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Court ruling on online taxes

Thumbs Up: Here's good news for local merchants trying to fight off the online behemoths that don't have any kind of physical presence in the community. A U.S. Supreme Court ruling last week allows states to collect sales taxes from Internet sellers. Previously, online companies were able to escape from paying sales taxes, which created an uneven playing field for brick-and-mortar retailers. Sen. Amy Klobuchar reacted to the news by noting: "From a mom-and-pop store on Main Street to Target and Best Buy, businesses in Minnesota can't compete if they don't have a level playing field against online retailers. Unfortunately, the Supreme Court's previous rulings placed Minnesota businesses at a severe disadvantage that not only cost our state money but unfairly picked winners and losers among businesses. (The recent) decision is a huge step towards ensuring all businesses are playing by the same rules."

Making it easier to vote

Thumbs Up: Minnesotans are running out of excuses why they can't find the time to vote. And that's a good trend. Because of a law passed in 2014, residents can begin voting by mail or in person a full 46 days ahead of an election day. For the Aug. 14 primary, they can start casting ballots today, June 29. Also, before the 2014 law was passed, a person could vote early, but needed to provide an excuse as to why he or she could not vote. With the new system, no excuse is needed. There are a couple of Douglas County Board races that will have a primary this year — Districts 2 and 4. We're hoping the early voting will lead to a good turnout at the polls. Instructions on how to vote by mail can be found on the Secretary of State's website at People can also vote at their county courthouses during regular business hours. Voting is also available the weekend before the election, as well as the Monday before Election Day.

Energy saving tips

Thumbs Up: Looking for a way to cut down on your energy bills? Start with your laundry. Washers and dryers, along with refrigerators, are the biggest energy users among household appliances. The Minnesota Commerce Department and U.S. Department of Energy offer these seven energy-saving laundry tips: 1. Wash with cold water. Using warm water instead of hot can cut a load's energy use in half, while using cold water will save even more. 2. Wash full loads. Your washer will use about the same amount of energy no matter the size of the load, so fill it up. 3. Dry right-sized loads for your machine. If the dryer is too full, it will take longer for the clothes to dry. 4. Air dry when you can. Hang laundry outside to avoid using the dryer altogether. 5. Clean the lint filter on your dryer. The dryer will run more efficiently and safely. 6. Use lower heat settings in the dryer. Even if the drying cycle is longer, you will use less energy and be less likely to over-dry your clothes. 7. Use the moisture sensor option if your dryer has one. Many new dryers come with a moisture sensor that automatically shuts off the machine when clothes are dry. This will save energy and reduce wear and tear on your clothes.

Reckless bikers

Thumbs Down: We've heard from a few residents this spring/summer who are concerned about bicyclists biking on the wrong side of the road, not obeying traffic lights or signs, or simply not paying attention to others on the road. One person said he's witnessed three close-calls involving bicyclists in Alexandria. We've given drivers many thumbs downs over the years for not watching out for bicyclists or respecting bikers' right to the road, but the message applies to bikers too. Bicyclists and motorists alike need to obey the rules of the road.

Help for the hard of hearing

Thumbs Up: If you have problems using the phone because of a hearing loss, speech disability or physical disability, help is available. The Minnesota Department of Human Services Deaf and Hard of Hearing Services Division provides no cost wireless and landline telephones that provide captions or amplified connections to those meeting eligibility rules. Contact or call 1-800-657-3663 for information, eligibility, and how to apply.

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If you have a suggestion for a Thumbs Up/Thumbs Down, email it to or mail it to Echo Press, P.O. Box 549, Alexandria, MN 56308.