With the state legislature back in session, Sen. Greg Clausen (DFL-Apple Valley) wasted no time rolling up his sleeves.
Clausen, a former educator and principal, offered Senate File 2, which would provide funding for statewide implementation of all-day kindergarten at all public schools, though it would not be mandated. Currently, about 44 percent of Minnesota students attend all-day programs, often funded through parental fees.
“Studies have shown that students who attend all-day kindergarten programs score better on tests and make stronger academic gains as they move through first and second grade.” Clausen said. “It's time to recognize the importance of this investment to the academic success of our children."
Among the other bills introduced in the Senate's first week were:
S.F. No. 1, a bill to establish Minnesota’s health-insurance exchange under the Affordable Care Act. The exchange would serve as an online marketplace where Minnesotans can compare costs and purchase health-insurance coverage.
“Minnesota has a unique and historic opportunity to lead the country in health reform, and help roughly 300,000 uninsured Minnesotans gain coverage by 2016,” said chief Senate author Sen. Tony Lourey (DFL-Kerrick). “A Minnesota-based exchange allows Minnesota the opportunity to modernize our public systems. With this exchange, we can ensure that Minnesota moves forward in providing individuals with access to affordable, quality health care.”
S.F. No. 3: A proposal by Sen. Chris Eaton (DFL-Brooklyn Center), this would raise Minnesota’s minimum wage to $7.50 per hour. Currently, Minnesota is one of just four states (along with Wyoming, Arkansas and Georgia) that sets a minimum wage rate below the federal rate of $7.25 per hour.
“Whether it’s the teenager with a part-time job or the low-income worker struggling to stretch each paycheck, putting more money in the pockets of minimum wage earners is good for the whole economy," Eaton said.
S.F. No. 4: Introduced by Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk (DFL-Cook), this bill would raise the threshold to require a three-fifths majority before the legislature can put a proposed constitutional amendment on the ballot.
“Just last fall, Minnesotans saw how costly, inefficient, and ugly it gets when a simple majority in the legislature can get around the governor and attempt to legislate through constitutional amendments,” Bakk said. “A change to our constitution ought to have broad bi-partisan support.”