Not better behavior, just fewer suspensions. Stribber Anthony Lonetree writes: “A year after a public flap over a surge in suspensions of black students, suspensions have dropped by nearly one-third in the St. Paul Public Schools so far this school year. But some teachers contend that while rates have dropped, student behavior hasn’t necessarily improved, and in some cases, has worsened. ‘Students have now caught on that suspensions are rare even for serious offenses’, said Aaron Benner, a fifth-grade teacher who spoke out last year about suspensions. This year, the district took a significant step to erase racial inequities and keep students in class by removing ‘continual willful disobedience’ from the list of suspendable violations in the 2012-13 student handbook.” The vibe in some of those classrooms must be pretty interesting.
This assumes we don’t get a first frost before the Fourth of July … John Myers at the Duluth News Tribune says: “The majority of Minnesota resorts and campgrounds polled in a recent survey, 84 percent, expect their 2013 summer season to be as good as or better than last year, according to Explore Minnesota Tourism, the state-funded tourism promotional agency. … According to Smith Travel Reports, a private industry tracking group, demand for Minnesota rooms was up 7 percent for the first four months of 2013, with room revenues up 9 percent. An unexpected spike in gas prices this month is a short-term concern, Explore Minnesota said, but high gas prices have ‘not had a significant impact on Minnesota travel in the past.’ Gas industry analysts say Minnesota gas prices should drop this summer as refinery outages end.”
In The Wall Street Journal, Mark Peters has his look at Minnesota’s new tax laws: “The measures contrast starkly with initiatives to cut or eliminate taxes on individual and corporate incomes that have dominated the discussion in much of the country, thanks to Republican control of nearly half the statehouses. In Minnesota, Republicans said the tax increases would cause jobs and residents to leave the state for nearby places like Wisconsin and North Dakota. State Rep. Greg Davids called the legislation an overreach by the majority party, putting Minnesota ‘so far out of the mainstream.’ … Proposals from the GOP have achieved limited success, as support for cutting income taxes is balanced by opposition even within the Republican Party to making up for lost revenue by broadening the sales tax and eliminating exemptions.”
For MPR, Mark Zdechlik talks to the real victims of the session … “A key source of revenue in the Minnesota’s freshly minted budget is a new higher income tax rate that the top 2 percent of earners will pay. The tax increase moves the top rate from nearly 8 percent to 9.85 percent. Starting with his gubernatorial campaign in 2010, Gov. Mark Dayton has repeatedly said that he wanted Minnesota’s highest earners to pay their “fair share.” It’s a puzzling concept for Mike Tierney, a retiree in Deephaven just off Lake Minnetonka. ‘I’d like to have anyone define what is a ‘fair share,’ Tierney said. … The new tax will cost him ‘thousands’ more every year, Tierney said. ‘It definitely will come out of somewhere. I doubt if we’re going to get rid of a car, stop traveling or we’re going to change our lifestyle very much,’ Tierney said. Tierney said he’ll probably reduce charitable giving to make up for the higher income tax bill. ‘Whether it’s the Guthrie or the chamber orchestra or the 9 million other people who call everyday looking for donations,’ Tierney said.” Cutting back lobster thermidor for dinner to only three nights a week might be another painful option for some.
Minnesota banks had a “mixed quarter,” says John Welbes of the PiPress. “In the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis’ first-quarter report on the state’s banks, signs of progress were tempered by signs that the economy isn’t ramping up quickly. ‘The bottom line for the first quarter was worse than I expected,’ Ron Feldman, a senior vice president at the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis, said Thursday. Some data points caught the Fed’s attention, including slow loan growth. Minnesota banks’ loan growth was 0.8 percent for the past four quarters, which is less than half the rate at year-end 2012. That’s also below the national rate of 1.92 percent and sluggish by historical standards.”
Also in the PiPress, Julio Ojeda-Zapata looks at Sony going after Minnesota-based Imation over recordable Blu-Ray discs: “Sony Corp. and three other companies that helped invent Blu-Ray movie and data discs have sued Imation Corp., claiming the data-storage company broke patent laws by selling unlicensed blank recordable versions of the discs. Oakdale-based Imation violated several patents related to Blu-Ray technology, Sony and the other consumer electronics makers said in a lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Wilmington, Del. The plaintiffs said Imation sold discs that are ‘Bluetooth-compliant’ but not properly licensed to be offered for sale. Selling packages of such blank discs with the official Blu-Ray logo therefore violates the patents, the complaint claims. Ken Kadet, an Imation spokesman, declined to comment.”
Happy birthday, Bob. Chris Riemenschneider of the Strib writes: “If the Blood on the Tracks Express train ride or the Hard Rain in Duluth benefit concert hasn’t made you rush to the North Country this week for Bob Dylan’s 72nd birthday, at least give Hibbing and Duluth credit for finally getting excited about their most famous native son. Seventy-five miles apart, the northern Minnesota cities are coming together for the first time to copresent simultaneous festivals. However, they could wind up rivals for the ultimate prize: a permanent museum in Dylan’s honor. Duluth’s Dylan Fest, now in its third year, coincides with a new Bob Dylan Way walking tour and a small permanent exhibit at Fitger’s Brewery. Mayor Don Ness points to the growing Dylan presence as a symbol of how times are a-changin’ in his city. … the question is if state officials will acknowledge Dylan’s legacy. Stroback and other Dylan Days organizers hope to garner Legacy dollars or other cultural funding for Dylan-related projects in Hibbing.”
In a similar vein … . Jon Bream of the Strib says: “Is $259 too dear to see Prince in his hometown? It wasn’t an issue in January when he debuted his 3rdEyeGirl backup trio at the 300-capacity Dakota Jazz Club. But the 3,200-capacity Myth nightclub, where Prince and his trio have scheduled two shows for Saturday, just introduced less expensive price levels. For $149, you can get a ‘second-tier floor’ spot. For $99, you can head to the ‘third tier balcony.’ And, for $259, you can still land standing room on the ‘first-tier main floor.’ ” To answer your first question, Jon. “Yes.”
The Strib agrees that five years after the meltdown, Sen. Al Franken is on to a good idea with credit ratings reform. In an editorial, it says: “Franken appealed directly for a plan that would create an independent, SEC-appointed board that would assign which ratings agency would calculate the risk of financial products. Currently, sellers of financial products hire their own ratings agencies. This can create a conflict of interest, because agencies have an incentive to signal that they will assign a high rating to win the business. ‘The analogy I like to use is if a figure skater paid the judges to give her a ‘10’ every time,’ Franken told an editorial writer. … agencies with the resources — like Standard & Poor’s, Moody’s, and Fitch, the three firms that dominate the market — are resisting changing a system that has brought them benefits. ‘The [Franken] proposed system could create new conflicts, be costly, slow to implement and cause uncertainty to the marketplace,’ Douglas Peterson, president of Standard & Poor’s, said at the roundtable.” Right. Reform would cause “uncertainty.”