To the Editor,

As we head into the second half of session, Democrats have continued the trend of bringing forward unacceptable bills that come with high costs, and oftentimes higher burdens. We’re seeing this in the education policy bill, the labor bill, and the multiple land transfer bills that have been proposed. 

After the White Earth State Forest land transfer bill was tabled, many had hoped that meant the issue was put to rest. Unfortunately, that same senator just introduced a bill that proposes another land transfer, this one focusing on Upper Red Lake. It proposes the transfer of all state-owned land and property administered by the state, which includes a 1-mile strip around the Upper Red Lake shoreline. This will cut off lake access to many Minnesotans who have enjoyed the lake for years. These metro legislators keep introducing bills that affect districts they don’t represent, and it creates a lot of tension and animosity within affected communities. Those same legislators are also refusing to listen to concerns from that part of the state. I hope both land transfer bills die in committee since they didn’t meet legislative deadlines, but with the way deadlines have been ignored in the past, you can never be sure.

The Education policy bill is another bill full of new burdens. One provision says that school boards and governing bodies of libraries are not allowed to ban an “otherwise age-appropriate book.” What does that mean, and who gets to decide what is age appropriate? I see some clear issues with that. There’s also a problematic section that states student journalists that write for their school papers can write about whatever they want without oversight. There’s another section that states schools must allow American Indian students to practice the rite of smudging on school grounds, which often involves the use of tobacco. These are just a few of the concerning provisions, and this is just one of multiple education-related bills. Democrats already passed a record number of unfunded school mandates last year, and it seems like this year is more of the same. Much of this year’s bill may not come with a price tag, but it will still undoubtedly increase burdens on schools.

Another bill full of costs and burdens is the Labor policy bill, which just makes it harder to own a business in Minnesota. One big change is that minimum wage will now be attached to inflation and can increase by up to 5 percent every year. This is going to be incredibly costly for small businesses to implement. There’s also a section of the bill that stipulates employers will now be forced to cover credit card transaction fees on tips left by customers using credit cards. Why is it that Democrats are so intent to work against business owners? It seems like every year, they are making it harder to own and operate a business in Minnesota, and this bill is the latest example of that. These measures will be incredibly costly for small businesses across the state. 

I do want to note one positive point: Democrats have stayed true to their word and will  pass a bill to fix the Net Operating Losses issue. This was an oversight in last year’s tax bill that was going to cost small businesses nearly $14.8 million in the form of higher taxes. Both tax chairs agreed to fix this, and though the fix is coming a bit later than it should have, better late than never. This would have been an insurmountable financial burden had it not been addressed.

There’s still a lot of session left, and I will continue providing updates on the bills that come before us. If you have concerns about any of these bills, please feel free to reach out to my office at 

Paul Utke,

State Representative

Park Rapids, Minn.