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Hubbard County DFL: Another perspective on legislative priorities

Editor’s note: Both the Hubbard County DFL and Hubbard County Republicans are invited to write columns for the Enterprise’s Opinion page.

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A recent column by Sen. Paul Utke listed his top policy issues for this legislative session. These issues are debatable, and with all due respect, we need to hear another perspective.

Utke: “Tax increases. We do not need to raise anyone’s taxes or create a fifth tier of taxes.”

Another perspective: A fifth-tier income tax rate would affect about 21,000 households with incomes above $1 million (married filing jointly), $750,000 (head of household) and $500,000 (single). This represents the top 0.7% of income tax returns. 99.3% of Minnesotans would see no income tax increase under this proposal. The Walz administration says the COVID-19 pandemic hasn't hit those top earners as hard as it has lower-income Minnesotans. “It really is about compassion and it's about neighbors helping neighbors,” said Department of Revenue Commissioner Robert Doty.

Utke: “Police reforms. We do not want or need any. Law enforcement just needs our support now more than ever.”

Another perspective: Law enforcement definitely has our support. But holding bad police accountable is important for maintaining the public's faith in the system.

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It would be good if police would police themselves. The recent Chauvin trial showed that Minneapolis Police Chief Medaria Arradondo’s transparent approach is what we want from modern policing. This is the professionalism people have been begging for for 20 to 30 years.

Utke: “California emission standards. We do not want to be like California so we will not accept the governor’s desire for California's emission standards. The industry will sell you an electric car if you want one. Government should not be telling us what we are going to buy and drive.”

Another perspective: California will require that all new passenger cars and trucks sold in the state be emissions free by 2035 – a move that is expected to lead to more than a 35% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions and an 80% cut in nitrogen oxide emissions.

The U.S. cannot win the war on climate change without winning the transportation battle.

Utke: “100% renewable energy. We do not want to put undue strains on our electrical grid. The idea that the legislature can just set emission standards and expect the industry to meet them is a reckless and misguided energy policy.”

Another perspective: The study from Energy Watch Group and LUT University of Finland outlines a transitional global path to 100% renewable energy that is possible across the electricity, heat, transport and desalination sectors by 2050.

Some of the major oil companies (BP, Shell, Chevron, Total, Eni and Exxon) have pumped billions into clean-energy projects, such as wind and solar, as they look to transition toward cleaner energy sources.

Utke: “Recreational marijuana. We do not want the legalization of recreational marijuana. The costs to society and the state greatly outweigh any potential tax revenues the advocates talk about.”

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Another perspective: For decades, our federal government and supporters of marijuana prohibition have led people to believe that marijuana is so dangerous that it must be kept illegal at all costs.

The truth is that marijuana is widely used in a manner quite similar to alcohol. Most adults consume it while socializing with friends or relaxing after work. It is not “bad,” “wrong” or “immoral” if it is done responsibly, just as it is not “bad," “wrong” or “immoral” for an adult to drink a cocktail after work, a beer during a ballgame or a glass of wine with dinner.

And while some consume it for its medical benefits, others use it for therapeutic purposes to alleviate arthritis, relieve a migraine or because it helps them fall asleep.

Both weed and alcohol can carry a potential for misuse and addiction, but it is actually more common with alcohol. Marijuana is less toxic than alcohol, less addictive, less harmful to the body and less likely to contribute to violent or reckless behavior.

Utke: “Peacetime emergency powers. We need the governor to end his peacetime emergency declaration. It is now all about money and not about health care.”

Another perspective: DFLers have pointed out that governors in 49 of 50 states, both Republican and Democratic, have retained emergency powers. And that Minnesota’s relatively good COVID-19 numbers are evidence of the effectiveness of the response.

Sen. Nick Frentz (DFL-North Mankato) said emergency powers are meant to give the government the authority to act quickly, citing Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, a Republican who reversed his reopening of bars and issue a mask mandate in 72 hours in the midst of a surge of cases that required the Houston Chronicle to publish a special 42-page section of obituaries.

Opinion by Hubbard County DFL
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