The prosperity of America has always depended on the ambition and work ethic of our labor force. Over our nation's history, American workers have built cities, manufactured innovative products, and built an economy that remains one of the strongest in the world. Though we've made great strides as a society in improving worker safety, we still have more work to do to ensure health and well-being in the workplace. In order to recognize the work ahead and to honor those who have lost their lives on the job, Governor Mark Dayton declared April 28, 2012, as Workers' Memorial Day.
In the last few decades, we've come a long way. In the past, workers had to brave dangerous working conditions without protective equipment or the right to a safe workplace. Through consistent and dedicated advocacy, we secured that basic right over 40 years ago, helping protect Americans in the workplace. Committed Minnesotans before us worked to ensure that no worker ever has to choose between life and livelihood.
On Thursday morning Lt. Governor Yvonne Prettner Solon bought her fishing license at Marine General in Duluth. The Minnesota Fishing Opener is about two weeks away, and the Lt. Governor will be one of the half-million people on the waters on that day.
The Governor’s Fishing Opener is a tradition in Minnesota since 1948. The event was organized to promote the development of Minnesota’s recreation industry, and now it serves as a kick-off celebration to the state’s summer tourism season. Fishing accounts for a large part of the state’s tourism economy. The sport brings in $11.3 billion every year or about $31 million each day.
Senior citizens are among the most vulnerable to fraud and financial abuse. Consumers over the age of 65 control 70 percent of the nation’s wealth, and crooks know it. In fact, each year con artists scam older Americans out of $2.5 billion.
To kick off Seniors Week of Financial Literacy Month, the Minnesota Department of Commerce, the Minnesota AARP, and the Office of the Lt. Governor are joining forces to raise awareness of fraud targeting older consumers and provide Minnesota seniors the information they need to protect their finances from the threat of financial abuse.
Over the course of the last several years, the Metropolitan Council has transformed itself into a leaner, greener government agency. Metro Transit’s “Go Greener” campaign has been the most visible facet of the Council’s transformation, but Metro Transit’s efforts are only a few of the agency’s award winning green initiatives.
The Metropolitan Council’s Environmental Services Division, responsible for handling waste water in the Metro area, is leading the way in making the Metropolitan Council a greener agency. The division has reduced its energy consumption by cleaning equipment more regularly, replacing old equipment with new, energy efficient equipment, and exploring ways to use the heat released during the treatment process for energy. In addition, Xcel Energy has recognized the Environmental Services Division with a Gold Award for achieving the highest electrical savings of all the utility’s large commercial and industrial customers in Minnesota between January 2010 and June 2011.
Located on 53,000 acres of forest and grassland in Central Minnesota, Camp Ripley is more than just the primary training facility for the Minnesota National Guard. With over 125 different bird species, 600 plant species, and a thriving deer population, Camp Ripley is also an important nature reserve. The National Guard has won numerous awards for its environmental preservation at Camp Ripley, including a new environmental award. To celebrate this award and highlight its most important initiatives, Camp Ripley held an Earth Day celebration on Friday.
Though Camp Ripley is primarily a training facility for Minnesota’s National Guard, environmental preservation has been a complementary function for decades. Camp Ripley incorporates their environmental mission into military training exercises; for example, exercises that track deer populations, locate tracked animals, and identify land in need of rehabilitation allow trainees to develop essential skills while promoting effective land preservation. Camp Ripley selectively harvests timber both to create space for military vehicle maneuvers and to maintain a healthy ecosystem. These trees then go on to provide a source of wood fiber for alternative fuel research.
More than one billion people now participate in Earth Day activities each year, making it the largest civic observance in the world. Before this year’s Earth Day on April 22, check out these tips from the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency to participate and live a healthier and less expensive lifestyle all year round:
Try composting. You can convert organic wastes — yard trimmings, leaves and kitchen scraps — into a dark, crumbly mixture that you can use to improve your garden soil and reduce your use of fertilizer and water. Learn how to start composting today!
Recycling is not just for cans and bottles anymore. Did you know you can recycle mattresses? Holiday lights? Carpet? To learn how you can recycle unusual materials, keep them out of landfills, and benefit Minnesota's economy and environment at the same time, go to http://www.recyclemoreminnesota.org.
Challenge yourself to carry a reusable bag on your next five shopping trips. Over 12 billion barrels of oil are used each year just to make plastic bags.
Help keep Minnesota’s waterways clean and safe. Never dump oils, fertilizers, or other hazardousfluids down the drain or outside. Instead, find a nearby hazardous waste facility. Many will dispose of your hazardous wastes free of charge.
