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State Representative Jenifer Loon

449 State Office BuildingState Office Building
100 Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd.
651-296-7449

For more information contact: House GOP Communications 651-296-5522

Posted: Feb 27 2015 5:02PM
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LEGISLATIVE UPDATE

Legislative Update from Rep. Jenifer Loon


Dear Friends and Neighbors,

Here is an update from the Capitol.

HIGHLIGHTS IN THIS UPDATE:

  • February Forecast Released
  • Deficiency Bill Agreement
  • MNsure Report Released
  • Child Protection Bill Passes

February Forecast Released

Today the Office of Minnesota Management and Budget (MMB) released the February forecast which acts as a guide for the legislature and governor to form a budget for FY 2016-17. Minnesota's surplus is now projected to be $1.9 billion, largely from higher tax collections according to MMB.

While the forecast gives us a clearer picture of our state government's financial health, it also indicates that too much has been collected from hardworking taxpayers, and we should be offering some of that surplus back to Minnesotans through tax relief. Additionally, it shows we can fund our priorities like education and road repair without having to raise the gas tax or any other new taxes or fees. 

In the coming weeks House Republicans will be establishing budget targets for various committees, and Governor Dayton is also expected to release revised recommendations, possibly asking the legislature to increase spending even more than in the $42 billion budget he released in January.

Deficiency Bill Agreement

Last week, Governor Dayton reached an agreement with the legislature on the Deficiency Bill which provides funding to state agencies who will run out of money before the end of the fiscal year on July 1.

Included in the conference report is a change to the substantial pay raises Governor Dayton gave to his political appointees earlier this year. The raises have been suspended until June 30, 2015, and legislative oversight on all future executive branch commissioner salary increases have been restored going forward.

Additionally, the agreement included a cut to allocations made to state agencies requesting funding in the Deficiency Bill, making up the difference based on the salary increases received by commissioners.

The legislation passed the House and Senate on Thursday and was signed by the governor today. It also includes $10.4 million for the Minnesota Security Hospital in St. Peter, $2.9 million for Ebola-related expenses and $1.35 million for the Minnesota Zoo.

MNsure Report Released

Last week, the nonpartisan Office of the Legislative Auditor (OLA) released its report on MNsure, citing that in the first year the failures outweighed its achievements. One of thirteen states to build its own exchange instead of using the federal site, MNsure has broken its promise to Minnesotans that the exchange would be a convenient place to easily choose and purchase affordable health insurance.

Some of the key findings in the report include:

  • 72 percent of MNsure enrollees surveyed already had insurance
  • Widespread problems with online enrollment and customer service caused difficulties for consumers, insurers and counties
  • MNsure did not actively test its website or make sufficient use of government technology experts before launching the site
  • MNsure staff withheld information from the MNsure Board and other key officials
  • MNsure’s enrollment targets contained errors that were never publically corrected, resulting in MNsure falsely reporting they met target enrollment goals
  • Consumer assisters and navigators did not receive proper training from MNsure and were unable to help customers facing problems enrolling online
  • In the first 11 months, one in three calls to customer service were simply abandoned by MNsure employees
  • Many enrollees were not notified of their status when signing up for health insurance, nor were they informed if they qualified for public programs or tax subsidies

After $200 million in taxpayer dollars was spent to create MNsure, many of these problems continue to exist. MNsure needs serious fixes, and I am hopeful that Governor Dayton and the legislature can work together this session to implement bipartisan reform to our Obamacare exchange.

Child Protection Bill Passes

On Monday, the House unanimously passed House File 8, a first step toward fixing Minnesota’s broken child protection system.

House File 8 reveres a law passed in 2013 that barred consideration of screened-out reports for investigating abuse claims. Placing child health and safety first should be paramount for making child protection decisions, and I am pleased this bill passed with such strong bipartisan support.

Please continue to send me your thoughts, ideas and suggestions. I can be reached at rep.jenifer.loon@house.mn or 651-296-7449. I look forward to hearing from you!

Sincerely,


Jenifer Loon

Minnesota House of Representatives  ·   100 Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. Saint Paul, MN   55155   ·   Webmaster@house.mn