MN Hospitality Advocate

Hospitality and Tourism Day at the Capitol a Huge Success

We’ll start with the numbers: We had more than 215 restaurant, lodging, resort and campground operators at the Minnesota capitol yesterday as we lobbied on behalf of one of our state’s major industries. John Edman, Director of Explore Minnesota Tourism, reminded us in his remarks that the leisure and hospitality industry generates 16% of the state’s sales tax revenue, and is responsible for 10% of the state’s jobs.

Our industry advocates heard about a number of key issues in a morning briefing session. In addition to updates from our Lobbyists Tony Kwilas and Bob Vanasek and myself, we heard from Joan Archer, Executive Director of the Minnesota Beverage Association, about efforts to build a coalition highlighting the positive things our industry is doing in the area of obesity and fighting back anticipated sweetened beverage taxes. Other key issues we discussed included the Post Labor Day School Start, mandatory breaks and sick time, a multi-purpose stadium for the Minnesota Vikings and other events, ignition interlocks and vacation home rentals.

After tremendous visits on the hill, we wrapped up with a new legislative reception at the Kelly Inn featuring some 20 convention and visitor bureaus who did a beautiful job showcasing their communities and highlighting the importance of hospitality and tourism in communities across the state. Some 40-50 legislators attended the reception even in the midst of late-night committee meetings and a chaotic night before the final committee deadline.

I want to use this opportunity to thank the Hospitality Minnesota team for their tremendous efforts in creating a great event, and the Minnesota Association of Convention and Visitors Bureaus for being tremendous partners.

David Siegel, CAE, IOM
Minnesota Restaurant, Lodging and Resort & Campground Associations and Hospitality Minnesota

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Industry Scores Major Victories; Labor Day and Adult Entertainment

Over the past two days, the hospitality industry scored two major victories at the legislature. The first was defeat of a government operations bill that stepped deeply into the business practices of our industry. Wednesday morning, we defeated H.F. 3287 in the House State and Local Government Operations Reform, Technology and Elections Committee that would prevent state workers from booking rooms or meetings in Minnesota hotels that offer pay-per-view adult movies that link sex with violence. I was the sole testifier against the bill authored by Rep. Haws (DFL-St. Cloud), which has a companion Senate bill, SF 2861, authored by Sen. Taryl Clark (DFL-St. Cloud).

In my testimony, I chastised the advocacy community for turning immediately to legislation to solve this problem. I offered to sit with the advocates (groups seeking to combat sexual violence) to have a discussion about the issue and allow industry to gain a better understanding. I further suggested that the vast majority of this material is not viewed in hotel rooms, but rather on the Internet. We will continue to monitor this issue, but certainly believe this legislation simply went way to far in dictating business practices for our industry.

In the second victory, a house Education Committee stripped a Post Labor Day school start repealer from a Committee Bill by a vote of 11-9. This narrow victory in an Education Committee is a significant victory for the industry. While Labor Day school start opponents will likely try and amend bills on the floor of the House or  Senate to continue a repeal effort, we stand in a strong position given that the committee has spoken. In part, committee members suggested that we ought to give the 25 districts in the Southwest corner of the state time to work their experiment before we make other changes in the Labor Day statute. In particular, we thank Rep. John Ward (DFL-Brainerd) for his work on the Labor Day issue.

David Siegel, CAE, IOM
Minnesota Restaurant, Lodging and Resort & Campground Associations and Hospitality Minnesota

Commissioner Rules Against Industry

Posted in Campground Issues, General Advocacy, Lodging Issues, Resort Issues, State Laws, Tourism Issues by hospitalityminnesota on March 16, 2010

Education Commissioner Alice Seagren ruled late Friday against the industry in allowing a consortium of 25 school districts in the Southwest part of the state to start school before Labor Day. This ruling could have a devastating effect on the Post Labor Day school legislation, in that other districts are sure to copy this effort in an attempt to circumvent the Labor Day start law.

In addition to consolidating calendars and working collaboratively, the districts argued that they needed additional days throughout the year to boost test scores on standardized tests that all students take in the spring. They intend to start on August 23. It will be extremely difficult to determine what effect, if any, this early start actually has on student success, as there are several other factors in the proposal.

Nonetheless, we will keep a close eye on these districts’ test scores and see if in fact their claim brings with it any academic merit. We have long stated that additional time on task can be achieved without putting the Labor Day school start in peril.

It’s a disappointing day for the industry. We’ll push hard at Day at the Capitol on March 18 to reinforce the importance of Labor Day school and do our best to prevent the repeal movement to gain more momentum.

David Siegel, CAE, IOM
Minnesota Restaurant, Lodging and Resort & Campground Associations and Hospitality Minnesota

Hospitality Minnesota Testifies on Labor Day School

Posted in Campground Issues, General Advocacy, Lodging Issues, Resort Issues, State Laws, Tourism Issues by hospitalityminnesota on March 4, 2010

I testified yesterday morning before the Senate Education Committee regarding a proposed change in statute that would prevent Flexible Learning Year proposals, other than year-round, from starting before Labor Day.

The bill is Senate File 2785 sponsored by Senator Tom Saxhaug (DFL-Grand Rapids): Flexible learning year education programs pre-Labor Day start date prohibition.

At issue is a group of 25 school districts in the Southwestern part of the state that have proposed a collaborative effort regarding school schedules, sharing of resources and addressing community needs. As part of their proposal, these districts are seeking to start school before Labor Day. They have made a request to Commissioner of Education Alice Seagren for such an exemption to state law under the Flexible Learning Year (FLY) statute.

The discussion was energetic, and while we were there to talk about this bill only, conversation quickly moved to the entire debate over the Labor Day school start. Ed Becker from In We Go Resort in Nevis also testified, and did a marvelous job. Ed is a school board member and brought both perspectives to the committee.

With some confusion surrounding the current Flexible Learning Year statute, and a desire to get more answers, the committee laid the bill on the table for future consideration.

Meanwhile, Senator David Hann (R-Eden Prairie) is expected to introduce Senate File 2956, which outright repeals the Post Labor Day School law. We will continue to keep you updated via this blog and government affairs alerts to membership.

David Siegel, CAE, IOM
Minnesota Restaurant, Lodging and Resort & Campground Associations and Hospitality Minnesota