Sen. Hoffman Update: January 13, 2017

Friends,

The first full week of the legislative session is over. It has been a flurry of meetings with advocates and constituents. There are many issues we will face this year. Health insurance is the biggest and was taken up on the floor yesterday. It was a long floor session due to differences in opinion on how the relief should be structured. Please see my update below for more detail. I will always work to make health insurance accessible and affordable for everyone. Time to get to work.

John Hoffman

What is going on at the Capital?

SF1: Health insurance premium relief bill

Governor Dayton and Sen. Lourey’s proposal would give immediate relief to Minnesotans, reducing health insurance premiums by 25 percent for 125,000 Minnesotans who buy their insurance through the individual market. The plan would reduce the average premium increase facing Minnesotans in the individual market from 55 percent to 16 percent, and some families could save as much as $594 per month on their premiums. The Governor’s premium rebate proposal is targeted to help families who are not eligible for federal advanced premium tax credits and whose income is above $47,520 for an individual and $97,200 for a family of four. If implemented now, Minnesotans would see relief on their premium statements in March and discounted rates would be retroactive to January 1, 2017. 

On Thursday, I voted for this immediate health insurance premium relief because that’s what my constituents and all Minnesotans have been asking for. I am extremely disappointed that the Senate Majority insisted on passing their own version of a health insurance premium relief bill that is cumbersome, bureaucratic, but most importantly won’t offer any financial relief to struggling Minnesotans until 2018. We can do better.

Tax Conformity Bill Passes

The tax conformity bill passed unanimously in the Senate yesterday. A tax conformity bill must be passed every time Congress updates the federal tax code. The legislature has been unable to afford some of these tax benefits in the past. The quick agreement is thanks to the balanced budget passed by the DFL controlled legislature in 2013. Minnesotans will see tax relief as a result. I voted yes for the bill.

Teachers, college students, veterans, and homeowners are just a few examples of who will benefit. Teachers will be able to take more money from their own pocket to invest in their classroom. College students can deduct up to $4,000 in tuition or other qualified expenses. Combat injured veterans who had taxes improperly withheld will be able to file amended returns. Homeowners will be able to continue deducting mortgage insurance premiums paid during the year. This could also be an incentive for first-time home buyers. Minnesotans effected by foreclosure or short sale will see much needed financial relief. Tax refunds will be seen with no further action required.

U of M Board of Regents to be selected by Legislature

There are currently four open positions on the U of M Board of Regents. One of these is in the Third Congressional District. The Regent Candidate Advisory Council forwarded 13 names to the legislature for consideration.

Darrin Rosha of Independence is the current incumbent. He is running for another term. Tom Devine of Chanhassen is currently the regent from CD 2. He is unable to run for reappointment from this district. As a result, he is now running for CD 3 or an open at large position. Along with Rosha and Devine, there are two other possible CD 3 candidates recommended for consideration. These are Walt Erickson of Wayzata and Tammy Lee Stanoch of Minnetonka. A joint convention of the House and Senate Higher Education committees will meet to go over the candidates and make selections before a joint committee of the House and Senate votes on final approval.

My Bill Introductions

Champlin Mill Pond Bonding Project

Mentioned in last week’s newsletter, this is a bill to complete phase 2 of the Champlin Mill Pond which will improve the water quality and fish habitat in the Mill Pond.

The bill was introduced on Monday the 9th. I have 4 co-authors for the bill. They are Dahms(R), Newton(D), Ruud(R) and Abeler(R). In keeping with my promise to work across the aisle, this first bill of my second term is a bipartisan one. It will take hard work and determination to get this project in the final bonding bill. I was proud to have advocated for the $5 million provided so far. The citizens of Champlin have waited long enough to see this project finished.

Hanson Boulevard Bonding Project

I also mentioned this bill last week. It was included in the Governor’s bonding proposal. It will provide a rail-grade separation on Hanson Boulevard. This is a needed project so that emergency vehicles do not end up getting blocked by trains, in addition to better traffic flow. This bill mirrors the proposal that was in the Governor’s proposed bonding bill last week. I have Senator Newton(D) as a co-author. 

While this was not formally introduced this week, it provides an opportunity to describe the process of how a bill gets introduced. After legal counsel has vetted and drawn up a Senator’s idea it is in a “jacketed form.” This means the bill has a cover sheet allowing a Senator to have other Senator’s sign onto the bill as co-authors. After collecting co-author signatures it is dropped into what we call the “hopper.” While this sounds like an advanced machine its really just a wooden inbox. Non-partisan staff then organize the bills dropped there for introduction on the Senate floor. Right now the bill has been dropped. So it is very close to being introduced.  

If you have any questions or concerns feel free to call my office at 651-296-4154 or by e-mail at jhoffman@senate.mn