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DNR’s new website makes it easy to find the Minnesota state park that’s the best fit

Posted on June 11, 2014 at 1:09 PM
Categories: Outdoors, Reform

Minnesota State Parks Website Park Finder

Looking for the perfect Minnesota weekend getaway? With the Minnesota DNR’s new website, just a few clicks will get you there.

Just in time for National Get Outdoors Day on Saturday, June 14, the Department of Natural Resources is revealing a new tool called ParkFinder, which will help users plan any outdoor adventure at one of Minnesota’s 75 state parks and recreation areas to best match their needs and interests. With just a few clicks, users can enter search criteria, view the results, and make a reservation. 

Search options include where to find: 

  • Nature programs.
  • Trails – including hiking, biking, horse, ski and snowmobile trails.
  • Rental equipment – including canoes, kayaks, stand-up paddleboards, cross-country skis and snowshoes. 
  • Overnight camping and lodging facilities – including drive-in, cart-in and canoe-in campsites; RV sites; camper cabins and more.
  • Amenities – such as beaches, playgrounds, fishing piers and picnic shelters, including which ones are accessible to wheelchairs and other mobility-assist devices.

This year, Governor Dayton signed the first Plain Language Initiative as part of the Unsession, which directs all state agencies to use commonly used language, write in clear and concise sentences, and present information in a format that is easy to understand for Minnesotans.


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Minnesotans Celebrate Wage Increase for High-Quality In-Home Care

Posted on June 10, 2014 at 2:22 PM

Governor Dayton meets with advocates

Governor Mark Dayton today helped celebrate a landmark achievement for tens of thousands of health care professionals who provide in-home care for nearly 109,000 Minnesota seniors and people with disabilities. During the 2014 Legislative Session, Governor Dayton and the Legislature enacted a 5% increase in reimbursement rates for home care workers, on top of a 1% increase enacted last year. Before these increases, the 86,500 Minnesota health care professionals who provide high-quality care for our parents, grandparents, and family members had not received a wage increase since 2009.

“Most Minnesota seniors and people with disabilities want to live in their homes, and still have access to the high-quality care they need,” said Governor Dayton. “As our state’s population ages, it is more important than ever to ensure we are attracting the very best health professionals to care for our parents, grandparents, and family members. Paying these workers fairly for their dedication and professionalism is essential, and I strongly support this increase.”

From 2007 to 2011, Minnesota’s provider reimbursement rate rose less than 2%, while inflation increased by over 10%. Stagnant wages have created significant hardships for home care providers – straining their ability to care for our parents, grandparents, and friends and relatives with disabilities. In fact, many home care professionals in Minnesota have been forced to find second jobs, or find alternative positions in higher-paying industries.

Raising the wages that home care workers receive will help attract and maintain a high-quality workforce – helping improve the lives and care options of elderly Minnesotans and people with disabilities. Ensuring our most vulnerable friends, neighbors, and loved ones have access to high-quality home care helps them live more independently, and avoid more costly and restrictive settings.

In addition to saving families money and allowing Minnesotans to live more independently, in-home care providers help ease strain on the state’s budget. In fact, for every senior who receives care in their home instead of a nursing facility, the state saves an estimated $19,877 per year. And for every Minnesotan with disabilities who receives assistance at home, the state saves an estimated $10,864 per year.

Home Care Worker Wage Increase – By the Numbers


5%

Increase for home care providers supported by Governor Dayton

6%

Total increase enacted over the biennium

47,000

Minnesotans with disabilities who receive home care assistance

34,860

Minnesota seniors who receive home care assistance

86,500

Number of homecare workers who will benefit from the increase

$10,864/yr

State savings when one Minnesotan with disabilities receives care at home compared to an institutional setting

$19,877

State savings when one elderly Minnesotan receives care at home compared to an institutional setting


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Governor Dayton Serves Breakfast to Coon Rapids Elementary Students

Posted on June 04, 2014 at 1:39 PM
Categories: Greater Minnesota, Education, Health

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Governor Dayton serving students breakfast alongside Coon Rapids staff. 

All Minnesota students should have access to a healthy meal. And thanks to a bill signed into law by Governor Mark Dayton two weeks ago, more than 125,000 students across Minnesota will have access to healthy lunches and breakfasts in school. The legislation (Chapter 312, HF3172) invested $4 million in school lunch and breakfast programs statewide. 

Today, at Morris Bye Elementary School in Coon Rapids, Governor Dayton highlighted one key component of that new law which included $569,000 for an initiative ensuring all 64,000 Minnesota kindergartners have access to a healthy breakfast, free of charge. 

