Senate DFL Week in Review: January 20, 2017

The third week of session kicked off with an extra push from Governor Dayton and a collection of stories from Minnesotans about how health insurance premium relief delayed is premium relief denied. From farmers to self-employed software engineers, everyday Minnesotans shared their unique stories about the urgent need for health insurance premium relief.

The Senate passed a premium relief bill last week. The House passed their own version of a premium relief bill Thursday. The Senate and House will meet in a conference.

Floor sessions were relatively quiet this week, with more action being taken in committees. The Capital Investment Committee released its Bonding Bill – a near clone of the Senate Bonding Bill which was voted on last session and largely supported by Senate DFLers.

Looking ahead, next week is expected to be busier – with Governor Dayton kicking off the week with his State of the State address followed by the release of his 2018-2019 budget proposal.

Minnesotans can’t wait for premium relief
This week Governor Dayton and DFL Legislators, joined by Minnesotans affected by rising insurance premiums, held a press conference to urge Republicans to pass immediate premium assistance and stop delaying relief for struggling families. After nearly three months of inaction, health care delayed is becoming health care denied for more than 100,000 Minnesotans in need of health insurance premium relief.

In October, Governor Dayton proposed a 25% rebate on health insurance premiums for Minnesotans who purchase their insurance through the individual market and who are not eligible for federal tax credits due to their income. The Governor’s plan gets assistance to families immediately without additional costs or delays. The Republican plan approved by the Senate last week ties premium relief to complex insurance reforms, would cost taxpayers an additional $20 million to implement, and Minnesotans would not see one penny of relief until 2018.

Everyone agrees the state needs to make changes to its health insurance system, but premium relief should not be held up by changes that can be thoughtfully discussed and debated by the Legislature in the coming weeks. With the open enrollment deadline fast approaching on January 31, Minnesotans are running out of time to make major decisions about whether or not they will be able to afford health insurance this year. Denying Minnesotans premium relief until 2018 is denying them access to health care in 2017.

Martin Luther King Jr. holiday observed this week
On Monday, Jan. 16, state and federal offices were closed in observance of Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday.

Student loan debt reduction focus of legislation introduced by DFL Senators
Two bills introduced this week in the Minnesota Senate will help Minnesota students and their families pay for the costs of higher education.

Individual income tax filing season opens January 23, 2017
The Minnesota Department of Revenue will open state individual income tax filing season on January 23, 2017.

Senate introduces $976 million bonding bill
The Senate Capital Investment Committee is moving quickly, releasing a Bonding Bill on Thursday just three weeks into the start of session.

Liquor regulation overview and Sunday sales
This week the Senate Commerce Committee heard an overview from the Alcohol and Gambling Enforcement Division of the Department of Public Safety on liquor laws and rules in Minnesota.

Legacy funds overview
The Environment and Natural Resources Policy and Legacy Committee heard an overview this week of Minnesota’s Legacy Amendment and its funds, presented by the Office of the Legislative Auditor and Minnesota Management and Budget.

Landmark water quality investment
A new landmark investment to improve water quality in Minnesota is being lauded by legislators and water quality advocates across the state.