Rep. Melissa Hortman (36B) – Legislative Update
Now that the legislative session has been underway for a few weeks, many bills are moving through House committees and toward the House floor. I thought you may be interested to hear about the bills that are drawing the most attention.
HF 600 – Removing local control
Last week, HF 600 made a stop in the Government Operations Committee. This bill would prevent local communities from passing ordinances related to workers’ rights. It would prohibit cities from passing ordinances to provide paid sick leave or a city-level minimum wage. If it became law, the bill would take away sick leave for thousands of Minnesotans who already have it as a result of city council action.
Three Energy Bills Passed the House floor
The first bill, HF 113, would allow Xcel Energy to bypass the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) and would give the corporation permission to replace coal-burning power plants in Becker with a large, new natural gas power plant. The PUC asked Xcel to complete a certificate of need process, which would require Xcel to establish that the new power plant was needed, was the least cost power available, and was in the public interest. If HF 113 is signed into law, as the House bill currently stands, Xcel would not have to follow the PUC’s decision and order in this case.
The second bill, HF 234, would remove the Public Utilities Commission’s ability to oversee certain fixed charges paid by customers of rural electric cooperatives. Right now, if a customer of a rural electric cooperative believes he or she has been charged an improper fee, the customer can complain to the PUC and PUC will investigate to determine whether the fee was proper. If HF 234 becomes law, the customer would be limited to seeking mediation with the rural electric cooperative or going to court, and the PUC would not be able to investigate alleged over-charges.
The third bill, HF235, would repeal the 2013 Made in Minnesota solar incentive program and more significantly, would end the Renewable Development Fund (RDF). The RDF was a critical part of the 1994 Prairie Island nuclear waste storage deal, which gave Xcel permission to store spent nuclear waste along the Mississippi River in exchange for Xcel’s contributions to the RDF. The purpose of the RDF is to foster the development of renewable energy in Minnesota so that future generations do not have to wrestle with the contentious and expensive problem of nuclear waste storage sites.
I voted against all three of these bills. Minnesota is a nation leader with our clean energy economy. We should continue to diversify our energy sources and build on the progress we’ve made creating clean energy jobs and reducing energy costs for Minnesotans now and in the future. Wind and solar are now cost-competitive with fossil fuel resources, and we should not enact policies that set wind and solar back and promote more reliance on fossil fuels.
On Thursday, Representatives Applebaum, Hausman, Liebling and Metsa held a press conference on various proposals they have to legalize the personal use and cultivation of marijuana. The bills would regulate marijuana in a similar fashion to alcohol, with purchase, possession, and use only permitted by those aged 21 or older. Currently, eight states and Washington, D.C. have approved measures legalizing marijuana in such a manner.
Estimates of the cost of law enforcement related to marijuana in Minnesota range from $42 million a year for possession offenses to $137 million a year for all marijuana arrests. For more information, see Rep. Jon Applebaum’s release, Rep. Tina Liebling’s release and Rep. Jason Metsa’s release.
As always, please contact me anytime with questions and comments. I appreciate hearing from you!