“We cannot expect our students to succeed on empty stomachs , said Governor Dayton. “ Healthy meals are crucial to our students’ achievements. I thank Senator Alice Johnson, Representative Jerry Newton, Senator Jeff Hayden, and Representative Yvonne Selcer for passing this very important measure.” 

Governor Dayton was joined today at Morris Bye Elementary School by Education Commissioner Brenda Cassellius, state Senator Alice Johnson, and state Representative Jerry Newton. Senator Johnson and Representative Newton authored the provision this session to ensure all kindergartners have access to a free and healthy breakfast. 

"When a child is hungry, they have a difficult time learning and concentrating in school," said Senator Johnson. "Studies show a nutritious breakfast will reduce absenteeism, help close the achievement gap and increase graduation rates. I thank Governor Dayton for his leadership on this issue." 

"I thank Governor Dayton and legislators that worked to make sure all of our kids have access to a good meal and a great start to their school day,” said Representative Newton. “We have accomplished a great deal over the past two years to improve our schools and provide Minnesota kids with a world-class education." 

In addition to providing breakfast for every kindergartner, the new law also included $3.5 million for the school lunch program. In January, Mid-Minnesota Legal Aid released a report revealing that 46 Minnesota school districts had policies that denied students access to a nutritious lunch, if those students do not have sufficient funds to pay for their meal. This new funding will help ensure 61,000 students from low-income families have access to healthy meals at lunchtime. 

“Providing our students with access to nutritious meals is a critical part in making sure they are ready to learn when they enter the classroom. A healthy meal gives students the energy and nourishment necessary to focus on their number one job: learning.” said Commissioner Cassellius. “This initiative paired with other new investments will help our schools prepare students for success in career and college.” 

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Minnesota Launches Bid for NCAA Final Four Tournament

Posted on June 03, 2014 at 2:10 PM
Categories: Jobs

Minnesota Final Four Bid

ST. PAUL, MN – On the heels of Minnesota securing the 2018 Super Bowl, Governor Mark Dayton today announced an organized campaign to bring the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Final Four men’s basketball tournament to Minnesota. The bid announced today (for tournament years 2017-2020) would bring one of the nation’s most-watched collegiate tournaments to the new Minnesota Multi-Purpose Stadium in Minneapolis.

“Hosting the NCAA Final Four would bring tens of thousands of visitors to Minnesota, and put our state center-stage during one of the most-watched sporting events of the year,” said Governor Dayton. “We plan to pursue this opportunity, and the economic benefits that come with it, with the same enthusiasm and creativity that secured the 2018 Super Bowl.”

In announcing Minnesota’s bid for the Final Four, Governor Dayton today named Mary Brainerd, President and CEO of HealthPartners, Inc. and David Mortenson, President of Mortenson Construction, as co-chairs of the Minnesota Final Four Steering Committee. The Steering Committee will be comprised of representatives from Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority (MSFA), Meet Minneapolis, and the University of Minnesota.

“Minnesota’s new multi-purpose stadium has been designed from the onset to accommodate preeminent national events such as the NCAA Final Four Tournament,” said Mortenson. “We believe there is no better venue or region for this event, and it will provide an opportunity to again showcase Minnesota to the nation and the world.  We will work hard with the University of Minnesota and our strategic partners to present a bid that showcases all that our region has to offer.”

Lessons learned from Minnesota’s recent experience in putting together the successful Super Bowl LII bid demonstrated that these efforts require the energy, effort and collaboration of our community and business leadership to be successful.

“The Final Four will be a terrific and engaging event for our entire community, with events like Bracket Town, Tip-Off Tailgate and March Madness Music Festival.  Like the Super Bowl, the Final Four now includes many events and lots to offer over several days,” said Brainerd. “There will be many opportunities for fans and visitors to take part and experience the hospitality of our entire region.”

Governor Dayton also named two honorary co-chairs from the Minnesota sports world to help support Minnesota’s bid for the Final Four. Lindsay Whalen, guard for the Minnesota Lynx and former University of Minnesota women’s basketball star, and Trent Tucker, former NBA player and University of Minnesota men’s basketball star, will serve as honorary co-chairs.

“As director of athletics for Minneapolis Public Schools, I look forward to working with our co-chairs and the NCAA on the youth programs that are a major component in the bid process and in the legacy that follows the championship game,” said Tucker, who as part of Minnesota’s bid for the Final Four will work with the NCAA to provide youth clinics for students in grades 3 through 8 to discuss sportsmanship, wellness and injury prevention.

If Minnesota is selected as host, it will be the fourth time it has hosted a Final Four. Previous events took place in Minnesota in 1951, 1992, and 2001.

