For more information contact: Bennett Smith 651-296-6422
We are now one month into the 2017 legislative session and things are moving along quickly! This week Governor Dayton delivered his State of the State Address and unveiled his complete 2017-2018 state budget plan. We also heard several controversial bills in committee and had a final vote on Republican health insurance legislation. More on that below.
Town Hall on Saturday
Please join me, Senator Jeff Hayden and Rep. Susan Allen for a Town Hall Meeting this Saturday, January 28, 2017. With Republicans now in control of both chambers, we encourage you to ask questions and gain insights and help us organize for the issues you care about, as well as discussing other issues likely to arise.
What: Senate District 62 Town Hall Meeting
Where: East Phillips Community Center – 2307 17th Ave. South
When: Saturday, January 28th from 10 AM to Noon
Coffee and juice will be served, and you’re welcome to come and go as you please. I hope you will join us!
Governor Dayton’s Budget: An Opportunity Agenda
During Governor Dayton’s State of the State speech and in the two year state budget he released on Tuesday, he outlined a broad vision for improving the lives of ordinary Minnesotans. He unveiled a strong vision for improving schools, transportation and transit, public health, public housing, and the health of our environment.
Among many parts of his budget, I appreciate his focus on investing in our students, from pre-K to college. The Governor proposed voluntary pre-kindergarten for all of Minnesota’s children, a 2% increase in education funding this year and the next, and to plan to hold down college debt so we keep our graduates among the best in the nation in workforce readiness. I’m committed to making our students a success, and I’ll oppose efforts we heard this week to provide “neo-vouchers” that shift funding to private schools that don’t offer equal access to our students.
Governor Dayton is also calling for new reforms to make health insurance more affordable. Among those reforms was a public option. It would be a first step toward single-payer healthcare or Medicare for all. It would increase competition and drive down health insurance costs, which is a good start.
I am also working with my colleagues to ensure that the 2017 legislature strongly supports urban agriculture programs that could provide good employment and healthy food for so many people in our communities. We have strong partners on both sides of the aisle and I am hopeful we can use our state’s surplus budget to provide a boost to these important initiatives.
Health Insurance Premiums Relief
On Thursday, premium relief for 120,000 Minnesotans who buy their health insurance on the individual market was passed to the Governor’s desk. Legislators recognize this was a crisis, but politics slowed down what should have been a simple relief bill passed months ago. Governor Dayton’s plan for immediate rebates of 25% of premium costs was the fastest and simplest way to get relief to Minnesotans this year. Unfortunately, Republicans voted for a bill that would have delayed relief until 2018 and allowed insurance companies to sell policies that don’t cover things like cancer, emergency services, Lyme’s disease and nearly 100 other conditions or services.
Legislative leaders reached a compromise in conference committee to remove many bad portions of the bill, but it still included substantial policy that would allow, for the first time, for-profit insurance companies to do business in Minnesota plus other changes that could further destabilize the market for individuals needing health insurance. I wanted individuals to get premium relief, but not in conjunction with Republican perks to for-profit insurance companies that will substantially weaken health insurance for all of us into the future, so I voted no on this proposal.
Executive Orders Banning Refugees
This week I helped organize an official press response to the hateful executive orders issued by President Trump. In a press conference yesterday that included Minnesotans of all different racial, ethnic and religious backgrounds we said that we objected to these executive orders attacking refugees, Muslims, and immigrants from Mexico and other nations. Minnesota is a place where we welcome all people from all backgrounds and nationalities, because they have enriched our lives, and our culture and our economy.
Attendees at a Capitol press conference yesterday opposing President Trump’s executive orders banning immigrants and ordering the construction of a border wall.
You may have heard that Republican lawmakers around the country (and in Minnesota) are attempting to make protest illegal. There was a packed committee hearing on Tuesday for a bill that would seek to criminalize peaceful protest by making it legal to sue protesters for costs associated with protests. I oppose measures like this that attempt to restrict our first amendment rights to peacefully assemble.
A Harmful Social Agenda
Sadly, this session we have already seen bills that would make it legal for businesses to discriminate against LGBT Minnesotans and deny services. There has also been a bill which would make it impossible for trans students to use the bathroom that aligns with their gender identity at school. You can be sure I will work with our allies to oppose these bills and also educate my colleagues about why we must outlaw conversion therapy in Minnesota.
Drivers Licenses for All
Republicans also passed a bill to bring the state into compliance with a federal law called Real ID last week. Because of provisions that target and discriminate against undocumented immigrants trying to get drivers licenses, I’m opposed to this bill. You can read more about that hearing and vote here. Many of you know I’ve been working on ensuring safe access to drivers licenses for years, and I re-introduced that bill today with bipartisan support. It’s HF 541.
Stand-Your-Ground and “Permitless” Carry
There are two extreme gun provisions that would allow gun owners to shoot to kill other human beings in a variety of scenarios in your home or in public, and also to carry a gun on your person without having a permit (or training) to carry, as is currently law. You can read the Citypages reporting more here. I oppose these and other gun measures that will only harm more Minnesotans.
Stay in Touch
You can always contact me if you have questions or concerns at 651-296-0294 or by email at email@example.com .
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