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Thumbs Up/Thumbs Down

Lawmakers and bees

Thumbs Up: Here's a breath of fresh air for bees and politics. Gov. Tim Waltz signed an executive order April 5 to support pollinator habitat and to promote the careful use of pesticides — and it received bipartisan support. The order replaces a 2016 order by Gov. Mark Dayton that had a controversial "verification of need" requirement for farmers to use neonicotinoid pesticides, a type of pesticide that is less toxic to mammals but that studies have linked to declining pollinator populations. State Sen. Torrey Westrom, R-Elbow Lake, chairman of a Minnesota Senate agriculture committee, commended Walz, a Democrat, for acknowledging the concerns of farmers and rescinding the verification of need requirement. "While we may not agree on every issue, his new executive order pertaining to pollinators appears to be restrained to state government operations on publicly owned land and it largely mirrors the practices that state agencies already practice," Westrom said in an email.

Tidying up the ditches

Thumbs Up: Let's hear it for the volunteers in Minnesota's Adopt a Highway program. This past year, they picked up nearly 36,000 bags of litter and cleaned up almost 9,000 miles of state roadways, according to the Minnesota Department of Transportation. More than 3,500 volunteer groups, ranging from four to 25 people, spent an estimated 282,000 hours cleaning roadway ditches across the state last year, which translated into an estimated $7 million benefit for the state. The program has been part of MnDOT's maintenance operations since 1990. More than 4,400 segments of state roadways are currently adopted in Minnesota by volunteers representing schools, businesses, faith-based groups, families and individuals. Individuals and groups who want to volunteer should go to to find their local area program coordinator.

A message of hope

Thumbs Up: A resident was grateful that the Inclusion Network and Douglas County Public Library invited author and presenter, Jason Sole to Alexandria. Sole, a criminal justice professor and advocate, brought a message of hope, transformation, honesty, racial justice, second chances, resiliency and love. "This challenges all of us to examine how we bring these values into action in our community," the resident said.

Disrespecting work zones

Thumbs Down: With winter in the rear view mirror (we hope), now is the time for drivers to focus on something else — highway work zones. Too many drivers try to sail right through them, not paying attention to the reduced speed zones, traffic cones, pavement markings and most importantly, the workers who are trying to do their jobs. More than 200 active work zones are scheduled throughout the state this construction season, according to the Minnesota Department of Transportation. A work zone is defined as any area where highway construction, maintenance or utility work is being done. Each year in the U.S., a work zone crash occurs once every 5.4 minutes, according to the Federal Highway Administration. Every day, 70 work zone crashes occur that result in at least one injury. Every week, 12 work zone crashes occur that result in at least one fatality. In Minnesota, during the past three years, there were 31 fatalities and 123 serious injuries in work zones. Rear-end crashes are the most common type of work zone crash and most occur because of driver inattention and speeding — behaviors that can be changed, noted Brian Sorenson, state traffic engineer. Divers need to heed the posted speed limits, pay attention to signs and flaggers, be patient and focus on driving.

Clean energy shows job power

Thumbs Up: Good news about clean energy: It's fueling a lot of jobs, especially in Minnesota. The clean energy sector grew by 4.7 percent last year, according to a new analysis of energy job data from Clean Energy Trust and a national, non-partisan business group, Environmental Entrepreneurs. Minnesota led the region in renewable energy growth because of large gains in wind and solar jobs. Other heartening news from the study: More than 61,000 Minnesotans now work in clean energy industries after adding 2,737 jobs in 2018. Nearly 40 percent of those jobs are located in Greater Minnesota. Led by 17 percent growth in advanced transportation, clean energy jobs now make up 2 percent of all jobs in Minnesota. The data also showed that employers project the good times will continue, expecting a 7.3 percent increase in jobs for this year.

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