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Dear Friends and Neighbors,
Although the legislature is not currently in session, there is still work going on at the Capitol and around the state. Here is an update on some of my recent activities and important issue updates.
HIGHLIGHTS IN THIS UPDATE:
• Education Committee Tours
• Board of Teaching Hearing
• REAL ID
• Happy Thanksgiving
Education Committee Tours
The Education Finance Committee Touring the Minnesota State Academy for the Blind
Recently, the Education Finance Committee took a trip to southern Minnesota, touring the Minnesota State Academies for the Blind and the Deaf in Faribault, and holding a legislative hearing in Albert Lea.
Both stops provided invaluable opportunities to talk with local educators, and hear from them firsthand about what their priorities are for the children and families they serve, and how state policies can help, or hinder, their work.
After Fairbault and Albert Lea, I headed to Aiken, Hinkley and the Willmar area for school tours and roundtable discussions with education leaders in the area. These meetings are so beneficial to understanding what’s going on in Minnesota classrooms, and I look forward to doing more tours soon.
Board of Teaching Hearing
Earlier this month, the Education Finance and Education Innovation Policy committees held a joint hearing regarding the Minnesota Board of Teaching's lack of compliance with changes to teacher licensure laws passed earlier this year.
Under the Education bill signed into law in June of this year, the Board of Teaching is required to adopt new rules to facilitate the licensure of out-of-state educators, or those trained in alternative preparation programs, by January 1, 2016. Having not even filed for a 60-day public comment period until November 2, the Board of Teaching’s inaction and lack of urgency has made clear it does not expect to meet the mandated deadline.
Since the 2011 legislative session, elected leaders have been making common sense changes to our laws with the intent of ensuring the Board of Teaching streamlines and clarifies its out-of-state teacher licensure procedures to expedite the acceptance of quality, experienced educators. Instead, the Minnesota Board of Teaching continues to drag its feet and sidestep legislative intent, refusing to change its confusing and unequally-applied standards, putting our state's reputation as a national leader in education at risk. Solving this problem is critical to bringing more world-class educators to our communities, addressing a serious teacher shortage in our state and doing what's best for our students and teachers.
This is an extremely important issue, and I will keep you updated on the Board of Teaching out-of-state licensure rule changes as we move closer toward the January deadline.
On October 1st, the Department of Commerce and MNsure announced 2016 insurance prices for individuals, families and small businesses, and unfortunately, rates are continuing to skyrocket. After proponents of the new health care law promised Minnesotans that they would see hundreds of dollars a year in savings with Obamacare and MNsure, the reality has proven the system to be faulty or outright broken.
Average individual market rate increases range from 14.2 percent to 49 percent higher than last year. For individuals on a MNsure Gold Plan in the Twin Cities, the average increase is a whopping 63 percent. Many people are struggling to absorb that kind of monthly cost increase for health insurance into their budget and for most, it is unaffordable.
With $200 million (and counting) in taxpayer dollars poured into a health exchange that is not living up to the promises, it's clear that something needs to be done. House Republicans have been working since its implementation to solve some of MNsure's ongoing failures. During the 2015 legislative session, we passed a bill that would improve transparency and lower rates by increasing access and competition. However, despite the Dayton Administration’s fiscal estimate showing tremendous savings for taxpayers, we were unable to obtain bipartisan support from the Senate for these larger reforms.
Please know I am continuing to work on solutions that can be acted upon next session and encourage my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to implement much-needed reforms to our health care exchange. It is going to take cooperation from everyone to tackle rising health care costs and fix MNsure.
Some constituents have been contacting my office regarding Minnesota's non-compliance with the federal REAL ID law, and asking how that may affect them when boarding a commercial flight with a state driver's license next year.
First, for a little more background, the REAL ID law was passed in 2005 by Congress and requires every state's driver's license to meet certain standards for those wishing to board a commercial flight starting next year. It is set to go into full effect no sooner than January 1, 2016, and all states will be given 120 days' notice by the Department of Homeland Security before actual enforcement of this provision.
In 2009, the Minnesota legislature passed a bipartisan measure to prohibit compliance to REAL ID citing data privacy concerns. Recently, both Governor Dayton and House Republicans wrote letters to the Department of Homeland Security to ask for an extension.
In its current state, the “regular” Minnesota driver's license does not meet REAL ID requirements, but people do have the option of getting an enhanced license which does comply with federal law for an additional $15 fee. Unfortunately, this option has not been well publicized. Should the state not be able to take action to receive an extension before full implementation or enforcement of REAL ID, an enhanced driver's license or passport will be an acceptable forms of identification to board a commercial airline within the United States.
Legislators and state leaders have been working on this issue in the interim, and it will likely be addressed next session, or even during a potential special session the governor has suggested he may call to address various topics. Many questions still remain around data privacy as well as the long-term retention of data, and I would expect those to be two issues to be debated as this moves forward.
I will keep you updated on the REAL ID situation as more information becomes available. In the meantime, please feel free to contact my office with any questions or input you may have. You can also get more information on the Department of Homeland Security's website.
Finally, Thanksgiving is fast approaching, and I'd like to take this opportunity to wish you a happy holiday. I am thankful for so many things, but especially my family and the wonderful people and community I have the privilege to serve in our state legislature. I hope you enjoy your day with great food and even better company, and if you're traveling over the holiday weekend, I wish you a safe journey.
Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family!
Please continue to send me your thoughts, ideas and suggestions. I can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 651-296-7449. I look forward to hearing from you!
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