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Who Is (Senator) Al Franken?

It's been an exhausting two months for the men vying for Minnesota's seat in the US Senate. The November 5th results put encumbant Norm Coleman ahead by a small enough margin to require an automatic recount. What resulted was an arduous process of reanalyzing absentee ballots and threatening litigation. For now, it seems like challenger Al Franken has taken the seat, though it's certain we haven't heard the last from the Coleman camp. They'll be fighting this until there's no ground left. It's no doubt that a big part of Franken's appeal is his past as an entertainer and radio personality. Who would have thought a Saturday Night Live alum would ever hold a high public office, at least outside of the epilogue for John Belushi's character in Animal House? Even if a lot of people know Al Franken the comedian or Al Franken the AIr America radio personality, a lot of people don't know Al Franken the United States Senator. So, here's a run down of this citizen's political positions. Agriculture Minnesota has a fairly large, important farming community. Like everybody else in this country, those farmers have been hit hard by the shaky economy. Franken supports giving significant tax credits to farmers who use and pursue alternative energy, like cellulosic ethanol. He also intends to modify and push the Farm Bill, which will regulate how commodity pricing affects farming income, as well as who qualifies for Farm Bill benefits. Essentially, he wants to keep non-farmers from accessing benefits intended for farmers. Education Minnesota has some pretty unwieldy college tuition issues compared to the rest of the country. Their universities cost significantly more to attend (avg. $30,000+/yr) but the average Minnesotan family can't afford to pay even half of that cost. Franken supports a $5000 tax credit for middle class (<$200,000/yr) families with at least one child attending a Minnesota college. For Minnesota public schools for primary education, Franken wants to boost the amount of resource and support available to teachers and students. He wants to eliminate activity fees for after-school programs and raise the pay scale of teachers while fostering a professional development program for the teachers while the work. Franken is roundly against the No Child Left Behind program, saying it needs to be dramatically reformed or completely eliminated. Credit Crunch Combat Minnesotans are on the high end of US citizens concerning credit card debt. A number of states as well as Washington DC have gotten behind an interest rate cap of 36%. Franken wants to include Minnesota on this cap. He also wants to regulate the language used by lenders in an effort to clarify the risks and responsibilities of taking out a loan; essentially, targeting one of the chief aspects of predatory lending. On the other end, he also supports requiring proof of income from anyone seeking a cash advance so individuals who are incapable of paying back a loan won't receive one in the first place. In addition to altering credit and loan practices, Franken is in support of the 401(u), a Universal Retirement Plan. Simply put, any company with more than 10 employees would be asked to offer an automatic payroll deduction retirement plan to any and all employees. While the 401(u) plan wouldn't be mandatory, it would offer tax credits to employers similar to those received by companies that offer pension plans. Assumed Senator Al Franken has a lot more information on his campaign website. Whether or not you're a Minnesotan, it's worth checking out where this new politician is going.