“I have attended Final Four games and events, and am truly excited to be involved in working to bring them to my hometown,” said Whalen. “Our new stadium, connected downtown, and fanatical basketball community will welcome all NCAA fans. We are more than ready to host the Final Four again in Minnesota.”

The University of Minnesota will also work closely with Minnesota’s steering committee and co-chairs to bring the Final Four to Minnesota.


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Governor Dayton Attends Hormel Institute Groundbreaking Ceremony

Posted on May 29, 2014 at 11:53 AM
Categories: Economy, Greater Minnesota, Jobs

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This artistic rendering depicts what the Hormel Institute will look like after the expansion

Governor Dayton traveled to Austin, Minnesota yesterday to celebrate the expansion of the Hormel Institute. In partnership with the Mayo Clinic and University of Minnesota, the Hormel Institute performs cutting edge cancer research. The new expansion will double the institute’s size and help it maintain its reputation as a global leader in the field.


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Unsession Delivers 1,200 Ways to Make Government Work Better

Posted on May 27, 2014 at 11:36 AM

Governor Dayton, IRRRB Commissioner Tony Sertich, and Pollution Control Commissioner John Linc Stine discuss the Unsession at a state Capitol news conference.

Governor Dayton, IRRRB Commissioner Tony Sertich, and Pollution Control Commissioner John Linc Stine discuss the Unsession at a state Capitol news conference.

During the 2014 Unsession, Governor Mark Dayton and the Legislature successfully enacted nearly 1,200 ways to make state government work better. These reforms – both large and small – will make state government work better, faster, and smarter for the Minnesota citizens and businesses it serves.

From making taxes simpler, to streamlining the permitting process for businesses, to eliminating unnecessary and outdated laws, the Dayton Administration delivered on its promise to make meaningful reforms that will improve the lives of Minnesotans. The Unsession also included the state’s first-ever Plain Language executive order, which requires all state agencies to communicate in clear, concise language that Minnesotans can easily understand.

“This year’s Unsession was a phenomenal success,” said Governor Dayton. “Working together, we revised, reduced, or eliminated nearly 1,200 outdated laws and cumbersome regulations. I commend the Legislature for their work, and I thank Commissioner Tony Sertich and members of my cabinet for leading this important effort.”

The Unsession eliminated unnecessary and outdated laws that defied common sense. The Unsession eliminated telegraph regulations, repealed a law that made it a misdemeanor to carry fruit in an illegally sized container, eliminated state statutes that make phone bills long and confusing, and eliminated a 75-year-old law that made it illegal to drive in neutral.

In addition to eliminating the ridiculous, the Governor and the Legislature also worked together to pass bipartisan reforms that cut red tape. Below are examples of how the Unsession will benefit all Minnesotans. 

Making Sense of State Government. This March, Governor Dayton signed an Executive Order directing all state agencies to use commonly-used language, write in clear and concise sentences, and present information in a format that is easy-to-understand for Minnesotans. Since signing that Executive Order, thousands of state employees have received Plain Language training and numerous Plain Language projects are underway across the administration.

Improving Efficiency, Reducing Wait Times. Because of major reforms implemented by the Dayton Administration in 2011, 97 percent of all job-creating business permits are approved by state agencies in less than 150 days. This session, the Governor signed new legislation reducing those wait times for most businesses to just 90 days. An estimated 11,000 of the 15,000 permit requests the state receives from businesses each year are expected to be completed within the new 90-day goal.

Making Taxes Simpler. New tax cuts signed into law by Governor Dayton are saving taxpayers time and money. Aligning state tax law with new federal credits and deductions for students, families, and seniors has made taxes simpler for more than one million middle class Minnesotans.

Cleaning Up the Books. State government agencies are responsible for implementing, interpreting, and enforcing thousands of pages of Minnesota laws. But many of those pages were filled with outdated, unenforceable laws, and technical jargon that was nearly impossible to understand. To make government easier to understand, this session Governor Dayton and the Legislature eliminated over 1,100 obsolete, redundant, and incomprehensible statutes.

More information about the Unsession provisions signed into law by Governor Dayton are available his website at http://mn.gov/governor/unsession.


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DNR rolls out new online water permit application

Posted on May 16, 2014 at 9:21 AM
Categories: Agriculture, Environment, Jobs

Irrigation System at a farm in Rosholt, Minnesota

Irrigation System at a farm in Rosholt, Minnesota

‘Unsession’ initiative streamlines permitting and payment process for Minnesotans



A newly designed web-based system that simplifies the steps to getting water permits and paying for them online is being rolled out by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. The new MNDNR Permitting and Reporting System (MPARS) is part of Gov. Mark Dayton’s initiative to streamline state government services. 



