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Legislative News and Views - Rep. Jeff Backer (GOP)

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Legislative Update from Rep. Backer

Friday, January 20, 2017

Dear Neighbor,

This week, I had the pleasure of meeting with 3 members of the Civil Air Patrol from our area: Gallen Norris of Hoffman, and Alan Scott and David Bartlow of Alexandria.

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On Wednesday, Natasha Mortenson and Adam Ulbricht visited with me regarding Minnesota Agriculture & Rural Leadership program, as well as several other agricultural and Greater Minnesota issues.

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This past Monday night, I attended the Minnesota FFA Legislative Reception. Pictured: Jake Anderson, Lindsey Moser and Briar Peterson of the Morris Area FFA, along with Senator Westrom.

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Passage of House File 1:

On Thursday, the House passed House File 1: the 2017 Health Care Emergency Aid and Access bill on a bipartisan vote of 73-54. We are now one step closer to getting people the premium relief they need. I look forward to this bill going to conference committee with the Senate next week and I am hopeful for the Governor’s signature.

To review, some highlights of this bill include:

  • 25% premium reduction for those Minnesotans who earn between $35,640 & $95,040 and families of four who earn between $72,900 & $194,400
  • Allows for patients with serious illnesses or those receiving end-of-life care to continue seeing their doctor 
  • Increases affordable options through timely reforms that stand independent of impending federal action

Additionally, Rep. Tim Miller was able to successfully amend the bill to include an agricultural cooperative health plan proposal. This provision allows organizations with member owners – such as farm cooperatives – to provide health insurance to their members. This is a need that had to be addressed as farmers practically don’t have health insurance in Greater Minnesota.

Social Security Tax:

I co-authored a bill that would begin to phase-out the tax on social security benefits, House File 213. Minnesota is 1 of only 6 states that fully taxes social security. I think this is wrong; we, as a state, want to encourage our seniors to stay in Minnesota and continue to be active in the community and the local economy. This bill was heard in Taxes Committee this week and seemed to garner a lot of support. I will continue to be an advocate for not only this bill, but our seniors in general.

Water Summit:

I attended the Governor’s Water Summit today at the University of Minnesota, Morris. I enjoyed  hearing from experts regarding Minnesota’s water quality and quantity. I will continue to be an advocate for clean and plentiful water, as well as be a voice for our farmers and local agricultural economy. I have no doubt that farmers are excellent stewards of the land.

Buffers Update:

The buffer laws that were passed last session have been shown to not be ready for primetime. There are many discrepancies within the language of the law that need to be reexamined. For example, the qualifications for what is classified as a body of water is not clear and needs to be reworked; the “one size fits all” approach is not practical when regulating buffers. I, along with the Agriculture Policy Committee, will work to enact reforms to actually make this policy workable for farmers and landowners.

On Thursday, there was a joint hearing of the Environment & Natural Resources Policy and Finance, and Agriculture Policy committees regarding the implementation of the current buffer law. I would like to thank the three testifiers who testified during this joint hearing. I appreciated listening to their insight on the issue.  

Ditch Mowing Rulemaking by MnDOT:

Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) has completely overstepped its authority and its rulemaking abilities.

MnDOT has announced a new permit policy for mowing and bailing hay in road ditches. They are requiring landowners, who want to mow in the right-of-way adjacent to their property, to apply for a permit before the end of the month. Additionally, if a property owner decides to not apply for a permit, then someone else can apply starting February 1st. This is wrong and it infringes on people’s property rights.

According to state law, road ditches cannot be cut or baled before August 1st to maintain wildlife nesting and bee habitats, however, that law has not been regularly enforced. Many have been mowing and baling hay in the right-of-way in early July when the grass still has some value as livestock feed and not totally dried out. This practice will now have to change due to permits not being issued until August 1st.

These new policies are overreaching and need to be dealt with. I assure you that I will be advocating to make commonsense changes to them.

REAL ID:

In 2005, The U.S. Congress passed a piece of legislation known as REAL ID. The intention of this bill was to make it more difficult for potential terrorists to obtain a fraudulent identification card.

As a result of this bill being signed into law, the state of Minnesota now needs to be in compliance with the federal law by January 22, 2018. If the state is not compliant by then, Minnesotans will not be able to board planes, and visit military bases and buildings. Minnesotans are counting on the Legislature and the Governor to act. The Legislature attempted to solve this issue last session, but was unsuccessful in doing so. I am happy that this an immediate priority for the House of Representatives at the start of this session. House File 3, which puts Minnesota in compliance with the REAL ID law, has now been heard in the Civil Law and Data Practices Policy, Transportation and Regional Governance Policy, and Transportation Finance committees. It will be heard in Ways and Means Committee on Monday. The next stop after Monday's hearing is the House floor for a vote of the entire body.

If you do not want to wait for state action, you can visit the DMV and apply for an Enhanced Driver’s License (EDL), which will work the same as a REAL ID.

Staying in Touch:

Please be sure to contact me if you have any questions regarding this piece of legislation. I can be reached by phone at either 651-296-4929, 701-361-1909, or via email at rep.jeff.backer@house.mn.

Have a great weekend,

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