President Obama issued a statement today, praising the decision by state lawmakers to raise the state’s minimum wage to $9.50 per hour by 2016.
“Today, the Minnesota Legislature took action to increase the state minimum wage, giving more hardworking Minnesotans the raise they deserve. With this important step, Minnesota joins a growing coalition of states, cities, counties and businesses that have taken action to do the right thing for their workers and their citizens. I commend the state legislature for raising their minimum wage and we look forward to Governor Dayton signing the bill into law soon. I urge Congress to follow Minnesota’s lead, raise the federal minimum wage, and lift wages for 28 million Americans. Congress should listen to the majority of Americans who say it’s time to give America a raise and help ensure that no American who works full time has to raise a family in poverty.”
Democratic Congressman Rep. Keith Ellison is urging the U.S. Labor Department to step up enforcement against wage theft.
Ellison and two Democratic colleagues wrote to Labor Secretary Thomas Perez this week, asking him to do more to address complaints of companies that hold federal contracts paying workers below the minimum wage, demanding off-the-clock work and denying time-and-a-half pay for overtime.
The lawmakers also asked Perez to make data on wage theft more accessible to federal agencies so they can make better decisions about which companies deserve contracts.
A Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee study conducted last year found that companies that hold federal contracts accounted for nearly half of the total fines assessed by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration in 2012.
Ellison has emerged as one of Congress' most vocal advocates for federal workers.
President Obama signed an executive order in February that established a minimum wage of $10.10 per hour for employees on new government contracts after Ellison and other progressive leaders pressed Obama on the issue for most of 2013.
The White House is also developing new rules that would expand the number of employees eligible for overtime pay.
Republican U.S. Rep. John Kline, the chairman of the House Education Committee, argues that local educators, not the federal government, are best equipped to solve the problem of racial disparities in school discipline.
The federal Education Department’s Office of Civil Rights released a report last week that shows that black students are suspended and expelled at a rate that’s three times higher than their white peers.
Education Secretary Arne Duncan and Attorney General Eric Holder have urged educators across the country to move away from practices that suspend students for minor infractions and disproportionately affect minority students.
Looking to crack down on disparities in school punishment, the Obama administration released national guidelines this year that encourage districts to reconsider “zero-tolerance” discipline policies that federal officials said have led to high suspension and expulsion rates, especially among minority students.
In a February letter to Duncan and Holder, Kline agreed that “opposing discrimination is a shared goal,” but argued that the federal guidelines “may have a chilling effect” on teachers and school leaders already working to address the issue.
Kline led the letter, which three other Republican committee members signed. The lawmakers said the Obama administration guidelines contain practical recommendations, but “ultimately, we fear the departments’ guidance could limit educators’ ability to enforce appropriate discipline policies needed to promote a safe learning environment for students,” they wrote.
Kline’s staff did not respond to requests for comment on last week’s Education Department report on racial disparities.
While unveiling the federal guidelines in January, Duncan said the discipline disparity “is not caused by differences in children” but rather by “differences in training … and discipline policies.”
President Obama signed a bill into law today that allows the Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa and Carlton County to swap thousands of acres of land.
In exchange for 3,200 acres of reservation land that Carlton County currently owns, Fond du Lac will relinquish 1,451 acres of land off the reservation.
The bill is based on an agreement worked out several years ago by tribal and county leaders, said Carlton County Land Commissioner Greg Bernu. The exchanged property is estimated to be of equal value.
Congressman Rick Nolan wrote the U.S. House bill and U.S. Sen. Al Franken authored the Senate counterpart. Nolan says the legislation rectifies a promise broken by the federal government in the mid-1800s.
“Despite the 1854 treaty that set aside 101,000 acres of land exclusively for the Fond du Lac Reservation, homesteaders and others were wrongly allowed to settle on this land — much of which was then later forfeited to the county for non-payment of taxes,” Nolan said during a December speech on the House floor.
“The result today is a checkerboard of ownership that significantly limits both the band’s and the county’s ability to effectively manage lands they both control.”
The Star Tribune could not immediately reach Fond du Lac chairwoman Karen Diver for comment.
Days after Democratic U.S. Rep. Collin Peterson made it official that he’s running for Congress again, the National Republican Congressional Committee is welcoming him to the race with an Affordable Care Act attack ad.
The spot features Willmar hardware store owner Randy Czarnetzki, who says President Obama’s health care law “threatens the future of my business.” Willmar is in the state’s Seventh Congressional District, which Peterson represents.
“It’s hard enough to succeed in small business but with all the taxes and regulations that we have to deal with on a regular basis it even makes it more difficult," Czarnetzki says. “The fact that Collin Peterson recently voted to keep Obamacare threatens the future of my business.”
Peterson has not been a wholesale opponent or supporter of the law. The conservative Democrat voted against the Affordable Care Act when it passed the House in 2010.
In the years since, he has voted against Republican legislation designed to repeal or defund the law. But he has supported GOP-backed bills that would delay the tax penalty Americans will pay under the healthcare law if they decline to sign up for coverage this year.
In a statement issued by his campaign, Peterson said: "I voted against Obamacare and would again if it was the same bill. Outside money, the NRCC, and super PACs are trying to hijack the election from the local people, and as one of my constituents said last week, 'don't worry about it, the people of the 7th district are smarter than that'."
The NRCC’s $50,000 ad buy and will run in the Fargo-Moorhead and Twin Cities media markets over the next three weeks. In a statement, group spokeswoman Andrea Bozek said that “After 23 years in Washington, Collin Peterson has lost touch with the needs of Minnesota small businesses and families.”
The campaign arm of House Republicans, the NRCC has been running anti-Peterson ads for the better part of a year.