Ignition cutoff systems a go
THUMBS UP: Minnesota's goal of improving safety on our roads and highways was bolstered this week when Gov. Tim Pawlenty signed legislation that puts ignition cutoff systems in vehicles of those who have been caught driving at more than twice the legal alcohol limit and repeat drunken drivers. And they have to pay for it to the tune of about a hundred bucks a month. The devices test the alcohol in a person's breath and prevent the vehicle from starting if the reading is above a certain level. The law will take effect in July 2011. Tampering with the device is considered a crime and can be used to lengthen a license revocation.
The race is off in Minnesota
THUMBS DOWN: The state of Minnesota this year finished an embarrassing 20th out of 41 states in the first round of "Race to the Top" - a federal funding program where states can apply for grant money for their school districts. This year, Minnesota won't even be in the race. Minnesota will not be applying for up to $175 million in federal grant money this year. Gov. Tim Pawlenty decided against applying because, he said, the Legislature didn't approve his proposals for school reform that include getting rid of a tenure system and matching teacher pay and evaluations to student performance. Education Minnesota, the state's teachers union, says Pawlenty is being unfair in not even giving the state a shot at the money. The state's poor outcome in the first round of this particular funding game should've been a red flag that things really need to change in certain areas of our K-12 education system. If that's all we can take from our first-round assessment, so be it. But not even trying in the second round is unfair to our schools and our children.
Spending habits need to change
THUMBS DOWN: Lyon County Commissioner Steve Ritter wasn't at all thrilled to see a couple of auditor warrant items at this week's Lyon County Board meeting - a $7,114 bill for a siren, light bar, gun mounts and other equipment for a Sheriff's Department truck and a whopping $2,477 Aramark food bill from a recent meeting where county emergency responders took part in tabletop training exercises. There's no arguing the importance of training, but why not brown bag it? It should be noted that the money for the truck was taken from DWI and drug forfeitures, not from county taxpayers, and the county will be reimbursed for the $17-a-plate meal. Still, one can question, are these good spending practices given the current fiscal climate facing counties all around Minnesota? Wouldn't this be a good time to cut back in spending and really hone in on changing those habits? Fiscal responsibility is more important now than ever and our elected officials need to cut back when they can and break those habits.