Column By: Doug Loon, President of the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce
The Minnesota Chamber continues to challenge workplace mandates at the Legislature and in the courts. A recent court ruling underscores the importance of our parallel efforts.
A Minneapolis ordinance is scheduled to take effect July 1, 2017, that requires businesses to provide paid sick time to employees. St. Paul has a similar ordinance scheduled to take effect the same date. Duluth is considering enacting its own set of workplace regulations. It’s only time before similar measures come to a city near you.
In October 2016, the Minnesota Chamber brought a lawsuit against the city of Minneapolis asking the court to do two things: No. 1, issue a temporary injunction prohibiting the city from enforcing its “paid sick and safe time” ordinance on any businesses; No. 2, permanently rule the ordinance unlawful.
The Hennepin County District Court delivered a mixed ruling on January 19. Judge Mel I. Dickstein said Minneapolis may not enforce its ordinance on employers “resident outside the geographic boundaries of the city of Minneapolis.” He also ordered that, for now, the city could enforce the ordinance against employers within the city. We are appealing the decision.
The judge’s mixed ruling underscores the importance of our efforts at the Capitol to pass the Uniform State Labor Standards Act, which would prohibit local governments from passing their own mandates on wages, benefits and scheduling. The Act would keep Minnesota’s laws uniform, our communities open for business, and our economy thriving for all.
The legislation is being spearheaded by the United for Jobs Coalition, a broad-based coalition of local chambers of commerce and business associations led by the Minnesota Chamber.
We do not believe the state should dictate private-sector employee benefits. The only thing worse than state government dictating one-size-fits-all mandates on all employers is for local governments to do so, thus creating a patchwork of local laws for businesses to navigate across the state. Minnesota’s economic strength is due to a diverse business landscape. Distinctive operations and workplace needs require that employers have the flexibility to develop wages and salaries, benefits, policies and procedures that best serve the mutual needs of employer and employees.
Borrowing a sports phrase, the best defense is a strong offense. Minnesota employers consistently receive national recognition for providing tremendous workplace environments. We will continue to challenge workplace mandates. At the same time, legislators also need to hear about the voluntary wages and benefit plans employers use to attract and retain employees in this competitive marketplace. Minnesota businesses increasingly are offering leave plans that meet the needs of employees such as offer paid maternity and paternity leave, paid sick and safe leave, and other benefits– without state or local mandates. Please share your best practices by contacting Jennifer Byers at 651.292.4673 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Voters Demand Progress at Legislature
By: Jennifer Gale, President, River Heights Chamber & Doug Loon, President Minnesota Chamber of Commerce
Change swept the nation in this year’s elections as America woke up to a President-Elect Donald Trump in his upset victory over Hillary Clinton. Change propelled the shakeup in Minnesota’s political landscape, too, as Minnesotans affirmed their support for divided government. The Legislature is now firmly Republican. The executive branch remains Democrat under Governor Mark Dayton.
Voters were also crystal clear about their expectations that the Governor and Legislature will govern – that they will work together to develop, debate and pass solutions to our state’s most pressing problems. No stalemates. No stagnation. Our policymakers must use the experience of the last two years to build a record of progress that all Minnesotans will be proud of. The River Heights Chamber, Minnesota Chamber and our local partners are ready to do our part.
The election offers some key takeaways:
- Personal economics were on Minnesotans minds – especially health care, but also economic growth and wage growth. Everyone wants to be part of a growing economy.
- Good candidates and hard work produce solid results.
- The House and Senate are mirroring each other in the state’s political landscape. Democrats are being elected primarily in the urban core and are increasingly liberal; Republicans hail in primarily the outer ring suburbs and regional centers.
- Republicans are making substantive gains in the suburbs that we have not seen for years.
The Senate now stands at 34 Republicans and 33 Democrats, according to unofficial results. Two races are within the vote totals that trigger automatic recounts. Margins in the House are larger with 76 Republicans and 57 Democrats elected. In addition, one House seat remains unresolved; a special election is scheduled for February 14 for District 32B.
We are ready to present, discuss and help pass solutions that will accelerate the development and growth of our local and statewide economy. The MN Chamber’s annual Minnesota Business Benchmarks provides an excellent springboard for our legislative agenda. The River Heights Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors will be reviewing these priorities for 2017:
- Reduce business taxes that undermine growth, entrepreneurship and expansion of Minnesota businesses.
- Pass long-term, comprehensive transportation package that increases investment in the state’s multimodal infrastructure.
- Allow flexibility in workplace regulations and oppose one-size-fits-all mandates; pass statewide pre-emption of local labor mandates.
- Provide employers with more options and greater flexibility in providing health care coverage for employees.
The election provides the political landscape for the 2017 Legislature. The budget forecast will set the financial parameters. The 2016 Legislature adjourned with a $729 million surplus for FY 2016/17 which will likely change in the December 2nd report. We are most effective at the Capitol when we build relationships and elect legislators who understand business issues.
The 2017 Legislature convenes January 4, and our work has already begun. The election results are shaping our 2017 proposals. Now, policymakers and business leaders must work collectively to adopt them. That way we will be ready for the future – ready for change and ready to grow.