The legislative session is jam-packed with high profile issues this year. A number of them including gun control, elder abuse, and workplace sexual harassment were headlines in the news just weeks before the session started. Recognizing the emotionas accompanying these issues, the Legislature’s challenge is to lead with thoughtful debate, solid facts and clear vision about the impact of the new laws that result.
Minnesota Licensing and Registration System (MNLARS)
A frustrating issue for many citizens and legislators has been the failed MNLARS system. Replacing the 30-year old computer system for drivers' licenses and auto titling has been in the works for 8-9 years. Yet, nine months after the new system debuted, it's still causing headaches for thousands of drivers and auto dealers trying to renew licenses, order special license plates or obtain new car titling at deputy registrar offices and DMV offices across the state.
It's unbelievable that the Department of Public Safety has spent nearly $100 million to develop this replacement system but is requesting another $43 million to complete it this year. A few heads have rolled, the project is now under new management, and it is currently working off a backlog of over 300,000 car titles. Last week, the Legislature approved $10 million in emergency funding. New transparency and performance metrics were required to ensure your tax dollars are being used efficiently.
Governor’s Tax Increase Proposal
Governor Dayton announced his budget proposal last week and appears unwilling to pass through the federal tax cut savings as enacted. Instead, his budget proposal seeks to repeal measures he signed into law in 2017 Tax Bill such as the property tax on all Minnesota businesses, ending the automatic tax increase on tobacco and the estate tax freeze. He's also proposed to continue the "sick tax" paid for by all users of medical services, add new spending and increase the progressivity of our already progressive state income tax. The response from House and Senate leadership was "no go".
Last session, Republicans balanced the state budget with an emphasis on tax relief and roads. This year, House Republicans are working to make government work better for Minnesotans. Various bills working through the process include:
Bills I'm Working On
I have several bills that I'm working on which I hope will be enacted. One requires that the Met Council become part of the statewide accounting system and adopt standardized financial reporting for more transparency (HF3369). Another bill (HF2819) would require a study of the state's electrical grid to determine if it can withstand various levels of electrical storms or nuclear attack. A third bill (HF3013) concerns dyslexia and requires that the teachers have a 3-5 hour introductory course on dyslexia when seeking license renewal.
Staying in Touch
I will have more information for you about what’s going on at the Capitol as the session progresses including updates on the bills I am personally working on this year. Until then, have a great weekend!
Please know you're always welcome to stop in and see what's happening at the Legislature. My office is Room 417 of the State Office Building, and my phone is 651-296-2907.
Have a great weekend!