Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Jobs and the federal stimulus, Colleges could assist in suicide prevention, Election registration becomes easier for students

Jobs impact of the federal stimulus package discussed in Senate
The Senate Business, Industry and Jobs Committee met yesterday to discuss the federal stimulus package and its impact on Minnesota. Commissioner Tom Hanson, Minnesota Management and Budget, said Minnesota will be receiving approximately $4 billion from the federal stimulus package, with potential estimates totaling $9 billion when tax impact is included.

Commissioner Dan McElroy, Dept. of Employment and Economic Development, said approximately $5.46 million of the funds will be allocated to the Workforce Investment Act (WIA) for adults and $14.5 million to WIA for youth. McElroy also said that approximately $10.9 million is allocated to aid dislocated workers who became or will become unemployed between September, 2008, and December, 2009. McElroy outlined several other programs that will receive funding from the stimulus package, including Vocational Rehabilitation programs that will receive approximately $6.5 million and $720,000 for community service and employment for older workers. He also said Youthbuild, a program that is strong in Minnesota, will receive $50 million nationally.

The federal stimulus bill is scheduled to be signed by President Obama today at the Denver Museum of Nature & Science.

Suicide prevention bill heard in Senate
The Senate Health, Housing and Family Security committee heard about SF496 yesterday. Sen. Sharon Erickson Ropes, DFL-Winona, sponsored the bill that modifies the state's suicide prevention plan. There has been an increased rate of suicides among dairy farmers and among active duty personnel, Erickson Ropes said. She said that the worsening economic situation may lead to even more suicides. She said the state has a community based suicide prevention plan, but the numbers are still increasing. Erickson Ropes said there are two groups that are especially vulnerable; the elderly and young people of college age. The bill provides for a life-span plan focused on awareness and prevention. Erickson Ropes said the bill also adds the Chancellor of the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities and the President of the University of Minnesota to the agencies required to collaborate on the state's suicide prevention plan. Erickson Ropes said the community-based programs are to provide prevention and intervention education to students attending the state's higher education institutions. The bill was approved and advanced to the full Senate.

Election bill advances
The Senate State and Local Government Operations and Oversight Subcommittee on Elections met yesterday to consider three elections bills, and members advanced all three bills to the full committee. Included was SF661, authored by Sen. Sandra Pappas, DFL-St. Paul. The bill expands requirements for postsecondary institutions to report resident student information to the secretary of state for voter registration purposes. The bill also requires enhanced access to voter registration records and records of returned absentee ballots on the World Wide Web. Pappas said the bill also authorizes the secretary of state to provide a process for online registration for individuals with a Minnesota driver's license, identification card, or learner's permit.

Becky Boe, co-president of the student senate at Bemidji State University, said in an increasingly digital world, students are accustomed to doing things on-line and the ability to register to vote on-line is a natural extension.

At the Capitol:
Legislative schedules are available for the House and Senate.

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