Senate DFL Week In Review: Week 2, January 13, 2017

The first full week of the 2017 Legislative Session was all about health insurance premium relief. The Governor’s Minnesota Management and Budget (MMB) Commissioner Myron Frans kicked off the week with a punchy press conference calling attention to the Senate and House Republicans health insurance premium relief proposal. Franz called the plan complicated and more importantly, it wouldn’t offer any kind of relief for at least a year.

Disregarding the Governor’s concerns, both bodies sent their respective health care bills through an expedited committee process; the Senate bill hit three committees in just one day. The bill arrived on the Senate floor on Thursday for a vote. After lengthy discussion and an amendment to replace the GOP bill with the Governor’s version which would provide relief much more quickly, the GOP bill was ultimately passed along party lines.

The Minnesota Senate also addressed much-needed tax relief this week. The tax conformity bill passed both the House and Senate with strong bipartisan support.

WATCH: Republicans Stall Premium Relief

Health Care Premium Relief Bill 
This week the Senate fast-tracked Senate File 1 through four committee hearings and voted on the Senate floor. The bill provides for health insurance premium relief for some Minnesotans purchasing their coverage through the individual health insurance market and includes several health insurance reform initiatives.

Providing premium relief to Minnesotans who are struggling with sky-rocketing health insurance premiums is an idea supported by Democrats and Republicans alike. However, the plan supported by Republicans this week does not work. They are proposing to build an entirely new bureaucracy, which will mean more red tape for Minnesotans, and most importantly, it would delay urgently-needed premium relief until 2018.

Session’s first day of floor votes provides tax relief for Minnesota families 
The Minnesota Senate provided much-needed tax relief to thousands of Minnesotans with its first day of bill passage in the 2017 Session.

Defending the DFL’s budget history
A lot has changed in the past four years. When the DFL took over the majority in 2013, we had to dig out from a budget deficit, and we still owed Minnesota schools nearly $2 billion that was borrowed by Republicans. We steadied the ship.

Looking ahead, the DFL plans to defend the progress we’ve made during our last term in the majority. Between 2012 and 2016, we reversed budget deficits and turned them into surpluses. We also created a rainy day account and passed legislation ensuring the state always has a safety net to guide us through future downturns. This year, we’re keeping our eyes open and will call out any unwise spending proposals. A steady economy is good for ALL Minnesotans.

Republican transportation proposal falls short
Senate Republicans included a transportation funding proposal in their top five priorities. Their bill makes major changes to the way Minnesota funds its transportation without fully addressing our state’s growing needs. The bill shifts about $400 million every year away from the state’s General Fund, which is used to fund Minnesota’s schools and take care of our most vulnerable populations.

This bill falls short on addressing many of the DFL’s top priorities: it does not fully fund the maintenance and repair costs of our existing roads and bridges, nor does it include any transit funding for rural Minnesota or the metro. In addition, none of the funds are constitutionally dedicated, which means any future legislature in an economic downturn could redirect the funding away from transportation.

Regent Candidate Advisory Council forwards 13 names for potential appointment to the U of M Board
The Regent Candidate Advisory Council met Wednesday through Friday last week to interview Regent candidates for the four open spots on the U of M Board of Regents and made recommendations for 13 applicants to be considered by the Legislature.