One of the jobs of the Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA) is to license grain and produce dealers and wholesalers throughout the state of Minnesota. This is done to protect both those who will buy and sell these products, and the Minnesotans who will ultimately consume them, ensuring they are receiving a product that is safe and meets quality standards.
Harley Olinske, the supervisor of both the grain and produce licensing programs at MDA conducted a thorough review of the two programs last year and enacted several procedural changes to increase efficiency, effectiveness, and licensing timelines. Under Olinske’s leadership, staff roles for the licensing process were consolidated, language for the program was simplified and brought up to date, and online submission of applications via email and electronic filing were encouraged wherever possible.
As a result of these improvements, MDA estimates it will save about $300,000 annually and the grain and produce licensing units are providing much more timely service to the Minnesota producers, wholesalers, and dealers they serve. In almost every case, grain and produce license renewals are now completed within a month, whereas before renewals often were not completed within 30 days of submission.
When it comes to government reform in Minnesota, an important way the state’s numerous government agencies can provide better services to Minnesota citizens is through collaboration. Take for example, a recent collaboration between the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) and the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR).
When MnDOT construction contractors sought permitting for state highway projects that involved the replacement of bridges and culverts located within public waters, the DNR’s involvement was needed to ensure these projects complied with environmental regulations, in addition to the MnDOT project regulations. Working through two different permitting processes and two sets of regulations can often cause unneeded delays.
To address this, the agencies formed an interagency collaboration and developed a Best Practices guidance manual that outlined the permitting regulations for both agencies. This has resulted in increased environmental compliance, more consistent and simpler permitting, and reduced delays for MnDOT project timelines.
When the equipment the Minnesota Department of Revenue used to process check payments was nearing time for replacement, it presented an opportunity to go beyond just replacing old equipment, and to devise a new process that addressed many of the agency’s existing challenges and costs. The Department of Revenue started the Electronic Check Presentment (ECP) project to seize that opportunity. ECP aimed to eliminate the aging hardware and software, and to find ways to utilize existing hardware and software already in use for some of the agency’s other processes. Overall, the Department of Revenue hoped this would avoid the need to invest in very specialized equipment, reduce data capture costs, and speed up the process for capturing and depositing check payments.
A new electronic check processing system was developed and finally implemented by the ECP project team in September 2010. The ECP project is creating significant cost reductions for the Department of Revenue, with an annual estimated cost savings of about $118,000. It also helped the agency avoid over $1,000,000 in costs that would have been associated with purchasing new, specialized equipment.
Hearing loss is the most commonly diagnosed condition in newborn children. In all 50 states, including Minnesota, hearing screening programs exist to ensure hearing loss in infants is identified shortly after birth. This is crucial because children develop the most basic language and communication skills in the first 6 months of life. If a child with hearing impairments goes undiagnosed until later, even at one or two years of age, they may suffer permanent impairments to speech, language and cognitive ability.
Last year, the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) re-evaluated its existing screening program and ultimately improved follow-up services for infants with hearing loss. The Newborn Screening Long Term Follow-up Unit at MDH developed standard operating procedures, clarified staff roles and responsibilities, reduced duplication of effort, and increased the accuracy and completeness of data collected during screening. This helped the team ensure critical follow-up services were provided to impacted children and their families in a timely fashion.
So far, the overall wait time for families in need of follow-up services has been reduced on average from 74 days to 33 days, and the improved process has ensured families are connected with the targeted services that they need. In the first days of a child’s life, that time and attention to detail are of the utmost importance.
Health care is a core economic foundation of many rural communities and regions. Meeting the unique health care needs of Minnesota's rural citizens requires innovation and resourcefulness that reaches beyond geographic boundaries or demographic challenges.
Today, Minnesota's rural health care provides are recognized for meeting those challenges and offering comprehensive, compassionate, patient-centered, and holistic care to patients.
To read the proclamation, click here.
Dayton said the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency has issued more than 1,300 new permits within his goal of 150 days.
MPCA Commissioner Paul Aasen said that's a 80 percent success rate for all permit requests and a 96 percent success rate for new permits. He said the findings should end a stigma that environmental permitting takes too long in Minnesota.
"Environment and business can coexist very nicely," Aasen said. "We've always believed that and we're doing out best to make sure that we are not a piece of that perceived issue."
Dayton said his order instructs the Environmental Quality Board to look at more ways to speed up the environmental review process.
According to MinnPost:
The reason: He was clear and deliberate in spelling out what changes he could order and where he'd be relegated to the role of cheerleader.
Regarding the former, he appointed specific staffers to keep tabs on his administration's commitments. And those staffers answer the phone.
Regarding the latter, well, it's been a l
ong time since such a highly placed cheerleader has kept the community's priorities on the front burner.
'Pretty authentic in his approach'
"The governor has been pretty authentic in his approach to this and has only pushed what he has the ability and the authority to get done," said Sen. Jeff Hayden, the former state representative from South Minneapolis who was recently elected to fill Linda Berglin's seat.
"He has been more visible and more accessible," Hayden continued. "He has more people of color around him and as his commissioners."
College Application Week is an initiative designed to engage and inform students across the state about the college application process, according to the Minnesota Department of Education.The primary goal at the high school level is to increase the number of students completing a college application, especially first-generation college applicants.
During this week many Minnesota colleges and universities will accept an application fee waiver for those students with a demonstrated financial need in order to ensure that no student is deprived of the opportunity to pursue admission to the institution(s) of their choice due to financial hardship.
All Minnesota high schools may participate in this initiative, and seventeen Minnesota high schools have indicated they are planning to pilot a program, with the assistance of trained school staff and volunteers, that aims to assist all their seniors in completing a college application.
By MARK DAYTON
When I'm asked what I mean by a "people's stadium" that could host the Minnesota Vikings and other events, I say it should be a facility owned by the people of Minnesota and operated for their economic and social benefit.
At a time when more than 200,000 people are out of work in our state, we have the chance to create several thousand jobs to clear a blighted site, build the stadium and other commercial facilities, and then operate them.
In the owners of the Vikings, we have partners willing to make an investment that may approach $500 million.
We have the opportunity either to clean up a contaminated 430-acre site in Arden Hills and fill it with jobs-producing enterprises, or to rehabilitate an underutilized section of Minneapolis, with similar jobs-creating benefits.
I wish we had the reasons and the means to develop both sites for their resulting economic and environmental benefits.
And we have the ability to structure the public financing so that not one general tax dollar would be used to pay for the project. Revenues could be generated by taxes on stadium items like tickets and souvenirs, and by adding electronic pulltabs to already existing charitable gambling.
So why aren't we seizing this opportunity to put several thousand unemployed Minnesotans to work?
Governor Dayton told hundreds of veterans that the best way to show thanks to returning solders and veterans is to give them a job, according to Minnesota Public Radio .
Gov. Dayton said Americans owe a great debt to these men and women who sacrificed so much for their country.
But he said a lot of soldiers are coming back from wars in Iraq and Afghanistan to find a dearth of jobs at home.
"Here in Minnesota, the unemployment among Minnesota veterans is by some counts more than double the state average," said Dayton. "There's something terribly wrong when women and men who have served their country have returned home and find their only opening for them is the unemployment line."
Dayton said the best anti-poverty program for a veteran is a job.