The new application at www.mndnr.gov/mpars will save an anticipated $255,000 annually and allows DNR employees to devote more time to technical assistance and field work. 



“DNR employees will have 5,000 more hours every year to protect and improve our environment, thanks to this ‘Unsession’ reform,” Dayton said. “I thank Commissioner Tom Landwehr and his staff for making these commonsense changes that will dramatically reduce the time to process more than 10,000 water permit applications each year.”

The old paper application process was time consuming and inefficient with department staff spending hours hand-sorting applications and on manual data entry.

“We’ve tried to make it as easy and as pain-free as possible for water users while giving us a way to more precisely manage and conserve a precious natural resource,” said Landwehr. “We’ll be able to better track our water use, identify permit violations and increase compliance.”



The department processes more than 10,000 permit applications and transactions each year, including reports on annual water use. Cities, farmers, businesses and landowners that use 1 million gallons of water each year, or more than 10,000 gallons a day, or work in public waters are required to get a water use permit or permit to work in public waters.

Applicants now have access to maps and can track the progress of their applications online. They are also automatically alerted if they don’t need a DNR water permit.


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Second Chance Expungement Bill Becomes Law

Posted on May 15, 2014 at 11:50 AM
Categories: Human Rights

Governor Dayton signs the expungement bill into law

Governor Dayton signs the Second Chance Expungement Bill into law.

Governor Dayton has signed a bill that will give a second chance to thousands of Minnesotans who are taking honest steps to support themselves and their families. The new law (Chapter 246, HF2576) creates a more thorough expungement mechanism that allows judges to permanently seal the criminal records of reformed offenders – making it easier for these Minnesotans to secure good jobs, access quality housing, and provide for their families.
 
"People can't turn their lives around and become law-abiding citizens, if they have no hope of finding a decent job or a place to live," said Governor Dayton. "This law provides a chance for them to put their pasts behind them and live better lives. I commend Senator Champion and Representative Melin for their leadership.”
 
State law allows judges to expunge criminal records of certain offenders. But a Minnesota Supreme Court decision ruled that under previous law, judges could only wipe out court records, not those collected by state agencies such as the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension or Department of Human Services. As a result, offenses were still showing up in certain background checks, which made it difficult for many offenders to obtain housing or secure employment. The new law enacted today will give judges in Minnesota the authority to expunge all criminal records for reformed offenders.
 
“Nearly one in five Minnesotans have an arrest or criminal record,” said Sen. Bobby Joe Champion, who authored the bill in the Senate. “The use of online criminal record checks by employers and landlords has skyrocketed as they evaluate candidates for employment and housing. Unfortunately, online records are often inaccurate, incomplete or misinterpreted.”
 
One important provision in the bill will help correct that problem by requiring business screening services to delete records if they know a criminal record has been sealed, expunged, or is the subject of a pardon.
 
"This legislation gives Minnesotans who made mistakes in the past a second chance so they can move on and become productive members of our communities,” said Rep. Carly Melin, who authored the bill in the House. “It is an important step toward removing barriers to employment, housing, or a post-secondary degree – the kinds of things that allow Minnesotans to support themselves and their loved ones."
 
The new law also improves long-standing juvenile record expungement law by clarifying that records related to juvenile delinquency – not just an order of adjudication – can be expunged. Additionally, it provides clear standards for consideration in juvenile records expungement, and easier access by criminal justice agencies to juvenile records.
 
Finally, the legislation provides for easier exchange of expunged records between criminal justice agencies for use in investigations, prosecution, and sentencing for all records expunged. The law also requires agencies to notify the petitioner when their criminal records are sealed.
 
Supporters of the bill included the County Attorney Association and the MN Second Chance Coalition, as well as the MN Coalition of Battered Women and the MN Coalition Against Sexual Assault.
 


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Governor Dayton Signs Smartphone “Kill Switch” Legislation, New consumer protection law is first of its kind in the nation

Posted on May 14, 2014 at 2:23 PM

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Governor Dayton Signs Smartphone “Kill Switch” Legislation , New consumer protection law is first of its kind in the nation

Today, Governor Mark Dayton signed nation-leading legislation (Chapter 241, SF1740) requiring all new smartphones sold in Minnesota after July 1, 2015, to have an anti-theft “kill switch” function. This new kill switch function will allow smartphone owners to remotely disable their smartphone if it is lost or stolen, rendering the devices useless to thieves and reducing the incentive for a growing wave of violent cell phone thefts.

