James Oberstar: 1934-2014
Representative Jim Oberstar was an inspiration as a legislator, and as a person.
Jim carried on his father's United Steelworker legacy by serving as an exemplary advocate for laborers and their families throughout his life. During his tenure as a member of the U.S. House of Representatives, he served as chair for the Transportation and Infrastructure committee, led on aviation and rail transit issues, advocated for bicycle paths and trail development, and was a strong voice for the Head Start program and mine safety legislation. He was crucial in obtaining the funds for the rapid re-build of the I-35W bridge, and his steadfast efforts to secure infrastructure investments kept other such disasters from occurring. Jim, a native of Chisholm on the Iron Range, served the U.S. Marine Corps as a civilian language teacher, and helped create the Economic Development Administration before he was elected to the U.S. House in 1974.
Thanks to Rep. Oberstar, future generations of Minnesotans will have greater access to healthy outdoor activities, and rail transit connecting our Twin Cities. He was a true titan, and will be greatly missed.
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At www.mnsure.com, you can compare plans from Minnesota insurers, and see if you qualify for a low-cost or free plan. Also, if you want to help bring better healthcare to your fellow Minnesotans, sign up here to join the growing ranks of Assistive Partners, where we are looking for:
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2013 Legislative Session - Addressing the Big Issues
After re-taking control of both houses of the Minnesota Legislature, Senator Champion and his partners in the Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party collaborated with Governor Mark Dayton to pass several pieces of legislation, moving Minnesota forward to national prominence once again.
While we still have significant work to do, specifically in regards to my legislative priorities, such as raising the minimum wage, reducing gun violence, and restoring voting rights to those completing their sentence for a felony, we made serious progress in 2013. In the next year, we will pass a bonding bill that will put thousands of Minnesotans to work rebuilding our transportation infrastructure and other important projects that impact the lives of our state.
Ban the Box
Democrats, Republicans and Independents agree – having a job is a good thing. My bill to "ban the box" removed a roadblock to Minnesotans seeking to join the labor force. Now, when applying for a job, it is now illegal for an employer to inquire or consider an applicant's criminal record when deciding who gets an interview.
Freedom to Marry
Minnesota became the twelfth state to legalize marriage for gay and lesbian couples. We also included language that provided legal protections for churches, non-profits and private businesses that do not choose to participate. Gov. Dayton's signature on this historic bill was witnessed by over 7,000 Minnesotans.
Expanded Sick Leave Flexibility
I authored a bill that allows employees, if their workplace provides them "sick time", to use these hours to care for their adult children, spouse, sibling, parent or grandparent, in addition to their child.
Housing is one of my central issues, and I am proud to have brought together the resources of Legal Aid and the Multi Housing Association for my tenant protection bill. This legislation assesses a $500 fine to those that do not notify prospective tenants that a house is in foreclosure. It also makes permanent a provision in the Renter Protection Act that permits a tenant to remain in the foreclosed residence for 90 days after a lease expires, and grants those wishing to appeal a court decision an extra 5 days to file their action.
Protection for Minnesotans with Disabilities
Many Minnesotans utilize the assistance of service animals. I wrote a bill to expand the rights of persons with disabilities to enter public establishments with their service animals in accordance with the American Disabilities Act.
Minnesota Prosperity Act
Our version of the DREAM Act permits the children of immigrants that attended three years of Minnesota high school to receive the in-state tuition rate in Minnesota, in addition to financial aid and scholarships.
Sex Trafficking Prevention and Safe Harbor Law
This involved an investment in our local law enforcement to identify victims of sex-trafficking, and an expansion of the Safe Harbor Law to enhance their support services and shelters.
Drivers License for All
I sponsored legislation to ease restrictions on driver’s licenses for non-U.S. citizens. Right now, many members of the immigrant community drive without a Minnesota license and insurance. This bill increases the number of licensed drivers and insured drivers on Minnesota’s roads.
Part-time Working Student Aid
Included in the Higher Education Omnibus bill was my provision to allocate student aid based on how many credits a person takes, not whether that person is considered full or part-time. This bill will decrease the debt students owe when they graduate and provide them with additional flexibility.
