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Democracy Trailblazers ignite enthusiasm among teen voters; CA monster blizzard batters Tahoe, Mammoth, Sierra amid avalanche warnings; MN transportation sector could be next in line for carbon-free standard; IN teachers 'stunned' by lawmakers' bid to bypass collective bargaining.

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Nikki Haley says she may not endorse the GOP nominee, President Biden says the U-S will continue air-dropping aid into Gaza and more states look at ditching the electoral college for a national popular vote.

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Hard times could be ahead for rural school districts that spent federal pandemic money on teacher salaries, a former Oregon lumber community drafts a climate-action plan and West Virginians may soon buy raw milk from squeaky-clean cows.

Measuring Paid Leave Access in Rural MN

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Thursday, January 26, 2023   

Researchers have said rural communities face a host of unique challenges, and access to paid leave is one of them. Advocates hope the needs of rural families are part of the debate, as discussion ramps up for a statewide program in Minnesota.

Gov. Tim Walz has included a paid family- and medical-leave program in his proposed budget.

Leota Goodney, activist and retired accounting firm operator from Northfield, said creating pathways for such a benefit could be helpful to small businesses in rural areas. She said it is a struggle everywhere, but is more profound in Greater Minnesota, where smaller firms and the self-employed are considered key drivers of local economies.

"There are not large employers like there are in the urban areas, and many of the large employers in the urban areas already offer some kind of paid family leave," Goodney pointed out.

A report by the think tank New America said only 61 % of women in rural communities have paid time off of any kind to care for a new child or an ill loved one.

The Walz plan calls for nearly $670 million to get the program started, with a less than 1% payroll tax to maintain funding. The Minnesota Chamber of Commerce argued it would place too much financial stress on small businesses.

The organization estimates the plan would cost Minnesota businesses $1 billion, but Goodney countered having employers and their staff pitch in is a small sacrifice in establishing a benefit which can help recruit workers for rural areas.

"I definitely think that it makes living more attractive in rural areas," Goodney asserted. "This is a way to keep people from leaving rural areas to go somewhere else where they can actually make a living."

Nearly a dozen states have adopted paid-leave laws. Minnesota's plan would cover up to 12 weeks of medical leave and up to 12 weeks of family leave.

The state has a $17 billion surplus and Democrats feel optimistic about pushing proposals such as paid leave through because of their majorities. It remains unclear what will be in the final spending plans with several priorities announced in recent weeks.


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House Bill passed with an overwhelming vote of 94-6, with three abstentions. Its companion, Senate Bill 159, passed unanimously with a vote of 34-0. (Chad Robertson/Adobe Stock)

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