The Free Press, Mankato, MN

April 19, 2013

Our View: How do you spell vocabulary tests?

The Free Press

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To the National Spelling Bee adding a new challenge to its competiton. New tests are being administered starting this year that emphasize that contestants also know the meaning of words.

The addition of the multiple-choice vocabulary tests sends the message that memorizing for the sake of memorizing isn't enough. A more valuable lesson is to know what words mean, along with knowing how to spell them correctly.

The national bee gets a lot of attention -- it's televised and at least two films have used the competition as its subject -- and this is a good move to emphasize more substantive learning.

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Tax reform debated

To state Senate leaders reinvigorating the tax reform debate.

There was hope at the start of the session there might be significant reform to fix what ails Minnesota's revenue collections. But the reform discussions quickly collapsed.

Gov. Mark Dayton's initial plan to broaden the sales tax while lowering the rate ran into quick opposition because of an ill-advised plan for business-to-business taxes.

After being stung with criticism Dayton withdrew much of his reform plan.

This week the Senate Tax Committee presented a plan that would lower rates and broaden the sales tax base along with lowering corporate income taxes.  

With Minnesota having the country's third highest corporate tax rate, lowering the rate is vital to maintain the state's attractiveness to business.

The Senate package would extend sales taxes to some services, more on-line purchases and clothing (Minnesota is one of just a handful of states that doesn't tax clothing sales).

The bill would also end the ridiculous practice of making local governments use tax money to pay state sales tax.

The proposal may not be perfect and will certainly draw intense lobbying pressure from affected groups. But it provides for serious discussion and a hope that Minnesota's outdated tax system can begin to be fixed.

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Politics isn't patty-cake

To Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, who accused President Obama of taking the "low road" when he criticized lawmakers who voted against key provisions of gun control legislation.

"When good and honest people have honest differences of opinion about what policies the country should pursue about gun rights ... the president of the United States should not accuse them of having no coherent arguments or of caving to pressure," Cornyn said.

The truth is, politicians cave into pressure all the time. And while it's true that gun control critics may certainly have defensible reasons for voting against more background checks and bans on assault weapons, that isn't the point. Politics is a tough business. Tough words are typically used on both sides of an argument, and especially when the issue is so emotional as gun control.

Editorial Board

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Young volunteers are heroes

I was honored to speak at the Minnesota State University "Colleges Against Cancer" Relay For Life. It was a privilege to meet so many young volunteers.

They were so polite, so caring and so committed to the fight against cancer.

They are all heroes because their efforts save lives.

Jim Tessien