Pre-Labor Day school starts and photo cops: I stand firmly against each of these proposals and continue to voice my concerns at the Capitol.
The Labor Day issue is a huge factor in parts of the state like ours, where tourism is a key component in the local economy. Labor Day is one of the busiest travel weekends of the year in Minnesota, and that one weekend makes a big difference in the bottom line. The impacts of starting school before Labor Day would be felt throughout our economy, reaching far beyond the resorts. It affects every business in northern Minnesota.
Explore Minnesota indicates tourism is an $11.9 billion industry in the state. Cass County alone grossed $93.7 million in 2011. Our state's leisure and hospitality businesses employed nearly 240,000 people that year, 11 percent of our total private-sector employment in 2011.
Starting school before Labor Day makes many of these workers unavailable, leaving many businesses shorthanded during a busy time. Local business people recently testified at a House hearing and said the change would be a huge blow to business. One testifier said his resort does 70 percent of its business between June 15 and Labor Day.
Back in the day, schools closed by Memorial Day and did not open before Labor Day. This model encourages people to take family vacations, is good for the economy and promotes tourism. If people want to take a vacation that last weekend, starting prior to Labor Day ruins those plans.
As for photo cops, the Transportation Policy Committee set aside a bill that would allow cameras at intersections to detect red-light runners. This proposal comes at a time when other states - like Arizona - are working to eliminate these cameras for a variety of issues.
Privacy remains a chief concern for many. Private companies would manage the cameras and then hand information over to law enforcement agencies so they could prosecute drivers. Private vendors should not be involved in enforcing traffic laws in any way, shape or form.
Proponents say this will cut the number of accidents at intersections, but this bill is purely revenue-driven. Even the private vendors would receive a cut from the tickets issued to drivers. Many of us also have serious concerns about whether the use of photo cops would expand to prosecute other infractions once in place.
The bill was held back before a vote took place, but I will monitor the situation. You never know when this measure may be revived as a part of some other legislation.
I will let you know what transpires on these fronts and others as the current session progresses. As always, I welcome your input at email@example.com.
Rep. Mark Anderson
Minnesota House Republican Caucus