Legislative Notebook: Select Committee To Look Into Minnesota Wages

Minnesota state Sen. LeRoy Stumpf of Plummer, left, talks to Sen. Dave Senjem of Rochester after a brief Senate session Monday.

By Don Davis

A special House committee is to look into Minnesotans’ wages.

House Speaker Paul Thissen, DFL-Minneapolis, appointed the committee, to be led by Rep. Ryan Winkler, DFL-Golden Valley.

“I believe that Minnesota succeeds when hard work pays off,” said a committee member, Rep. Joe Radinovich, DFL-Crosby. “Hard-working Minnesota men and women should be able to provide for their family. Our poverty rates have doubled in the last 10 years and incomes are dropping. For long-term growth and success, we absolutely have to reverse these trends and ensure that every Minnesotan has economic opportunity and can earn a living wage.”

Also on the committee are Reps. Susan Allen, DFL-Minneapolis; Pat Garofalo, R-Farmington; Andrea Kieffer, R-Woodbury; Jenifer Loon, R-Eden Prairie; and Rep. JoAnn Ward, DFL-Woodbury.

The select committee will look into several issues related to wages, benefits and cost of living. Raising the minimum wage is among topics legislators are expected to debate this year.

Winkler plans to hold hearings in St. Paul and other locations.

Debt proof sought

Minnesota Attorney General Lori Swanson and a trio of legislators say they want to make sure the right people are being sued over some financial issues.

Their bill, ready for introduction, is in response to lawsuits by people who buy debt then sue people who should not be sued. It would require those buyers to file proof they are suing the right people and for the right amount.

Swanson said passage of the bill would affect thousands of Minnesotans each year.

“Nobody is supposed to win in court unless they prove their case,” Swanson said. “It is only fair to expect companies that purchase old debt for pennies on the dollar to submit admissible evidence that they have sued the right person for the right amount.”

Rep. Debra Hilstrom, DFL-Brooklyn Center, said many debt buyers “are abusing our Minnesota judicial system to obtain default judgments against Minnesotans when they don’t even owe the debt. These debt buyers don’t even know if they have the right person, the right amount, or have any real evidence.”

Debt buyers purchase old debts that are written off by original creditors, such as credit card companies, banks and phone companies.

Debt buying is among the country’s fastest-growing industries.

All-day K introduced

All-day kindergarten is a goal for a new senator who was high school principal 14 years.

Sen. Greg Clausen, DFL-Apple Valley, introduced the bill, one of Senate Democrats’ top priorities.

“I have firsthand knowledge of the importance of starting education at an early age,” Clausen said.

Clausen said that about half of Minnesota kindergarten students attend all-day programs and 15 percent of students attend all-day programs funded through parental fees.

“The United States is falling behind in math and science and we need to do what we can to put an end to that trend,” Clausen said. “We know the impact all-day kindergarten has and I believe it will help Minnesota get back on track.”