February 28, 2007

When You Gotta Go...

Anyone who has ever been denied access to an "employees only" restroom during an emergency now has less to worry about.

The Senate commerce committee passed the Restroom Access Act on Tuesday, to the relief of about 35,000 Minnesotans with bowel and bladder control problems.

The act would require stores to let medically needy people use their restrooms, even if they are for employees only.

Some people do not see the need for a law allowing access to restrooms. They say the law is just extra burden on store owners and isn't required because of simple human decency.

"It's hard to understand how somebody could deny someone bathroom access," said Mike Hickey, Minnesota director for the National Federation of Independent Business. "It would be nice to know what's the actual need here."

The Senate committee apparently was unconvinced by such agruments.

Employees who refuse to let such patrons use their facilities could be charged with a petty misdemeanor and a $100 fine.

February 19, 2007

A Higher Cost for Beauty?

State Rep. Phyllis Kahn (D-Minneapolis), wants to extend Minnesota's 6.5 percent sales tax to cosmetic surgery and in-office procedures including chemical skin peels, laser hair removal, cosmetic injections and spider vein treatments.

Any person with the money for cosmetic surgery can afford to pay the tax, said Kahn.

Kahn's bill excludes medically necessary procedures, like as facial reconstruction after an accident. It also wouldn't apply to laser eye surgery.

New Jersey became the only state that taxes cosmetic surgery back in 2005, collecting an estimated $11 million this year. But cosmetic surgery taxes have been proposed in other states like Texas, Illinois and Washington. Kahn said the tax would raise about $7 million per year.

Most of that money would come from hardworking women trying to "do something for themselves once in a while," said Dr. Richard D'Amico, president-elect of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons. He said 90 percent of cosmetic surgery patients are female, with a yearly income average of $60,000.

The Minnesota proposal is scheduled for its first hearing before a House tax panel today.

February 6, 2007

Weather Turns Political

It is always amazing to see the power that nearly weightless snowflakes have upon our gas-guzzling, 4-wheel drive, speedy vehicles.

For example, my normal 30-minute drive to school today took an hour and a half before I gave up and went back home.

And I'm not the only one.

Rep. Steve Murphy, DFL-Red Wing, was so upset about the poor driving conditions he called a news conference today at the state Capitol, according to

"It's time to stop the hanky panky," he said. "Let's get down to real business. Let's fund real snowplow drivers, not ones that are taken out of an office someplace and asked to drive a snowplow."

Murphy said the Minnesota Department of Transportation is underfunded and that a gas tax of five cents per gallon would do a lot to help solve the problem by putting more trucks with trained drivers on the roads.

Lucy Kender, from MnDot, says that the today's traffic issues were an anomaly resulting from surprise bad weather that lasted all day, as well as "cautious drivers."

Kender also said all plow drivers must be trained to before operating a truck.

MnDOT said it usually spends about $40 million a season clearing the roads. So far this winter, it has spent $7 million.

January 29, 2007

Eagan Wary About Flashy Billboards

The Eagan City Council is worried about the future impact new digital billboards will have on drivers.

The council has put a halt to the installation of new light-up billboards that can change images every few seconds in order to "further study the issue," according to MNSun newspapers.

Apparently, the council is concerned that the flashing billboards will distract drivers too much, or turn the suburb into a Las Vegas doppelganger.

The moratorium only lasts until July 31, but councilmembers have the power to end it sooner or extend it as they see fit.