 percent of households in Watonwan and Waseca County have no access to typical broadband. Even in more populous Blue Earth and Nicollet counties about 20 to 25 percent of households are without broadband.

Broadband internet has become critical business infrastructure like electricity was in the early days of the Republic. But bringing broadband to rural areas is costly. Hence the need for government subsidy for this investment that returns dividends in jobs and economic development.

Since 2014, Minnesota has invested $66 million in its broadband grant program. That has served some 25,949 households, 3,176 businesses and 244 community institution like schools, libraries and hospitals.

The Republican Party campaigned in the last election how outstate Minnesota was left behind and the Twin Cities was somehow the recipient of the state’s largesse. But the GOP Legislature had a chance to put its funding where its campaign rhetoric was and came up short on broadband.

As the demand for the dollars shows, we need to do more. We urge the Legislature, and Republican leaders in the House and Senate, to up their commitment to outstate Minnesota and expand broadband program funding.

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