With Duane Benson's passing ("Talent for tackling tough issues with a smile served state well," obituary, Jan. 29), Minnesota has lost a bipartisan leader whose approach and accomplishments are especially relevant this year. Among his achievements as a rural Republican state senator was membership in the bipartisan group that in 1992 created the MinnesotaCare health coverage program and accompanying rural health and health reform initiatives. They financed these now-proven strategies with a tax from within the huge health care sector itself, and that revenue source expires at the end of this year unless the Legislature takes action to extend or replace it. Let's hope that, with the example of Duane Benson and his 1992 colleagues in mind, today's legislators step up in that same bipartisan spirit to continue these pioneering commitments so essential to the health of our state.

Mark Schoenbaum, Minneapolis

It is not appropriate to extrapolate risks from Brazil dam collapse

I cannot let two Jan. 29 letters to the editor ("Mining safety: Bad news from Brazil") pass without providing comment as a concerned citizen. It should also be noted that I am not, and have not been, involved directly in the engineering work for either of the proposed mining operations and that my knowledge is based on what we do as engineers and my review of news articles. I am also not trained as a geotechnical engineer nor work as such but have been associated with many geotechnical engineers during my career.

I would advise that neither Gov. Tim Walz nor the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources make a decision based on the tragic events in Brazil, for multiple reasons. First, while the second tailings dam that failed was owned by the same mining company as the one that failed a year or two ago (also in Brazil), the one that previously failed was not an engineered tailings dam. Second, the one that failed in the past week also may not have been an engineered tailings dam. Third, to make a conclusion based on a collapsed tailings dam in another country without any further information on the failure is not responsible and certainly not in the public interest.

The state of Minnesota, and the companies proposing the two mining operations closest to receiving all required permits, have been in the process of planning for 10-plus years. In my opinion, this is not only a very long period of time for any activity requiring permits from the state of Minnesota, but it also should provide more than ample oversight to provide assurances that these mining operations not only will be an asset to the state, but that their operations will not provide risks greater than the potential benefits — to the state, the public and the companies. As humans. we undertake many activities that have risk; however, the risks involved with these proposed mining operations have been identified and analyzed and mitigation has been proposed to provide the greatest benefits with risks commensurate with the potential benefits.

As for the tailings dams that failed in Brazil, the public should know that the state of Minnesota has some of the best-trained geotechnical engineers, geologists, etc. Many of them have been trained by some of the most respected and knowledgeable geotechnical minds. These are the many faculty (past and current) who have provided such training at the University of Minnesota, College of Science and Engineering, Department of Civil, Environmental and Geoengineering. In addition, engineers and scientists from other parts of the world have also been involved in the planning and development of the proposed copper and nickel (and other minerals available in lesser amounts) mining operations proposed for northern Minnesota.

Dennis R. Martenson, Medina

School closings can be tough on parents, but there's a solution

With the frigid temperatures this week, schools are closing throughout the state, and with those closings come tough decisions for parents. Many parents with school-age children don't have the luxury of paid time off for instances like this, and it often puts them in a position to find child care that they cannot afford. That's why it's so crucial that we pass Earned Sick and Safe Time statewide, allowing anyone who is working, regardless of full- or part-time status, to earn an hour of safe/sick time per 30 hours worked. No parents should ever have to choose between their job security and keeping their kids safe!

Amanda Kegley, South St. Paul
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A recent viewing of Jimmy Fallon's show reminded me that I should take time to thank people in my life. So, if you don't mind, I would like to send out a few thank-you notes in light of the recent snow and cold.

Thank you to the guy at Cedar Small Engine who explained the point of a snowblower: Get out there, get it done and get back inside! You were so right!

Thank you to my Toro 721 snowblower. It gets it done — and I love red!

Thank you to the Minnesota Department of Transportation. You made my day — or at least my drive to and from work! The roads couldn't have been better!

Thank you to the ambulance crews — I'm not sure what was going on, but I saw two of you going in opposite directions pass each other, lights and sirens. Thank you for being out there taking care of people, even in this crazy weather.

(And thank you to all the others I forgot to thank!)

Anne McGarry, Minneapolis

Can't wish it away: To suggest we save more is indeed unsympathetic

The Jan. 23 commentary "One shutdown lesson: We need to save more" reminds of the lines about the hungry indigent who approaches the rather wealthy woman, holds out his hand and says, "Ma'am, please, I haven't eaten in three days."

To which she replies, rather sternly, "Well, you should force yourself."

Don Anderson, Minneapolis

Here's just one more thought that students of all ages would find

Regarding the president's advocacy of Bible literacy classes in public schools ("Trump touts Bible literacy. Oh, the things he'll find," Jan. 29), I'd like to add another passage that he might not wish to have emphasized in the curriculum. This is from Acts 4: 32, 34-35 (New Revised Standard Version): "Now the whole group of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one claimed private ownership of any possessions, but everything they owned was held in common. (34) There was not a needy person among them, for as many as owned lands or houses sold them and brought the proceeds of what was sold. (35) They laid it at the apostles' feet, and it was distributed to each as any had need."

Karen Barstad, Minneapolis

Eat it up if you must, but keep that smoke away from my air

As we open a statewide debate on the legalization of recreational marijuana use, I'd like us to think for a moment about the question of smoke.

Marijuana, whether smoked in joints, bongs, pipes or purpose carved apples (yes, that's a thing), presents the same problem as cigarettes: The users' choice to use imposes consequences on people who choose not to partake.

If we wish to legalize marijuana for recreational use, please let's restrict it to edibles, and require that any place that offers weed per se also offer a nice selection of brownie and cookie mixes, but no rolling papers, pipes or glass works.

Rich Furman, St. Paul