Priority Issues for 2014
Family Economic Security
JRLC supports an increase in Minnesota's minimum wage that will address poverty and help promote economic security among the state's lower-wage workers and their families. JRLC will support increasing appropriations for state-determined-rate caregivers and other, non-profit providers who will be impacted by increases in the minimum wage.
Minnesota should fully fund the Child Care Assistance Program to support working parents and to provide greater options for families. Access to stable, quality child care means more children in economically stressed households can spend their earliest years in stimulating, nurturing environments where they learn, thrive, and prepare for success in school.
We support legislation that protects consumers from predatory lending practices, especially by payday lenders. Current law includes loopholes that allow much of the payday loan industry to bypass regulations on small, short-term loans, and basic consumer protections and underwriting standards are missing. It is not unusual to see borrowers paying fees and interest that amount to 400%, or even 1,000% APR. JRLC will negotiate in good faith with lenders and other stakeholders to provide consumer protection in this area.
Impartial Courts in Minnesota
Impartial Judiciary Act
JRLC supports passage of the Impartial Judiciary Act and a subsequent constitutional amendment ballot question in the 2014 general election in order to reform our system of appointing and electing judges in Minnesota. (See JRLC's Selecting Impartial Judges, 2008.)
The Impartial Judiciary Act and the constitutional amendment would:
1) Mandate the use of a merit selection system by the Governor for initial appointments to all levels of the state courts; 2) Institute performance evaluations of all judges by a public evaluation commission; 3) Use retention elections, rather than contested elections, at the end of each judge's term of service.
The US Supreme Court and federal appellate courts have made rulings in the past decade (see the White and Citizens United decisions) that have opened the door to highly partisan judicial elections funded by large amounts of special interest campaign contributions. JRLC issued its policy paper on the heels of similar reports and recommendations made by the Quie Commission, the League of Women Voters, and the Minnesota Bar Association, all calling for a judicial election reform based on merit selection, public evaluation, and retention elections.
JRLC supports a substantial increase in the bonding authority of the state for the development of shelters and affordable housing for people who are homeless or at risk of homelessness.
JRLC opposes increased state reliance on gambling revenues. We are especially concerned about the Minnesota State Lottery's plan to increase on-line betting and increase marketing to 18-24 year-olds.