Sen. Franzen Update: February 10, 2017

A weekly message from your Senator

I am excited to announce that we are hosting a Senate District 49 Day at the Capitol on Friday, February 24th. We plan to offer tours of the newly renovated Capitol, have a “mini” town hall to meet with constituents and showcase some of our districts most impressive high school robotics teams.  More details can be found below. 

Recently, I have been contacted by constituents to learn about my position of several bills introduced dealing with demonstrations in Minnesota. I am currently opposed to these “protest” bills as they are currently drafted as they pose serious constitutional questions regarding the right to free speech among other considerations. Public safety of every Minnesotan is my top priority as a member of the Senate Public Safety Committee and I will evaluate each bill on its merits before I cast my final vote.

As always, I appreciate your comments and concerns. Feel free to reach out anytime and I hope to see some of you on February 24th during SD49 Day at the Capitol.

Sincerely,

Senator Melisa Franzen  

Senator Franzen Hosting a Senate District 49 Day at the Capitol

Governor Dayton presents tax plan to Senate Tax Committee

This week, the Senate Tax Committee heard an outline of the Governor’s plan for the 2018-2019 budget cycle (S.F. 726), which features increased tax relief for many Minnesotans. One form of this tax relief is the Governor’s proposed expansion to the Working Family Tax Credit and the Child and Dependent Care Credit, which would increase the benefits and allow a wider proportion of the population to claim this credit which aims to help those who are struggling to pay for costs related to raising a child, including childcare and education expenses. The bill also includes relief for the state’s farmers and local governments in an effort to help alleviate the costs associated with the implementation of new buffer requirements. The testifiers on this bill, who were from various associations and nonprofits from across the state, were mostly in support of the increased benefits to middle and lower income Minnesotans.  

REAL ID Moves to Committee on State Government Finance and Policy and Elections

The Senate Judiciary Committee worked into this evening hours on Wednesday to vote on the REAL ID measure currently moving its way to the Senate floor.  The bill is attempting to compromise federal rules for official forms of identification and Minnesota’s own rules regarding such documents.  It has been an unresolved issue over the past few years as language in previous bills was restrictive towards immigrants and gave the federal government some power over Minnesota’s licensing practices.  What is currently being proposed is a two-tiered system of licenses with the first tier being a federally-compliant ID and the second-tier being a Minnesota-compliant ID.  The federally-compliant ID would be usable in all domestic flights and travels, whereas the Minnesota-compliant ID would require less personal information and may not be accepted as a form of identification in some airports.  Minnesota has until January 2018 to figure out a course of action. The bill narrowly passed with a 4-3 vote and is on its way now to the Committee on State Government Finance and Policy and Elections (S.F. 166).

Preemption Bill moves to committee

S.F. 580 was heard this week by the Jobs and Economic Growth Finance and Policy Committee, which would prevent local governments from creating their own labor practices, including wage and certain work-related benefits, if not compliant with statewide standards. Testifiers included organizations such as the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce, who showed support for the bill, as they feel there could be inconsistencies in labor practices across the state if local governments are allowed to dictate their own. Those in opposition to the bill included many labor organizations that argued that cities should be able to decide what is best for their local constituents, as they are closer to them and better understand what benefits the workers in their areas the most. This year, many Minneapolis and St. Paul residents are going to receive the newly-enacted increased paid leave benefits, which mirror similar proposals in 31 other cities across the country. This proposal is in large part in reaction to that ordinance. The bill passed the Jobs and Economic Growth Finance and Policy Committee and was referred to the Local Government Committee.

Controversial Anti-Protesting bills introduced in Senate

Three bills, S.F. 679, 676, and 148, have been introduced in the Senate mirroring bills already proposed in the House. These bills are an effort to increase criminal penalties and potentially make protesters liable for the costs that may be incurred due to public safety response. Supporters of the bill feel that the stricter policies surrounding protests are necessary due to the increased disruption, especially transportation-related delays, that have been associated with recent protests. Authors of these bills hope to incentivize future protesters to follow the law, as only those convicted of criminal activity will be responsible for the costs and increased penalties. There are, however, many concerns with how this affects one’s First Amendment right to peaceful assembly, and if they are even compliant with it. 

Bill could ban handheld cellphone us while driving in Minnesota

A bipartisan bill, S.F. 837, proposed this week would prohibit the use of handheld mobile devices while driving. This bill is an effort to prevent further crashes in the state due to distracted driving, which according to the Minnesota Office of Traffic Safety, accounts for one in four crashes. This ban would build upon the current ban on texting while driving, in an effort to further dissuade drivers from using their devices while driving. If passed, Minnesota would join 14 other states who ban the use of handheld mobile devices. The bill was referred to the Senate Transportation Committee. 

Committee hears bill on encouraging research and development

This past week, the Taxes Committee heard a bill on increasing tax credits for research and development in Minnesota.  The provisions of the bill allow for an increase in the percentage allowed on research expenses for the second tier of the research and development (R&D) tax credit.  The bill is supposed to address Minnesota’s growing strength as an R&D leader across the United States (S.F. 417).