Rep. Cheryl Youakim (46B) – Legislative Update
Last week was second deadline week, which is when all policy bills must have passed through all their required committees in both the House and the Senate by Friday, March 17 at 5:00 p.m. Technically, a bill is “dead” for the session if it has not met those requirements. A senator or representative can offer their bill as an amendment to an omnibus bill or on the floor. Or, they can make their case to the Rules Committee to why their bill should still be heard after deadlines. Many times, those techniques only work if you are in the majority.
This week, finance committees will be putting together their omnibus bills that will then move to the House floor. We expect to see these omnibus bills on the House floor the first week April; right before we take a week long break that starts on April 9th. When we return, we will have longer House floor sessions to take up the individual bills that have made their way through the legislative process. Conference committees will also be meeting to find common ground between the House and Senate omnibus bills.
Reinsurance vs MinnesotaCare Buy-in
On Monday, the House passed a Republican reinsurance plan that will favor insurance companies over the health of Minnesotans. The ‘Reinsurance’ bill (HF 5) creates a program to subsidize insurance companies. The measure establishes an 11 member board to administer the program – with a majority of board members representing insurance companies – to backfill the cost of large healthcare claims. The program would be funded by the Health Care Access Fund, which currently funds MinnesotaCare. The Republican author also said he doesn’t know the impact of the bill, meaning a nearly $400 million giveaway to insurance companies has no guarantee of reducing premiums, stabilizing the market or increasing access for Minnesotans.
House Democrats have a more affordable option to stabilize the individual market. Their plan would be to provide health care coverage to a greater number of Minnesotans by allowing the public to ‘buy-in’ to MinnesotaCare. MinnesotaCare is a successful plan that has existed in Minnesota for 25 years. The buy-in would provide more affordable choices for an additional 100,000 Minnesotans who are currently in the individual market. Participant’s premiums would cover the entire cost of their policies, meaning there would be no ongoing cost to taxpayers.
Those living outside the Twin Cities Metro would have access to a broad network of physicians and care providers available through MinnesotaCare. This would give families more choice in selecting their health care providers – instead of the narrow network currently available. I am encouraging Republican leaders to give our bill a hearing in the House; it’s our job as legislators to provide Minnesotans choices and options to improve their health and I’m committed to doing so.
Unrequested Leave of Absence Change
On Thursday last week, the Minnesota House passed a bill (HF 1478) to change statewide policies for laying off E-12 teachers on a 71-59 vote. This bill, Republicans’ first education priority this year, would require school boards to negotiate a plan for laying off teachers. No Democrats voted for the bill.
About 40% of school districts have locally negotiated layoff plans. In the absence of a negotiated plan, state law directs schools to layoff teachers according to their seniority. The bill would repeal that backstop. We all can remember our favorite teacher and know the positive impact a good teacher can make. One of our first priorities as a Legislature should be making sure our schools have the resources they need so that they don’t have to lay off teachers in the first place. I will always support our educators and will work toward finding ways to attract quality teachers to Minnesota, instead of focusing on how to let them go during budget cuts.
In the coming weeks, the different House finance committees will be putting together their budget bills. Budget targets for each of these committees will be set with the state’s projected $1.65 billion surplus. I would love to hear about your priorities for the state budget. Please take a moment to fill out this survey by ranking the items listed. There is also an open comment box for you to add additional thoughts.
With the second policy deadline last Friday, committees met extra days and late into the evening during the week. After last week, policy committees will only meet to hear late bills that have not met the deadline threshold.
Last week, Property Taxes & Local Government Division met both Monday and Wednesday morning. On Monday, the majority of our bills were regarding local government aid and county program aid levels as well as programs that effect the Iron Range. We also heard some controversial bills. One bill was to ban all local city councils from banning or placing a tax on plastic or paper bags. Currently, there are a few cities that have worked with citizens and local business owners to put in place programs to restrict the use of plastic bags. This bill would not only take that ability away, it is retroactive, and would erase many of the programs already in place. We also heard a set of bills that would reduce, or completely remove, a city’s local government aid if they set their own labor regulations, hired a lobbyist, declared themselves a sanctuary city, had a driver diversion program or gave money to the effort to host a World’s Fair in Minnesota. All of these bills make, once again, a state grab for local control. The League of Minnesota Cities has counted 22 bills so far this session that remove local control in one way shape or form from city councils and school boards.
This week, the committee will be putting together a Property Tax Division Report to be included in the House Tax omnibus bill. This process could take one day or all week, only time will tell.
Transportation & Regional Governance Committee only met Wednesday last week. We heard two non-controversial bills dealing with deputy registrars and a law enforcement memorial license plate. This committee has completed its work for the session unless they decide to hear bills that have not made deadlines
Last week, the Government Operations and Elections Committee was very busy. We met Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday with Tuesday going late into the evening. We heard a variety of bills, many of them dealing with elections. One of the bills, HF2039, would have added a type of “provisional balloting” in Minnesota.
Provisional balloting exists in about 1/3 of the states as part of the “Help America Vote Act”. In many of those states, it is meant to ensure access to the ballot box when there is not same-day registration. If you live in a state that requires pre-registration and arrive at your polling location the day of election, find you have been omitted from the polling book due to an error, or you moved in after the date of pre-registration, you are allowed to vote with a provisional ballot. Minnesota was granted an exemption from provisional balloting because we have same day registration. The proposal that has been included in the Senate elections omnibus bill would force Minnesotans to vote with a provisional ballot if they try to register the same day or are challenged by a poll watcher at an election site. It is my understanding that it would then be up to the voter to come back within a week of Election Day with proof of why they should have been allowed to vote before their provisional ballot would be counted.
Last Wednesday, we heard the House Omnibus Elections Bill. It was a balanced bill that was relatively non-controversial except for the addition of moving the August primary to June. While some are opposed to this, I am in favor of moving the primary up. You may also recall this was an initiative of former Rep. Steve Simon. There was a move to add provisional balloting to the House’s election bill, but it failed on a 15-2 roll call vote.
Constituent and Organization Visits
It was a busy week with constituent and organization meetings. I met with constituents at the Capitol with Disability Day (First picture below), Homeless and Affordable Housing, Mental Health Day (Second picture below), Minnesota Association of Professional Employees, Minnesota Retailers and Vail Place. I also had a nice meeting with Hennepin County Commissioner Jan Callison to discuss the legislative priorities of Hennepin County.
State of the City
St. Louis Park is hosting their State of the City on Thursday, March 23 from 4:30-6:30 p.m. at MATTER in St. Louis Park (7005 Oxford St, St. Louis Park). The event is free and everyone is invited to attend. You can RSVP by March 16 to Debbie Fischer at firstname.lastname@example.org or 952-924-2525. Enjoy networking and food from 4:30-5 p.m. with a program hosted by Mayor Jake Spano starting at 5:00 p.m. The program will include presentations by council and city staff on last year’s highlights and this year’s initiatives. Stay after the program to take a tour of MATTER, a nonprofit on a mission to expand access to health next door and around the world. You can learn more about MATTER here.
I would like to thank those who have attended one of my seven community conversations I’ve held January through March. Unfortunately, due to early committee deadlines, I had to cancel my last meeting on Tuesday, March 14. Please stay tuned for the date of the upcoming SD46 Town Hall that we traditional host at the end of session.
As always, please feel free to contact me with questions and issues. E-mail at email@example.com is the best way to get in touch. If it is urgent, or you would like to schedule a meeting, please contact my office by phone at 651-296-9889.
Have a great week!