Hello from the Capitol as we wrap up the first week of the 2017 legislative session.
An interesting side story to the start of this session is there is a grand re-opening going on at the Capitol as a massive $300 million restoration project is completed. More than a century ago my great-grandfather, Ole Opdahl, took the oath of office in the very same Capitol building during its original grand opening back in 1905.
As I noted to the media, it is interesting to stand on the steps of the Capitol and serve in the same building as a relative I never met.
As for official House work, I am pleased to be back at the Capitol taking on the key issues. Our top responsibility in 2017 will be to set a new two-year state budget. Another major priority is to provide tax relief to Minnesotans and we made headway on that right out of the gate.
The House on Thursday fast-tracked into passage $21.7 million in immediate tax relief for Minnesotans by bringing the state’s tax code into compliance with federal provisions. This action was necessary by Jan. 11 in order for tax software programs to be updated in time for qualifying Minnesotans to take advantage of available reductions this tax season.
It should be noted this is only the first step in what we are looking to deliver in terms of tax relief. A number of proposals to reduce our taxes significantly will be offered by the House as the session progresses. For now, passage of this bill so early in the session was important because it will provide relief in time for the upcoming tax season. The Senate is urged to now provide its approval in quick fashion so Gov. Mark Dayton can enact it.
Republicans also on Thursday moved to bring urgency to a vote on the 2017 Health Care Emergency Aid and Access bill (H.F. 1). This bill would provide premium relief, extend access to doctors for continuity of care, and begin to reform the individual market. It is disappointing Democrats blocked the measure despite agreeing days earlier to suspend the rules in order to expedite premium relief for Minnesotans.
Look for more news as the session unfolds, including an overview of top issues in the Higher Education Committee where I serve as chairman. We again face significant challenges and input always is welcome from the people in our district.