Rep. Cheryl Youakim (46B) – Legislative Update
As we roll into the second month of session things are starting to pick up. More bills are starting to be heard in committees, constituents and organizations’ visits to the Capitol are increasing and my calendar is filling up with meetings on a variety of issues. I have also spent the last week finalizing a few bills I am carrying; you can read about the details of those bills below.
I would like to thank all of those who packed the St. Louis Park City hall last Tuesday night for the SD46 Town Hall. Senator Ron Latz, Rep. Peggy Flanagan and I welcomed the enthusiasm and engagement of the crowd on a wide variety of issues. Personally, it helps me be a better State Representative when I hear your concerns and we can have a productive dialogue. The program was aired live and lasted just over two hours. You can view it here.
We met Monday, Wednesday and Thursday on the House floor to hear a few non-controversial bills and to move bills from one committee to the next. If a bill has to move from one committee to another, it must make a stop on the House floor to have any amendments that were added officially recorded. The Minnesota Legislature is only allowed to meet for 120 “legislative days” in a biennium. A “legislative day” is only counted if the House or the Senate meets on the floor. Committee days are not counted as legislative days. House and Senate Leadership try to coordinate so that they do not end up exhausting the 120 days before their work is completed.
On Tuesday, the House Civil Law Committee passed a bill that would make the public responsible for any costs while participating in protests or rallies. The bill would allow units of government to re-claim public safety costs by suing protestors convicted under unlawful assembly or public nuisance laws. This legislation sets a dangerous precedent for Minnesotans wishing to exercise their First Amendment right. Our constitution is in place to protect our rights and allow people to express their opinions in a peaceful way.
The bill’s next stop is the House Public Safety and Security Policy and Finance Committee. There is no companion bill in the Senate.
My Legislative Proposals
In the last month I have introduced seven bills and I am currently working on two more. Many of the initiatives were brought to me by constituents, cities I represent, or from fellow Senators. There are two more bills that I intend to introduce in the coming weeks.
HF414 – “This Old House/This Old Shop,” a valuation exclusion for improvements to homestead and commercial-industrial property. I had a hearing on this bill last Wednesday (read below) and I will continue to work with my colleagues to find consensus to move it forward.
HF433 – Individual income tax return free electronic filing system. This bill requires the Department of Revenue (DOR) to initiate a process for Minnesotans to be able to file their State income taxes online for free, like they can with their Federal returns. I had a hearing on this bill last session, but it did not move forward. The DOR is supportive of the bill.
HF435 – Automatic renewal cancellation notice required. Minnesota is an “automatic renewal” state when it comes to most contracts. This would require the telecommunications industry to print the date the contract expires, in bold type, on the front of a bill thirty days before the contract is due to expire.
HF625 – Community education revenue program funding increased. This bill provides an increase in the basic formula for community education. Many public schools pay for their before and after school programs, early childhood education and adult basic education with the money from this formula. This program has not been substantially increased for many years.
HF626 – Motorcycle underinsured and uninsured motorist coverage required. This bill would require motorcycle insurance to include underinsured and uninsured coverage in case of an accident. Currently this coverage is not required to be included in policies. This bill was brought to me by a constituent whose husband was injured in a motorcycle accident.
HF669 – St. Louis Park water treatment facility improvement funding. This allows for bonds to be issued and money appropriated for upgrades in St. Louis Park’s water treatment system.
HF756 – Missing persons notification and response systems enhancement with funding provided. This bill contains recommendations from the Silver Alert Working group that was established in SF 857, a bill I chief authored and was signed into law my first year in office. The working group focused on how to enhance the systems we have in place to find those with Alzheimer’s or dementia who wander off and/or go missing. It is my hope to get money in the Public Safety budget this year to implement the enhancements that were recommended.
There are two more bills I plan to introduce. One was brought to me by the journalism teachers at St. Louis Park and Hopkins High School. It would allow for students grades 7-12, as well as college, to publish articles unhindered by school administration as long as they follow journalistic standards. Other requirements are that the articles do not contain slander, libel or are disruptive of the school day. I introduced this bill last biennium with only the inclusion of 7-12 grades. I’m hopeful the bill will get some traction this year.
The other bill is one that I have been working on since September after Hopkins experienced a Legionnaires outbreak in which twenty-four people became ill leading to one death. The outbreak was traced by the Minnesota Department of Health, with support from the CDC, to a cooling tower located in Hopkins. Although the Department of Health quickly found that the likely dispersal site was a cooling tower, it took weeks to find the exact source. Investigators struggled to find the cooling towers and ended up relying on city staff’s memory, tips called in and the satellite feature on Google maps. My bill would simply require a building or business owner to register their cooling towers with the Dept. of Health. It is my hope that if there is another outbreak that leads investigators to cooling towers, it will not take as long to find the exact source and may end the outbreak much sooner. Unfortunately, I have had a lot of push back from the cooling tower industry and I am worried I will not even get a hearing on the bill this session.
On Monday and Wednesday the Transportation & Regional Governance Committee met. We continued our overviews of the policy areas that the Metropolitan Commission covers. Next week the committee will start hearing bills.
Property Taxes & Local Government met Wednesday morning to discuss four bills. There was a bill to exempt a specific type of property from taxes, one regarding fire taxing districts and one the dealt with the collection of local lodging taxes. One of my bills was heard, HF414, which would bring back a value exclusion to homestead and include commercial/industrial properties as well. It would exclude property taxes for ten years on the added value or improvements made to a property that is over 30 years old. There are other restrictions for qualifications like the type and amount of improvements as well as the underlying value of the property. The League of Minnesota Cities, Metro Cities, the historic preservation organizations and many in the construction industry support the bill as it would enhance a city’s housing stock and Mainstreet businesses. The Minnesota Assessors Association and the Department of Revenue do not support the bill because it increases the complexity of our tax system. We had a very good discussion with a consensus that some type of incentive program would be beneficial for homes and businesses making improvements. I will continue to work with all sides to find middle ground.
Government Operations & Elections met Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday to hear a variety of bills. There were nine and many of them were non-controversial. This committee has such a large jurisdiction, it could hear almost half the bills introduced in the House, if the chair so chooses. The agendas in this committee will continue to grow and I may only highlight bills that have a lot of discussion.
Constituent and Organization Visits
I met with a constituent from the Minnesota Water Quality Association, a constituent visiting for the Minnesota Bank Day and a large group of firefighters from Hopkins and St. Louis Park for their advocacy day at the Capitol.
I also had an opportunity to visit with the folks from PLACE. PLACE is developing a large piece of land in St. Louis Park along Highway 7. It is a transit oriented development that will include a hotel, housing and business space focusing on renewable energy. Additionally, I was able to meet with two different constituents in Hopkins on Friday to discuss health care and job coaching.
Coffee & Community Dates
Below are also the future dates for my individual “Community Conversations”. There will be coffee provided at the Saturday morning meetings.
Hopkins Library Meeting Room, 22 11th Avenue North, Hopkins MN 55343
Tuesday, February 21: 6:30 p.m.-8:00 p.m.
Saturday, March 4: 10:30 a.m.-NOON
St. Louis Park Library Meeting Room, 3240 Library Lane, St. Louis Park MN 55426
Saturday, February 11: 11:00 a.m.-12:30 p.m.
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 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!