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State Legislature briefs: Green jobs promoted

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news Detroit Lakes, 56501
Detroit Lakes Minnesota 511 Washington Avenue 56501

ST. PAUL - A group of Minnesota legislators says 70,000 Minnesotans could hold clean-energy jobs if lawmakers approve a list of recommendations.

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The legislators say 50,000 so-called "green jobs" would be retained and 20,000 added - with $15 billion added to the state's economy by 2020.

Among the recommendations is to establish a "green enterprise authority" to help new and existing energy businesses.

"The green enterprise authority would be the first of its kind, signaling across the nation Minnesota is open for green business," said Rep. Jeremy Kalin, DFL-North Branch. "The primary purpose of the green enterprise authority would be to provide direct green business assistance to break down barriers in government and grow green jobs today. It is a critical, central component of the Green Jobs Task Force plan that will help replace unemployment checks with paychecks, make Minnesota more energy independent, and restore economic prosperity in our state."

The task force, which has met for months, is made up of lawmakers, business leaders, state agencies and others. It recommends bills that would put people to work weatherizing public buildings, schools, businesses and homes throughout Minnesota. At least some funding for those jobs could come from federal economic recovery programs.

"A lot of construction workers are sitting on the bench right now, ready to get to work," said Rep. Bob Gunther, R-Fairmont. "Working in collaboration with the federal government, we can maximize Minnesota's potential for putting thousands of unemployed construction laborers back to work in the next several months -- providing government and consumers untold energy savings as well."

No annual review

Local governments would not be required to annually review their out-of-state travel policies under Senate-passed legislation.

Senators voted 59-0 Monday to drop that requirement. Local governments, such as cities and counties, still would be required to make the policy available to the public. The legislation is designed to reduce paperwork and save money.

"I think that local governments are going to be seriously looking at all of their travel," bill author Sen. Rick Olseen, DFL-Harris.

Affording food

Sen. Steve Dille, R-Dassel, successfully backed a bill Monday on the Senate floor, but said it may do little for those it is intended to help.

The bill that passed allows welfare money to be spent on organic food products, so long as the products do not cost more than regular items. Dille, R-Dassel, wondered if that is the case on grocery store shelves.

"My view, generally speaking, is that eating organic food is good for rich people because they've got the money to pay for it," Dille said.

Organic food is not a good choice for poor people because of its higher cost, he said.

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