Bobby Joe Champion & Senator Jeff Hayden Respond to Peter Bell's commentary on the Trayvon Martin verdict and African-American culture
Star Tribune, July 27, 2013
Racial bias can't be blamed on any one culture or music choice
After the tragic killing of Trayvon Martin and the jury trial that followed, the impassioned response among most black Americans demanded respect for the life of Trayvon and, by extension, respect for our community as a whole. Our message was simple: We are Trayvon. President Obama shared this sentiment when he reflected that Trayvon could have been him 35 years ago.
That’s why we were so disappointed to read Peter Bell’s commentary (“Blacks must also look inward, at our culture,” July 23) in which he scolds black Americans, asking, “how can we ... demand respect from others when we show so little of it for ourselves?”
From arguing that black people don’t love themselves enough to berating hip-hop culture, Bell’s ramblings either have nothing to do with Trayvon’s killing or are just plain wrong.
To start with, Bell points the finger at the black community for protesting the racial prejudice manifested in Trayvon’s killing when, he argues, our focus should be on protesting black-on-black violence in our neighborhoods.
It’s true — statistically speaking, Trayvon was more likely to be killed by a black peer than by George Zimmerman. And, most agree, there is an epidemic of violence among black youths plaguing our communities and threatening our children’s futures. Yet, that’s not what happened between Zimmerman and Trayvon in February 2012.
As black leaders in Minneapolis, we’ve participated at vigils and demonstrations in the aftermath of black-on-black murders in our own neighborhoods. We’re heartbroken, outraged, and resolved to build safer communities. But linking Trayvon’s killing to a discussion about black-on-black violence completely misses the point and suggests that this unarmed black high school student wasn’t the victim of unwarranted violence, but somehow had it coming.
Bell goes on to blame the black community as a whole — or at least black entertainers and their fans — for perpetuating racial disparities and injustices through hip-hop lyrics that devalue life and celebrate violence. Bell’s accusation “do we really expect white America not to notice how we present ourselves in public or via popular culture?”smacks of the same ignorance that would accuse victims of sexual violence of “asking for it” because of how they dressed or behaved.
We in no way praise or condone dehumanizing lyrics or destructive behavior from black celebrities, but blaming black music for racial profiling and racial inequities of our criminal justice system is ridiculous.
The racial bias that led George Zimmerman to be suspicious of a 17-year-old black pedestrian was formed by much subtler, more encompassing societal forces than hip-hop lyrics. It is the same racial bias many of us have experienced and all of us share. Truly, the stereotyping and uncertainty that Trayvon experienced as he walked home with a bag of Skittles is something blacks in Minnesota experience every day.
But trying to blame racial bias in America on any one culture or form of expression is as pointless as it is absurd. Instead, we echo President Obama’s observation that, despite this tragedy and the hard emotions it has stirred up, things are getting better and each generation pushes us closer to achieving the dream of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.
Certainly, we still face serious challenges in Minnesota with some of the widest and most pronounced racial gaps in educational achievement, household income, life expectancy and incarceration rates. Yet, we’ve witnessed again and again how these challenges motivate members of the state’s black community to come together in ways both large and small that uplift our brothers and sisters in the pursuit of a brighter tomorrow.
For example, every year we see the black community raise scholarship funds and open doors for young people to grow a legacy of high-achieving students. Right now, black churches across the metro area are organizing health initiatives promoting healthy living to battle high rates of heart disease, cancer and diabetes.
As the cameras focused on the destruction when a tornado tore through north Minneapolis in 2011, we saw neighbors lift up one another and literally rebuild their community together. This same community (often thought of as Minnesota’s most predominately black neighborhood) is home to the Northside Transportation Network, a civically minded group focused on growing economic opportunities through transit-oriented development.
And as black leaders in the state Legislature, we were proud to be among a coalition of lawmakers that worked to block in Minnesota the exact same “shoot first, ask questions later” law that put George Zimmerman in a position to shoot an unarmed teen in Florida.
These are just a few examples of black people committed to the growth, not the destruction, of our community. An honest evaluation of today’s black community and its image can’t begin and end with hip-hop music and ignore the good works of so many other groups and individuals.
We challenge Mr. Bell to take another look at how blacks here in Minnesota, driven by deep self-respect, are standing up to create a better future for our children and for our entire nation. Even he would agree that, in the famous words attributed to Gandhi, we must be the change we wish to see in the world.
Jeffrey Hayden and Bobby Joe Champion, both Democrats from Minneapolis, are members of the Minnesota Senate.
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Information and statistics about Minnesota elections:
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2012 Election Results - maps by precinct
Published and prepared by Bobby Joe Champion for Senate.