Taking small steps to be green can really add up. If every Minnesotan adopts just a couple of green strategies it will go a long way to keeping our environment green and clean for generations to come.
Wildfire Prevention Week is April 15-21, and the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources is reminding Minnesotans to take steps to help prevent wildfires. Recent rain and snow throughout the state has temporarily decreased Minnesota’s wildlife danger rating, but during our ongoing drought wildfires remain a threat across the state.
“Most wildfires occur in the spring, between the time when snow melts and vegetation turns green,” said Larry Himanga, DNR’s wildfire prevention coordinator. “This spring’s wildfire season started earlier than normal and fires have been burning with greater intensity. Severe fire conditions have put a strain on our wildland firefighters and fire departments.”
Every year, DNR firefighters respond to more than an average 1,500 wildfires each year. In Minnesota, 98 percent of wildfires are caused by people, and the number one reason is escaped debris-burning fires. So far this year, the Minnesota DNR has recorded 533 fires that have burned 14,613 acres.
The Department of Natural Resources encourages landowners to find alternatives to burning debris, such as chipping or composting. This is especially true for landowners affected by last July’s blow down storms in east-central Minnesota and western Wisconsin.
Scam artists and predatory lenders take advantage of consumers from all walks of life, causing foreclosures and financial hardship in Minnesota communities. Knowledge is often the foundation of financially secure communities and a consumer’s best defense against the pitfalls of predatory lending.
As Financial Literacy Month continues, Commerce Commissioner Mike Rothman, Housing Finance Commissioner Mary Tingerthal, and Human Rights Commissioner Kevin Lindsey hosted a town hall forum at Dayton’s Bluff Recreation Center on Wednesday to discuss the adverse financial and community impacts of predatory lending in Minnesota and the steps Minnesotans can take to protect themselves from predatory lending practices.
The forum began with a panel discussion led by Commissioners Lindsey, Rothman, and Tingerthal regarding recent trends in predatory lending, the state’s role in protecting Minnesota consumers and communities from predatory lending, and the resources available to victims of predatory lending through Minnesota’s state agencies. Following the panel discussion, community members and advocates shared their personal stories about how predatory lending has affected their families, finances, and communities.
As financial products become more complex and scammers become more savvy, the need for on-going collaboration between the Commerce, Housing Finance, and Human Rights Departments resonated with both the panel and attendees. Continued outreach efforts to educate Minnesotans, including our immigrant communities and neighborhoods that have been adversely impacted by these predatory practices, underscore the need for financial literacy. Knowledge is the best defense against fraud and financial abuse.
As part of Governor Mark Dayton’s Better Government for a Better Minnesota reform initiative, state government officials are turning their attention to the rising costs of higher education.
Last week, Governor Dayton, Senator Franken, and Office of Higher Education Director Larry Pogemiller met with students from around the state to discuss the challenges they face, including higher tuition costs and crippling student debt. At the same time, state higher education funding per student has fallen by 48% since 2000. Colleges are trying to educate students with far fewer resources, and many of the costs are now falling to students themselves. These obstacles are limiting Minnesota students’ educational opportunities and are making it more difficult for them to gain the education they need to succeed in the workforce.
After Monday’s meeting in Minneapolis, OHE Director Pogemiller toured the state to get feedback from other colleges. He traveled to Austin and Winona last week to discuss the rising costs of college for students. He stressed the need for the state to return higher education funding to historical levels to help students manage their costs. The Office of Higher Education already works to provide tips to current and prospective students on how they can lower the costs of a college education, and the department strives to improve the resources they offer.
At least three tornadoes touched down in Minnesota this weekend, highlighting the unpredictable and intense nature of Minnesota weather. These extreme conditions are an example of why Governor Mark Dayton has declared this week Severe Weather Awareness Week, underlining the importance for Minnesotans to be prepared for inevitable springtime storms.
This week focuses on helping Minnesotans to understand the dangers of severe weather and to plan for possible emergencies. As part of these initiatives, state emergency services and the National Weather Service have coordinated statewide tornado drills for this Thursday and encourage schools, business and families to participate. Drills are an opportunity to discuss, prepare and practice an emergency plan, ensuring an organized and safe reaction to hazardous weather.
Kris Eide, the director of the Minnesota Department of Public Safety’s Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management, quoted in a recent MPR article, emphasizes the need for all Minnesotans to establish a plan of action. "Even though you may be in an area that hasn't been hit by a tornado or severe weather in a very long time, the probability may be low but the consequences will be really high. That one time it can happen to you."