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House commerce panel advances omnibus bill aiming to strengthen consumer protections

Consumers would be protected, industries would be regulated, and markets would be competitive.

Those items represent the multi-faceted mission of the Department of Commerce, which would be funded to the tune of $54.5 million from the General Fund in the 2022-23 biennium under the omnibus commerce finance bill approved Wednesday.

On a 10-7 party-line vote, the House Commerce Finance and Policy Committee sent HF1031, as amended by a delete-all amendment, to the House Ways and Means Committee. The companion, SF972, sponsored by Sen. Gary Dahms (R-Redwood Falls), awaits action by the Senate Finance Committee.

“This bill contains a number of very important provisions that get to the heart of what this committee’s mission this session has been,” said Rep. Zack Stephenson (DFL-Coon Rapids), committee chair and bill sponsor. “It represents the interests of Minnesota’s consumers and small businesses.”

A mostly technical amendment offered by Stephenson was also adopted.

[MORE: View the spreadsheet]

A significant component of the bill is the Prescription Drug Affordability Act, sponsored by Rep. Kelly Morrison (DFL-Deephaven).

Provisions from that bill included in the omnibus package would establish a Prescription Drug Affordability Board and a related advisory council to review the cost of prescription drugs and set upper payment limits for drugs whose cost creates an affordability challenge to the state health care system or patients.

Other provisions in the bill would:

  • establish a “Student Loan Borrower Bill of Rights,” which would require student loan servicers to be licensed by the department and follow strict procedures relating to the servicing of loans;
  • prohibit a person from selling an essential consumer good or service at an unconscionably excessive price if the governor declares an abnormal market disruption;
  • make stolen catalytic converters harder to sell by requiring any person who purchases or receives one to record the vehicle identification number of the vehicle from which the catalytic converter was removed and the name of the person who performed the removal; and
  • provide $300,000 to the Minnesota Council on Economic Education to provide professional development courses on economics and personal finances to Minnesota’s K-12 teachers.

Republicans did not discuss any aspects of the bill at either Tuesday’s or Wednesday’s meetings, but they previously objected to the market interference they say the Prescription Drug Affordability Act would cause.

Rep. Tim O'Driscoll (R-Sartell) unsuccessfully offered an amendment that would have extended the waiver of the reinsurance program for Minnesota’s individual health insurance market.


What’s in the bill?

The following are selected bills that have been incorporated in part or in whole into the omnibus commerce finance bill:

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