April 22 marks the 45th anniversary of Earth Day in the United States. The annual event was designed to be a day where we take a step back to look at how our actions affect the earth, and recognize the things we can change to make our planet a better place to live. For many, the day means much more than simply remembering to recycle for a day.
When the Minnesota Legislature was on its Easter break, I used the time away from the Capitol to discuss the big issues of the year with constituents in our district. One of the biggest topics is the budget surplus and what to do with it.
It snowed on my birthday, again.
While that's nothing out of the ordinary for Minnesotans with birthdays between mid-November and mid-March, I'm always stunned when I look out the window and see snow falling from the heavens ... on my April birthday.
Granted, this year it was only snow flurries. But just the same, I couldn't help but wonder if those late-season snowflakes were really necessary.
“My opponent’s ex parte motion for relief pendente lite is improperly brought and must be dismissed sua sponte and with prejudice,” argues the lawyer. Huh? Twenty words, six in Latin, completely incomprehensible legalese to all but Latin-speaking lawyers and judges. Surveys have shown that a significant percentage of citizens who have appeared in court, whether on a divorce matter, speeding ticket, or on jury duty, have no idea what just happened. Judge Dennis Duggan of Albany, New York, spoke at a family law conference for Minnesota judges and has been an outspoken critic of the use of “legalese” in the courtroom. In a 2006 article entitled, “When Judges Talk, Why No One Listens,” Judge Duggan lists 100 legal terms that lawyers used in his courtroom over a 3-week period. Here are a few:
Compared to the average winter, the one we just had was a real laugher. Snowfall was way below average, and I am taking credit for it! That’s because, while remembering the snowy winter of 2013-2014, I took the plunge and bought a new snow blower last November. I was going to be ready for any blizzard that might come our way.
At the state legislature, we've started the second half of session and it's now time to start setting priorities. By the time we adjourn on May 18, a two-year budget will have been passed. It's my hope that we'll develop legislation that brings our differences together. Here are some of the bills I've been bringing people together on from both sides of the aisle:
This session many committees, including the Senate E-12 Budget Division, which I chair, have heard a great deal of testimony about the growing importance of vocational and technical education. We’ve also heard about the need for high schools to continue to offer or expand their technical educational offerings. There are thousands of good-paying jobs in technical fields in many communities across the state. There are several bills working their way through committees that address the need for more skilled workers to fill these jobs.