Here is the Minnesota Secretary of State’s notice of vacancies in state boards, councils, and committees for November 2016 (pdf). There are 74 pages of vacancies for everything from the American Indian Child Welfare Advisory Council to the Noxious Weed Advisory Committee. Most are uncompensated other than expense reimbursement, and many positions have requirements for qualification. But if you want to help with the business of government, there are lots of opportunities.
You can also sign up to receive notice by email when there is a new vacancy.
In the 2008 election (President Obama’s first term), 78% of Minnesotans voted. This year, just 74% of Minnesotans voted. Despite the lower turnout, Minnesota was back on top as the state with the highest voter turnout. The national average was around 55%.
For the full analysis and interactive graphics, see the Star Tribune.
This starts out as a completely ordinary debt collection story. A consumer falls behind on their credit card bills, eventually they get sued by Messerli & Kramer, and Messerli & Kramer gets a default judgment, probably due to Minnesota’s permissive “pocket filing” rule. But in this case, the consumer in question is the Republican Minnesota House Speaker, Kurt Daudt. And it’s a little embarrassing.
From the Star Tribune:
Brad Rixmann, chief executive of Burnsville-based Payday America, is a giant on the payday lending scene, operating the largest such business in the state. He also is a major player in Minnesota politics, having doled out nearly $550,000 in state campaign donations over the last decade.
As Rixmann’s contributions have grown, so has his business, aided by state law that allows him to charge triple-digit interest rates on loans that can go up to $1,000. His customers pay an average of 277 percent interest, sometimes borrowing repeatedly against their next paycheck.
15 states have banned payday lending, which more often traps borrowers in a cycle of debt than helps them deal with emergencies as intended.
At MinnPost, Bill Lindeke reports on a silent war going on in Minneapolis and St. Paul. Predatory lenders staple their signs to utility poles and plant them in boulevards, and do-gooders like St. Paul City Council member Amy Brendmoen and North Minneapolis activist Jeff Skrenes take them down. It has even escalated — literally. Skrenes carries a 10′ ice scraper to reach the signs, which the lenders are posting out of reach to try to keep them up longer.
The signs are illegal, and the people and companies posting them are generally engaging in some form of DIY predatory lending — offering a bad deal to people struggling with a mortgage that was probably a bad deal to begin with. It must work, because the signs keep going up even though people like Brendmoen and Skrenes keep taking them down.
But there are better options for homeowners struggling with a mortgage. Both the Minnesota Homeownership Center and Habitat for Humanity have phone hotlines and can help homeowners figure out what they can do. The best option is almost certainly not taking a fraction of the equity in cash or converting bad mortgage into a bad contract for deed.
Two weeks ago, it was big news when a Salt Lake City school took lunches away from students when their card was declined at the register. (Students at many schools use a card to buy lunches, and parents are responsible for depositing money to the student’s lunch card account through the school’s website.)
It turns out that many Minnesota schools do the same thing. According to the StarTribune:
A majority of public school districts in this state deny hot lunch — or any lunch at all in some cases — to children who can’t pay for them. Some schools take the meals from students in the lunch line and dump them in the trash when the computer shows a deficit in their lunch accounts.
The Minnesota interest rate for debts due to overdrawn bank accounts is 6%. Bradstreet & Associates was trying to charge 21.75%. According to Minnesota Attorney General Lori Swanson,
Since 2009, Bradstreet and its predecessor company bought at least $18 million in debt that originated with Wells Fargo and U.S. Bank. This affects, we believe, at least 16,000 Minnesota consumers.
The Minnesota Government Data Practices Act determines what state agencies must do with the enormous mountains of data they collect. Most data is public (PDF overview), unless a statute or rule makes certain data private.
Many agencies provide email-based notifications, like snow emergency alerts or city council meetings, It turns out there is no statute or rule making those email addresses private, even though most of the websites where those email addresses are collected claim they will be kept confidential.
Guest post by Aaron Hall.
Minnesota consumers can now bring more cases to conciliation court, and many see this as good news. Unlike regular district court, conciliation court was created to handle “small claims” with relaxed rules and procedures so people don’t need to hire an attorney.