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I hope that everyone had a blessed Easter and Passover weekend! The Legislature will be returning from its holiday break next week and there is still plenty to do. We are here to do the people's work and will go home when it is finished. Here is a quick recap of some of the major developments from the past two weeks.
Photo ID Constitutional Amendment
The photo ID constitutional amendment bill was re-passed by both the House and Senate last week and will go to a public vote in the November election. A ballot question will now ask "Shall the Minnesota Constitution be amended to require all voters to present valid photo identification to vote and to require the state to provide free identification to eligible voters, effective July 1, 2013?” A majority vote of the people would amend the Minnesota Constitution, and the Legislature could implement the new photo ID requirement in 2013. This amendment would also require state identification be made available at no charge to those who do not already have an ID.
This amendment will effectively do away with the current process of vouching in Minnesota elections. Minnesota is one of only two states in the nation that allow vouching. No one else in the whole world has vouching! Minnesota is also the only state in the nation that allows a single voter to vouch for up to 15 unidentified voters and in some circumstances, an unlimited number of voters. The combination of vouching along with same-day registration is a ready-made recipe for fraud. This being said, the amendment does not do away with same day voter registration or absentee voting.
The amendment preserves the ability of all Minnesotans, including military members, college students, and the elderly, to continue voting with ease. The amendment does not include any mandates for spending or technology requirements. Enacting legislation would be decided by the Legislature only after the amendment is approved during the November elections. This measure will add some much needed integrity to our voter registration system.
Firearm Manufacturer Bill
The firearms manufacturer bill (HF1816) was passed off the floor as well. My section of this bill would authorize a federally licensed firearms manufacturer to possess and use suppressors for the exclusive purpose of testing firearms manufactured for sale to police and military agencies, but not to individual police and military members. Passage of this bill will assure that firearms manufacturers will keep their operations and these manufacturing jobs here in the state rather than move to Wisconsin where anyone can possess a suppressor.
DFL Representative Joe Mullery trivialized the importance of this bill on the House floor by saying it would only save a “handful of jobs”. This is the completely wrong way of thinking that the other side of the isle seems to operate under time and time again. If a bill does not regulate or it gives persons more freedoms, they generally oppose it. It doesn’t seem to matter to them if people lose jobs as a result of this mindset. These are hard-working Minnesotans who deserve better.
Met Council Staggered Term Bill
Another one of my bills was passed in the House and Senate last week. Unfortunately this bill was vetoed by the Governor. This bill (HF2404) would have created staggered terms for Met Council members to encourage continuity for an unelected governing body that currently has too much power and very little accountability.
HHS Omnibus Bill
The Health and Human Services Omnibus Bill also passed through the House. The HHS omnibus bill promotes accountability and value in our health system, while supporting providers and families, and maximizing the use of limited resources. Some key components of this bill include a return on investment study, EBT reform, residential group homes success standards and community paramedics reimbursement, to name a few.
There are several good reforms included in this bill, especially in regards to welfare and electronic benefit transaction (EBT) reform. This legislation will make certain that the people who need assistance are receiving it, and establish restrictions that ensure public assistance dollars are being used as intended. One such provision restricts Minnesota EBT cash fund use to Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota, Iowa, and Wisconsin. This ensures that taxpayer dollars are not leaving the surrounding area. Another provision disqualifies anyone found to be guilty of using an EBT card to purchase prohibited items for one year for the first offense. If this person is found guilty again, they are disqualified for two years and the third offense results in removal from the program entirely. Our welfare reform components allow for departmental data sharing ensuring that welfare recipients are not using multiple pieces of identification or avoiding mandatory drug testing after being convicted of a drug felony.
Modifying Mandatory Tiered Water Pricing by Cities
Another good bill that was passed in the last two weeks (HF1923) would modify a government water pricing mandate. Under current Minnesota state law, effective January 1, 2013, all public water suppliers (cities) of more than 1000 people would be required to implement a tiered water pricing system. This would mean that larger water users would be charged more per unit for water than others. Current law would most likely have a negative effect on schools, hospitals, hotels, manufacturers, beverage bottlers and other water dependent users in our area. This bill removes the state mandate on cities to implement such a program and would instead encourage other water conservation methods for each community.
Synthetic Drug Expansion Bill
HF2508 was also passed by the House. It would enhance the penalty for selling synthetic drugs to a felony, would expand the list of synthetic substances and would grant the Board of Pharmacy expedited rulemaking authority to handle new chemical formulas used by drug producers.
As always, please feel free to contact me if you have any questions or want to share your thoughts on the legislative session.
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