Last week was a busy one with the Governor’s State of the State address, budget proposal and the final passage of SF 1, the health insurance premium relief bill. On Thursday, the legislative policy and finance deadlines were announced. Every year thousands of bills are introduced at the legislature. To help lawmakers focus on the most important issues the Minnesota legislature creates a set of internal deadlines to make sure legislation meets certain checkpoints before it can be considered on the House floor. Now that the deadlines have been set committees will start meeting longer so they can ensure legislations is properly being considered by all of the relevant and required committees.
Last Wednesday, President Trump took several executive actions regarding immigrants and refugees. I stand with my fellow colleagues in denouncing these actions and raising our voices for respect, freedom and dignity for all of our friends and neighbors. In Minnesota, history has shown us that our communities and economy are stronger because we welcome immigrants from all over the world. Many of us share stories of our families coming to the United States of America to achieve the opportunity of a better life. I will join others in doing what we can at the state level to ensure we protect those who work hard every day to make our state and country strong.
Next week, I will be finalizing the rest of my bills for this legislative session and will be sure to share the details with you. This Wednesday, my first bill of the year will have a hearing in the Property Tax & Local Government Division. The bill brings back the tax provision called “This Old House” and includes a new provision commonly called “This Old Shop (HF414). It would forgive the taxes increased value of an improvement made to an older home or small commercial building for up to 10 years. It is my hope the bill will be included in the final Omnibus Tax bill this year.
The House and Senate passed the premium relief bill last Thursday with Governor Dayton signing it into law Thursday night. Thousands of Minnesotans who buy their health insurance on the individual market were facing premium increases of up to 60%. The final provision will deduct 25% of the premium cost off of their insurance bill and deductions will be retroactive to January 1, 2017. Their insurance bills will reflect the deductions as early as April of this year.
The final bill did not include the amendment that would have allowed insurance companies to sell policies that wouldn’t cover cancer treatment, emergency services, Lyme disease and nearly 100 other conditions or services. While that proposal was removed in conference committee, there were still a few provisions in the bill with which I was not comfortable. Chief among them is to allow for-profit companies to sell insurance in Minnesota’s HMO market. HMOs have been required to be non-profits in Minnesota for almost 50 years. While I do have concerns about the long term ramifications of this, the bill does provide almost immediate relief for those incurring large premiums and stops some of the most egregious parts of the original bill. We still do have time this session to make reforms to the delivery of health care that could help lower costs.
Governor Dayton’s State of the State Address & Budget Proposal
Last Monday night, Governor Dayton delivered his seventh State of the State address to a joint legislative session of the House and Senate. Although his speech was cut short, he did outline a broad vision for improving the lives of all Minnesotans; much was related to education and sustainable budgeting for long term solutions.
On Tuesday, the Governor released his budget, where he expanded on State of the State address themes – focusing on investing in all levels of education. He proposed voluntary pre-kindergarten for all of Minnesota’s children, a 2% increase in education funding this year and the next, and to plan to hold down college debt so we keep our graduates among the best in the nation in workforce readiness.
He also proposed a public health insurance option to increase competition and drive down health insurance costs. He called for everyone to join together in the shared goal of cleaning up our precious lakes and streams. Finally, he also asked that the legislature work with him to come to a long-term solution to the $6 billion funding shortfall we have in our transportation budget over the next 10 years.
Governor Dayton’s vision is one of continued positive growth for all Minnesotan and presents many opportunities. I continue to wish him good health and look forward to working with him and my legislative colleagues.
On Monday and Wednesday the Transportation & Regional Governance Committee met. We heard overviews from the Minnesota Department of Transportation, the Metropolitan Airports Commission and from the Met Council. The Met Council’s overview focused on transportation planning. We will hear from them again this week regarding other areas they oversee.
The Property Taxes & Local Government Division met on Wednesday and heard two bills. One involved tax credits for overvalued properties and another on adding unorganized territories to the distribution of the taconite tax. Both bills were laid over for possible inclusion in the Property Tax Division Report to the full House Tax Committee. Because the Property Taxes & Local Government Division is a division of the full Tax Committee, many of our bills will take this route instead of traveling on as individual bills.
The Government Operations & Elections Committee only met once last week on Thursday. As we move forward, I anticipate this committee will meet the full three days a week it is allotted. We heard four interesting bills. The first would require that all Governors’ portraits be returned to the Capitol. Currently, the decision is up to the Minnesota Historical Society and from news reports, it sounds like that is their intention.
The second bill dealt with dividing up Minnesota’s Electoral College votes by congressional districts. Currently, the winner of Minnesota’s popular vote receives all ten Electoral College votes. This bill would have eight of the electoral college votes be assigned by the popular vote in each of the congressional districts with the two remaining votes being allotted to whoever won Minnesota’s popular vote. This would have changed the distribution from ten votes to Hillary Clinton to five votes for Clinton and five votes to Donald Trump. I do not agree with this bill for a variety of reasons. I did vote for an amendment to the bill that would have allowed Minnesota to join the National Popular vote compact. The amendment did not pass and the underlying bill was laid over for possible inclusion in a larger elections bill.
The third and fourth bill did not garner as much discussion. One would expand the ability to do in person voting, placing the ballot directly in the machine, from the current seven days to the full 46 days of absentee voting. The last bill made a minor change to require electronic reporting of campaign donations during the last few weeks of a campaign. I joined my DFL colleagues in trying to amend the bill to include greater transparency on election material put out by organizations during the last 60 days of an election. The amendment failed on party lines. The underlying bill was also laid over for possible inclusion in a larger elections bill.
Constituent and Organization Visits
I was honored to have Hopkins Mayor Molly Cummings as my guest for the Governor’s State of the State address. On Tuesday night, I met with a very informed group of constituents at the St. Louis Park Library for one of my many Community Conversations sessions. On Wednesday evening, there was a gathering of Hennepin County legislators, county commissioners and staff to discuss Hennepin County’s 2017 legislative agenda. Lastly, on Friday I attended an all-day seminar full of interesting topics and discussions at the Mitchell Hamline School of law entitled “Law School for Legislators”.
Last week I met with a constituent to discuss the many challenges facing those living with disabilities. I also visited with another constituent to talk about adult basic education and English as a second language. Next week the “Days at the Capitol” start with organizations bringing constituents to advocate for a specific issue. I look forward to these visits as they are always informational.
Town Hall & Community & Conversations Dates
I hope to see many of you tomorrow night, Tuesday, January 31st at the SD46 Town Hall Meeting with Senator Ron Latz, Representative Peggy Flanagan and myself. It 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 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 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!