Rep. Cheryl Youakim (46B) – Legislative Update
Last week, we met on the House floor Monday, Wednesday & Thursday. Monday was devoted to the vote on Sunday liquor sales while Thursday’s debate of the bill to implement Real ID filled most of our three hour floor session. During the day on Wednesday, we met for a brief floor session. In the evening we met in a joint session, with the Senate, to elect the four individuals for positions on the University of Minnesota Board of Regents. You can read more about the details below.
On Tuesday, I had a hearing on my bill regarding free electronic filing of individual Minnesota income taxes. My bill, HF433, appropriates money to the Department of Revenue so that they can compile information and present a report to the legislature on what parameters must be in place for individuals to file their basic individual income tax online for free. Currently Minnesotans must pay to go through a vendor to file their taxes on-line unless they are under a certain income threshold. The bill was laid over for possible inclusion in the State Government Finance Omnibus Bill. If you like the idea of filing your income taxes online for free, please share your thoughts with Chair Sarah Anderson here.
On Saturday, I made a trip to the Capitol for pleasure. My husband Jacques and I took the Minnesota Historical Society’s free tour of our beautifully renovated State Capitol. It had been a while since I had taken an official tour and I wanted to see what had been added since the renovations. I would highly recommend it! You can find out about the times the tours are available here.
Last Monday, the House voted to approve Sunday liquor sales with a final vote of 85-45. I voted in the affirmative. The Senate bill was up for a vote earlier today and it passed 38-28. Because the House and Senate language are different, the bill authors will need to agree on which version to accept. If they cannot agree, the bill will go to conference committee before it can head to Governor Dayton. The Governor has said that he would sign the bill into law if it does reach his desk. Recent grassroots support from Minnesotans has led the way for Sunday sales after a 159 year ban. The House bill contained a compromise where liquor stores would have limited hours of operation and liquor deliveries would still be prohibited on Sundays.
A joint convention of the House and Senate met last Wednesday night to elect Regents to govern the University of Minnesota. This year, four Regents were elected, one each from the 2nd, 3rd and 8th Congressional Districts and one at-large to serve six-year terms. The Regent Candidate Advisory Council (RCAC) interviewed 17 candidates. Twelve candidates were forwarded to the Joint Legislative Committee.
Despite the bipartisan, deliberative selection process, the Joint Senate and House Committee devolved into partisan nominations. It ended up including purity test questions about fetal tissue research and the surprise recommendation of unvetted candidate, and former Republican House Speaker, Steve Sviggum.
Wednesday night I, along with many of my DFL colleagues, voted for the candidates endorsed by the elected student representatives as well as the faculty. They have a clearer vision of what the University of Minnesota needs in leadership positions.
In the end, only two of the candidates supported by student and faculty groups were elected. Those elected (or re-elected) were Steve Sviggum, General Mills CEO Ken Powell, healthcare executive Darrin Rosha and Minnesota Power’s David McMillan.
Last Thursday, the House voted on HF 3 (Smith), the Real ID bill. It would bring Minnesota into compliance with the federal Real ID requirements, allowing Minnesotans to board airplanes and enter federal and military facilities. The House version allows individuals two choices; a federally compliant Real ID and a non-compliant Minnesota driver’s license.
Unfortunately, the House bill included an unrelated provision that would prevent undocumented immigrants from being able to obtain a non-compliant Minnesota driver’s license. Rep. Mariani offered a DFL alternative which was a clean vote for Real ID, without the lawful status language, which I voted for. It failed by a vote of 74-57.
The final House bill passed 72 – 58. While I voted for the Mariani amendment, I voted against final passage. The Senate companion does not include the anti-immigrant provision and it is my hope that the provision is taken out during the conference committee. The discussion of driver’s licenses for undocumented immigrants should be a separate discussion and not interfere with Minnesota complying with the Federal Real ID.
Minnesota Care Buy-In
Twenty-five years ago, MinnesotaCare was created by a bipartisan coalition of legislators and signed into law by a Republican governor. The program has allowed 100,000 Minnesotans to purchase high-quality, lower cost health care coverage. Governor Dayton is proposing to expand the program by giving those who purchase their insurance on the individual insurance market the opportunity to ‘buy-into’ MinnesotaCare. Participants in the program would pay their own way with premiums set by the program. The premiums will cover the cost of the program.
In addition, MinnesotaCare includes a broad network of care providers and physicians all across the state which would enable families the option of choosing and keeping their own doctors.
For more information on the governor’s proposal, click here. As we work to increase access to affordable healthcare, this plan is one avenue to provide affordable health care options to thousands of Minnesotans
With the first policy deadline approaching, on March 10th, House Committees are meeting longer hours with fuller agendas and adding additional meetings.
Last Monday and Wednesday the House Transportation & Regional Governance Committee met. Monday’s committee meeting went into the evening, reconvening after the House floor session was completed. We heard six bills that dealt with the make-up and authority of the Metropolitan Council as well as ways to halt Southwest Light Rail’s construction and make it nearly impossible for any construction of future light rail lines.
One bill, HF418, removes the ability for city councils and county boards from spending any money to study, plan, design or construct any light rail line (or expand any existing light rail line) without the project being explicitly authorized by the state legislature. Historically, the study and planning of a light rail line has started with the city council’s authority in cooperation with the county the line would be built in. Needless to say, Monday was an extremely frustrating day.
Having served on a city council for nine years, it has been hard to watch the myriad of bills that have been put forward over the last three years to strip away local control. City councils, as well as school boards, are the forms of government closest to the people. They are able to move more quickly and nimbly than the State Legislature when it comes to meeting the individual needs of their constituents. While there are some issues best dealt with statewide, the majority of the things that most effect individuals day to day are best left up to local control.
Property Taxes & Local Government met Wednesday morning to hear the Department of Revenue’s policy bills. They were non-controversial in nature and mostly make technical changes and delete obsolete language. We also got a brief overview of Governor Dayton’s proposed tax bill. You can find some of the details of his proposal here.
Government Operations & Elections Committee met on Tuesday and Thursday and had full agendas. While there were a large variety of bills heard on Tuesday, Thursday’s bills dealt with changes to the Executive Branch’s ability to set administrative rules. As the policy deadlines approach, this committee’s jurisdiction requires it to hear a large majority of the bills that are moving through the House. This week we are expected to meet Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday during the day and then reconvene again in the evening.
Constituent and Organization Visits
This week, I met with constituents from the Minnesota Builders and Realtors Association, several rental car associations, the Joint Religious Legislative Coalition, the Hopkins School Legislative Action Coalition in addition to physical therapists from our district. I also had a wonderful meeting with a group of Hopkins High School students that were here for MAAP Stars Day.
Community Conversation Dates
Below are the future dates for my individual “Community Conversations”. There will be coffee provided at the meetings. I only have two left, so I hope you will get a chance to attend one of them.
Hopkins Library Meeting Room, 22 11th Avenue North, Hopkins MN 55343
Saturday, March 4: 10:30 a.m.-NOON
St. Louis Park Library Meeting Room, 3240 Library Lane, St. Louis Park MN 55426
Saturday, March 14: 6:30 p.m.-8:00 p.m.
As always, please feel free to contact me with questions and issues. E-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org 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!