Minneapolis Star Tribune. January 29, 2023.
Editorial: Allow gun bans in public spaces
St. Paul rec center shooting spotlights the need for change in state law.
Following a horrific shooting outside a St. Paul recreation center, Mayor Melvin Carter wants the city to be able to ban firearms in public places. His administration is rightly working with Ramsey County officials and St. Paul’s legislative delegation to introduce a bill that would give all Minnesota cities the power to prohibit guns at libraries and rec centers.
As long as Minnesota gives permitted gun owners the right to conceal and carry, public entities such as cities and counties — as well as the State Capitol — should be able to keep firearms off their premises. Guns already are banned on school properties in the state.
The call for a ban follows a Jan. 18 shooting at the Oxford Community Center, which includes the Jimmy Lee Recreation Center. According to a criminal complaint, a center employee, 26-year-old Exavir Dwayne Binford Jr., was in a fight with a group of teens before shooting and critically injuring one of them. Binford has been charged with second-degree attempted murder and first-degree assault and has been fired by the city.
Carter pointed out that under state law all nonpublic places such as businesses, churches and nonprofits can ban firearms from their premises. If the state doesn’t change laws covering public spaces, he said the city will mount a court challenge. The city already has a policy that prohibits employees from carrying guns while on the job.
The Oxford shooting was “horrifying and tragic,” Carter said, in part because parents and families look to rec centers, parks and libraries as safe places for their children. He used the centers growing up in St. Paul, and his two teenagers are involved in sports at Jimmy Lee. The mayor said he’s doing an audit of the practices and policies at the center and seeking state law changes to leave “no stone unturned” to make sure that centers for youth are sacred, safe spaces.
Banning guns in public spaces is only one of several needed reforms, Carter added. As the Star Tribune Editorial Board also has argued, Carter said the Legislature should pass universal background checks and so-called red-flag laws. Those provisions allow law enforcement, and in some cases a family member, to petition a judge to restrict a person’s ability to have firearms if they pose a risk to themselves or others.
Last week, Gov. Tim Walz reiterated his support for sensible gun laws. He told reporters that the Legislature would “finally tackle this issue of common-sense gun things — making sure families have access to red-flag laws, making sure we’re doing serious background checks.”
It’s a near certainty that banning guns in public places would face a court challenge. The Minnesota State Fair prevailed in court last year to ban guns during its 10-day gathering, in part due to its quasi-public status. But guns are currently allowed at the State Capitol and other public spaces throughout the state.
The pro-gun lobby, which successfully pushed for Minnesota to become a conceal-carry state, fights most gun laws and related reforms. Even as the governor was urging reforms, the Minnesota Gun Owners Caucus held its annual lobby day at the Capitol to object.
Still, according to most opinion polls, a majority of the public supports these reasonable measures. The Legislature should approve them, too.
Mankato Free Press. January 29, 2023.
Editorial: Walz budget: Big ask, big questions
The budget and borrowing proposals recently announced by Gov. Tim Walz fall in the category of a “big ask.” They have been described as transformational and bold, but the focus should not necessarily be on the sheer size of the numbers but what kind of return on investment they might bring.
The $65 billion two-year budget is 25% higher than the past two years and has predictably drawn criticism with an exclamation point from Republicans. And the number is certainly something Minnesotans should pay attention to and have plenty of questions about. But one important question is: How much of the budget is making up for investments we’ve neglected in the past, and worse, how much has been caused by inflation as a byproduct of gridlock?
But the bulk of the increases come in more funding for schools, and especially the deficits in things like special education funding that costs districts an estimated $744 million a year. Walz and Democrats describe the education budget as “fully funding schools.” The $12 billion education budget provides about $1 billion in tax credits for families with children. It includes 4% and 2% increases in the basic school funding formula and funds half of the special education funding deficit.
It also spends $813 million on universal school meals for every child. With that and the tax credits, the aim is reducing child poverty by 25%. Transformational, if it comes to fruition.
Increasing the number of counselors and mental health specialists will come in the form of behavioral health grants of $158 million. Again, a critical need that has been largely unaddressed in the past.
The Walz budget, however expensive, addresses many problems that have been lingering for years. And despite the good intentions of Democrats and Republicans to solve these problems, for one reason or another, not enough has been done. The proposals have often been constrained by budget limitations. With a $17.6 billion surplus, those limitations have been significantly reduced.
The governor also proposed a $3 billion bonding bill to address what can be described as nothing but a horrific backlog of public repair and building projects. The governor proposes some projects that will be funded with cash, the more critical projects that will only need a majority vote in the Legislature and not require the three fifths vote required of normal bonding bills.
The Walz budget also contains some rebate checks for taxpayers (up to $2,000) but also some new taxes that include a sales tax increase (1/8 of a percent) mostly for metro transit, a higher tax on capital gains (1.5% to 4%), and some car license tab increases and DNR fees. It also aims to fund a family leave program by new payroll taxes of 0.6%, split between employers and employees.
One can argue some spending increases and taxes will more than pay for themselves. But we have to ask the questions. How much is reducing child poverty worth to us and our society as a whole? Studies by the Federal Reserve Bank have shown investments in child well-being pay off in lower social and criminal justice costs down the road.
Walz said he aims to make Minnesota the best place to raise children. What kind of dividends might that pay for making our state a magnet for jobs and innovations? These kind of questions have not been asked in the past because budgets were restrained.
Walz has a big ask of a budget. But the bigger question might be how much we will get in return for these investments.