Last week the House passed two pieces of legislation that will negatively impact students, parents, school administrators, small business owners, employees, and taxpayers.
On Wednesday, the House voted to pass the so-called “Safe and Supportive Schools Act” and sent it to the governor’s desk for his signature. We can all agree that no child should be bullied for any reason. We want school to be a place where students feel safe and comfortable to learn. Unfortunately, this legislation completely misses the mark. Instead of empowering local school districts to implement anti-bullying policies, this new law is a one-size-fits-all directive from St. Paul that will cost school districts $20 million to $25 million per year. I’m particularly troubled by the fact that students can be reported anonymously for bullying with such an accusation going on a student’s permanent record. Furthermore, there is no requirement that parents be notified if their child is accused of bullying or is a victim of bullying. This is absolutely the wrong approach to addressing the problems of bullying in school. I trust our local school board members, administrators, and parents to deal with this issue better than politicians and bureaucrats in St. Paul.
On Thursday, the House voted to impose an increase in the minimum wage. This new law increases the state minimum wage from $6.15 per hour to $9.50 per hour for large employers (gross sales over $500,000 annually) and $7.75 per hour for small employers (gross sales under $500,000 annually). The increase comes in three stages, and will reach the new minimums by August 2016. Current federal minimum wage is $7.25 per hour. Beginning January 1, 2018, the minimum wage will be adjusted based on the implicit price deflator with a cap of 2.5 percent. The Commissioner of the Department of Labor and Industry can suspend the inflationary increase if “leading indicators” show a “substantial” downturn in the economy.
For several weeks, House and Senate Democrats had been at an impasse over their differences in the minimum wage. House Democrats wanted it tied to inflation. Senate Democrats were more resistant to that idea. However, once House Democrats agreed to Senate Democrats’ wish to build a $90 million new office building for state senators, Senate Democrats agreed to a new minimum wage increase tied to inflation. Economic studies show that every 10% increase in the minimum wage leads to a 1-2% decrease in employment opportunities for low-skill and young workers. The House Democrats' minimum wage increase is 31% over the current federal minimum, meaning there could be a 3-9% drop in employment opportunities for people who already have trouble finding work or teens that need an entry-level job to build experience. Low-income workers are hit hardest by an increase in the minimum wage because it will make it more difficult and expensive for businesses to hire them. I truly feel bad for those who will be laid off or won’t have a new job opportunity because of this deal Democrat legislators made to build a new $90 million office building for themselves.
Right now the legislature is on break until after Easter. Please still feel free to contact me about any state legislative issue. You can e-mail at Rep.Marion.ONeill@House.MN or call my office at 651-296-5063. You can also write a letter to me. My office address at the Capitol is 229 State Office Building, 100 Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd, St. Paul, MN 55155.