Senate DFL Week in Review: February 3, 2017

The fifth week of the 2017 Legislative Session was a nose-to-the-grindstone kind of week with a busy committee schedule and minimal session time.

REAL ID came up in Senate and House committees this week. The Senate Transportation Committee passed a bill through that would allow the Department of Public Safety to come into compliance with federal REAL ID standards. Most senators were in agreement that they hoped to pass a clean bill to the Governor. The House bill still contains more controversial language.

Another important event that took place this week was a large press conference featuring DFL legislators, doctors, nurses, and other advocates all in favor of the Minnesota Health Plan. The new universal plan would cut costs and provide quality, affordable care for all Minnesotans. It’s also a refreshing positive alternative to the health reform debate.

The basic tenants of the Minnesota Health Plan include:

  • Health care is a basic right.
  • Patients and doctors should control their health care, not the government or insurance companies.
  • Premiums are based on ability to pay, so they are affordable to all.
  • The Minnesota Health Plan saves money by eliminating bureaucratic insurance system, not by denying care.
  • All providers are “in-network” – an especially critical factor in Greater Minnesota.

Bonding Bill status
The Capital Investment Committee passed Senator Senjem’s bonding bill last week. Commissioners and the public testified with their concerns as well as support for the proposal.

Senate one step closer to implementing Real ID
The Senate heard the REAL ID implementation bill this week. The bill would grant the Department of Public Safety (DPS) the authority to make Minnesota driver’s licenses and IDs compliant with the federal standards.

Energy Committee approves net metering fee regulation bill
The Senate Energy and Utilities Committee approved a bill Tuesday that allows electric cooperatives an exemption from regulation by the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) for fixed charges for net metering, provided the cooperative adopts its own rules for net metering that includes a dispute resolution process.

VW settlement update
The Environment Policy and Legacy Subcommittee heard an update Wednesday from the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency on an estimated $47 million from Volkswagen that is expected to head Minnesota’s way as a result a large legal settlement due to the company’s violations of federal air emissions standards.

Senate HHS committees review Governor’s budget
This week the Senate Health and Human Services Committee and the Human Services Reform Committee reviewed Governor Dayton’s budget recommendations relating to health and human services issues.

Senate Commerce Committee begins work on liquor bill
This week the Senate Commerce Committee began their work to compile an omnibus liquor bill.

Governor Dayton proposes $609 million in education investments
Governor Dayton on Jan. 24 proposed $609 million in additional E-12 education investments, increasing the basic education formula and providing more funds to expand the voluntary Pre-K program for Minnesota 4-year-olds.

Governor Dayton’s budget recommendations
On Tuesday, the Finance Committee heard an overview of Governor Dayton’s budget recommendations.

Sales tax exemption for high school events
The Senate Tax Committee took action this week to ensure Minnesotans do not need to pay sales tax when attending post-season high school events.

Dairy Day at the Capitol
On Wednesday, Feb. 1, dairy farmers and other industry professionals visited the state capitol for “Dairy Day.”

Senate DFL shows support for veterans, pushes to extend property tax benefits
Three of the five Senate bills that came to the Veterans Committee this week would extend the state’s current Disabled Veteran Homestead Property Tax Exclusion, which allows veterans with disability ratings of 70% or higher to exclude up to $300,000 of their home’s market value from property taxes.

Capital Investment Committee passes Rural Finance Authority proposal
Capital Investment had a hearing on SF 236, which would provide low interest financing options to farmers through the Rural Finance Authority (RFA).

Legislative Pensions Commission convenes
The Legislative Commission on Pensions and Retirement (LCPR) convened for the first time Tuesday evening.

Governor lays out plan to address cybersecurity
On Tuesday, Jan. 31, Jaime Tincher, Governor Dayton’s chief of staff, along with MMB Commissioner Myron Frans and Minnesota IT Services Commissioner Thomas Baden laid out the Governor’s plan to address Minnesota’s aging technological infrastructure and the growing number of daily cyberattack attempts on Minnesotans’ private data.