“This law will help combat the growing number of violent cell phone thefts in Minnesota,” said Governor Dayton. “I thank Representative Atkins, Senator Sieben, Senator Dziedzic, law enforcement officials, and the many student advocates who championed this legislation.”

The desirability, resale value, and personal and financial information on smartphones makes them a prime target for thefts and robberies. During legislative hearings, University of Minnesota police testified that up to 62 percent of robberies on campus are cell-phone related.

“With this new law, Minnesota is leading the way and acting on this growing threat to public safety,” said Rep. Joe Atkins, who authored the bill in the House. “I want to thank the University of Minnesota students and law enforcement who worked to make this law a reality. This kill switch law is another piece of the many consumer protection measures enacted over the last two years.”

Nearly 1 in 3 U.S. robberies involve phone theft, according to the Federal Communications Commission. Lost and stolen mobile devices cost consumers more than $30 billion last year.

"Cell phone theft is a major concern here in Minnesota and around the country,” said Sen. Katie Sieben, who authored the bill in the Senate. “This legislation, which is the first of its kind in the country, will help reduce the likelihood that people will be robbed of their smart phones.”
 
Sen. Kari Dziedzic authored provisions that prohibit device dealers from using cash to purchase used electronic devices. Under the new language, a retailer would pay for the device through a mailed check, electronic transfer or store credit.


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Governor Dayton Signs Women’s Economic Security Act into law

Posted on May 11, 2014 at 12:00 PM

Surrounded by women from across Minnesota, Governor Mark Dayton signs the Women’s Economic Security Act into law at the State Capitol.

Lawmakers and advocates joined Governor Mark Dayton on Mother’s Day to sign the Women’s Economic Security Act (WESA) into law. 

Women in Minnesota make up half the workforce, but earn on average just 80 cents for every dollar paid to men. WESA is nation-leading legislation designed to break down barriers to economic progress for women. WESA strengthens workplace protections and flexibility for pregnant women and nursing mothers, expands employment opportunities for women in high-wage, high-demand occupations, and reduces the gender pay gap through increased enforcement of equal pay laws.

“Today, as we honor our Mothers and Grandmothers, we have taken a giant step forward for Minnesota's working women and their families” said Governor Mark Dayton. “It should not require a law to ensure that women are treated fairly in the workplace, or that they are paid equally for their work. However, too many women still experience serious economic disparities, unfair gender barriers, and other workplace discrimination in our state. For all of them, this law is vitally important and long-overdue. I thank the bill’s authors, Senator Sandy Pappas and Representative Carly Melin, for their leadership on behalf of all Minnesota women.”

“When future generations look back at the barriers facing working women today, we will be able to look them in the eye and tell them we took action to make our state a better place to live, work and raise a family,” said chief author State Representative Carly Melin (DFL – Hibbing). “This legislation strengthens working families and grows the middle class by ensuring that our mothers, sisters, daughters, and grandmothers have equal opportunities for economic security.”

"While Minnesota's economy continues to grow, progress for women's economic prosperity has lagged woefully behind,” said Senator Sandy Pappas (DFL – St. Paul), chief author of the Senate bill. “WESA will move us in the right direction and ensure women finally receive equal pay for equal work, that we don't face discrimination for being mothers, and that we are treated fairly in the workplace.”

“When women succeed, Minnesota succeeds,” said Speaker of the House Paul Thissen. “Minnesota’s economy is headed in the right direction, but not everyone is sharing in the gains. And when you dig underneath the first layer of economic challenges facing Minnesotans, we find that the people struggling to stay or step-in to the middle class are disproportionately women. The Women’s Economic Security Act aims to break down barriers to economic progress so that women    and all Minnesotans    have a fair opportunity to succeed.”

The Women’s Economic Security Act takes the following steps to break down barriers to success for women:

Stronger Workplace Protections 

  • Requires employers to provide reasonable accommodations to an employee for health conditions related to pregnancy or childbirth.
  • Improves the law that requires employers to provide reasonable unpaid break time each day to an employee who needs to express breast milk for her infant child.
  • Enhances protections for employees seeking to assert rights or remedies if a violation occurs in the workplace

Closing the Gender Pay Gap

  • Reduces the gender pay gap through increased enforcement of equal pay laws for state contractors by requiring businesses with 40 or more employees seeking state contracts over $500,000 to certify they are paying equal wages to workers regardless of gender. 
  • Ensures the rights of employees to voluntarily discuss their compensation without fear of retaliation from their employers. 
  • Decreases the gender pay gap by addressing the “motherhood penalty,” requiring businesses to make hiring, promotion, and termination decisions regardless of  an employee’s “familial status” (Pregnant women and parents and legal guardians of children under 18 who live with them).

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