Rep. Youakim Update: January 23, 2017

Dear Neighbors,

Last Thursday the Minnesota House passed SF 1 on a 73-54 vote.   The House and Senate versions of this bill include health insurance premium relief and sweeping health insurance policy changes. You can read about my vote on the bill below.

Tonight is the Governor’s State of the State address at 7:00 p.m. in the House Chamber. You can watch the address on TPT Ch. 2 or online here. Traditionally, the Governor will use this night to preview his or her budget and policy priorities for the upcoming year. I am looking forward to having Hopkins Mayor Molly Cummings accompany me as my guest.

Tomorrow evening, January 24, at 6:30 p.m. I will be hosting one of my “Community Conversations” at the St. Louis Park Public Library. For those interested in another fun community event this week, Hopkins is hosting its State of the City on Thursday, January 26 starting at 5:00 p.m. at the Hopkins Center for the Arts. Taste of Hopkins starts at 5:00 p.m. with food from participating restaurants. The State of the City portion of the program starts at 6:00 p.m. and is sponsored by the City of Hopkins, the Hopkins Business & Civic Organization and the TwinWest Chamber of Commerce. More information on the event can be found here.

Bomb threat in St. Louis Park

Last Wednesday, the Sabes Jewish Community Center (JCC) in St. Louis Park received a bomb threat, causing an evacuation of the building. This building is home to many programs for several Minnesotans of all ages and abilities. It is always upsetting to hear news stories like these, especially when it’s in our own community. Everyone deserves to feel and be safe in the place we call home. The JCC had a good emergency plan in place for such an incident and is working with local and federal law enforcement during the ongoing investigation. A big thank you to the St. Louis Park Police and Fire Departments for their swift response to the threat! Here is the news article about the event.

Health Insurance Premium Relief Bill

I voted against SF 1 for two main reasons. The first is that it uses a complicated method to deliver the relief to the 5% of Minnesotans in the individual market. The Commissioner of Minnesota Management & Budget has said it would take nearly a year and $20 million to qualify Minnesotans and deliver their checks. I support the Governor’s approach to have the insurance companies take the 25% deduction off of the policy owner’s bill. This way, individuals and families will not have to pay the money up front and wait for a rebate.

The second reason I opposed the bill is the new policy provisions that are included. Among these items, one allows for-profit insurance companies to sell policies in Minnesota, a lessening of consumer protections and the ability for insurance companies to sell a substandard product.

The last provision mentioned has serious implications for Minnesotans. It allows insurance companies to sell policies that do not include things like maternity, cancer screening, diabetes coverage, nor therapy for autism spectrum disorder among others. I’ve attached a list to this email that has just some of the illnesses that could be excluded.  Proponents of this provision are quick to point out that insurance companies must also provide a plan option that does include coverage for these items. However, we have seen what the “ala carte” approach to health insurance has done to individual market prices in the past and what substandard insurance has done to the overall cost swallowed by the entire health care system. This provision came in the form of a floor amendment that was not discussed in committee. It is my hope that conversations continue as SF 1 moves to conference committee.

Committee Business

On Tuesday, Transportation & Regional Governance Committee had a joint meeting with the House Transportation Finance and the Senate Transportation Finance & Policy Committees. The agenda included an overview of the Metropolitan Council as well as the Counties Transit Improvement Board (CTIB). CTIB is a regional body formed by Hennepin, Ramsey, Washington, Anoka and Dakota counties to fund transit and transportation projects. CTIB is in discussions on whether or not to disband. By disbanding, the five counties would be allowed to levy a half cent sales tax for transit that all other Minnesota counties are allowed instead of the quarter cent at which they are currently capped. Here is a good article from MinnPost explaining the issues surrounding CTIB disbanding. 

In Government Operations and Elections on Wednesday, we heard overviews from the Minnesota State Board of Investment in addition to all of the pension plans. On Thursday, we heard three different bills, one of which would allow candidates for public office to use raffles as a fundraising mechanism (HF111). I voted no on this bill because it does not require candidates to follow the same rules as other non-profit organizations that run raffles.

On Wednesday, the Property Tax & Local Government Division began hearing bills that may be rolled into the 2017 Tax bill. The agenda for the House Committee meetings on any given day can be found at www.house.mn by clicking on the date on the calendar posted on the front page.

Constituent and Organization Visits

Last Monday morning, I met with the Hopkins Schools Legislative Action Coalition to hear their 2017 legislative platform. You can learn more about the Hopkins LAC here.

On Friday, I joined other legislators to take a tour of Normandale Community College.  While I no longer serve on the House Higher Education Committee, I wanted to learn more about what the college has to offer as many students in our district attend Normandale for PSEO or post-graduation studies.

Women’s March

I joined approximately 90,000 fellow Minnesotans at the Women’s March in St. Paul on Saturday. A big thank you to the organizers who contributed countless hours putting this enormous event together. I am grateful to the City of St. Paul and the St. Paul Police Department for their work to ensure everyone had a safe environment to exercise their first amendment rights. I was moved by the thought that everyone who participated had their own reason and personal story for marching, and that there is still some comfort to be found in raising a communal voice. I marched to remind policymakers that women’s rights are human rights. As a state legislator, I’ll stay committed to fighting for equal opportunities for women and encourage the next generation to make their own voices heard.

Highway 169 Project

Construction on the year-long Highway 169 Project at Nine Mile Creek Bridge in Edina & Hopkins has begun. To follow project announcements visit the MNDOT project website here.

Filing Tax Forms

The state individual income tax filing season will open on January 23, 2017; the same day as the Internal Revenue Service. The filing deadline to submit 2016 tax returns is Tuesday, April 18, 2017, rather than the traditional April 15 date. This is also the same day as the Internal Revenue Service. Here is additional information from the MN Department of Revenue on filing your taxes:

Electronic Filing and Direct Deposit

Choosing electronic filing and direct deposit is the most secure way to get your refund. Visit the Minnesota Department of Revenue website to learn more about your electronic filing and free filing options for those who qualify. Currently I am working on a bill to allow everyone to file their Minnesota State Income Tax Forms electronically for free.

Direct deposit is an easy and convenient way to get your refund. You can include your banking information on your tax return and get your refund deposited into your bank account. Direct deposit is available to you whether you file your return electronically or by mail. Check out their website to learn more about the benefits of choosing direct deposit.

Fraud Prevention
Protecting Minnesotan’s personal information means refunds may take longer than in prior years because of the increase in attempted refund fraud. Don’t spend your refund until you see the money in your bank account. Visit the departments website to learn more about our efforts to protect your information.

Free Tax Help
You may qualify for free tax preparation help from IRS-certified volunteers at locations across Minnesota for your federal and state income tax returns. Qualified taxpayers are age 60 or older, have a disability, speak limited or no English, or have income less than $54,000 per year.

Most free tax preparation sites are open Feb. 1 – April 15. Visit the department’s website to find free tax preparation sites near you.

Town Hall & Community & Conversation Dates

Mark your calendars for the SD46 Town Hall Meeting with Senator Ron Latz, Representative Peggy Flanagan and myself on Tuesday, January 31 from 6:00 – 8:00 p.m. in the St. Louis Park City Council Chambers.

Below are also the future dates for my individual “Community & Conversations”. There will be coffee at the Saturday 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

Tuesday, January 24: 6:30 p.m.-8:00 p.m.

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 rep.cheryl.youakim@house.mn 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!

Cheryl

Repealers