With Jeff Williamson and Harry Wahlquist from Star Bank in Eden Prairie who were in Saint Paul last week for Independent Banker Day at the Capitol.
Dear Friends and Neighbors,
Here is an update on recent actions and notable events happening at the Capitol.
HIGHLIGHTS IN THIS UPDATE:
Health Care Reform Bill
This week, the House, Senate and Governor came to a compromise on Senate File 1, a bill which provides premium relief and health care reforms. On Thursday, the legislature completed action on SF1 and sent it to Governor Dayton who signed it into law.
The bill includes $312 million from the budget reserves that will provide a 25 percent premium reduction to eligible Minnesotans. For 2017, all Minnesotans who purchased their own insurance on the individual market and are not eligible for tax credits will share in this premium reduction. In addition, SF 1 includes $15 million to fund continuity of care coverage for up to 120 days for Minnesotans with serious health needs who are losing access to their doctor as their provider network was narrowed.
What’s more, the legislation begins to address our floundering individual health care market and implement needed reforms including rate filing disclosure within ten days of receipt by the Department of Commerce to increase transparency; allowing for-profit HMOs to enter the market to help increase competition and consumer choice; and prohibiting surprise billing to protect consumers.
The provisions in SF1 are not a complete and final answer to our state’s health care crisis, but the bill is a good, bipartisan first-step to begin addressing affordability, accessibility and transparency within our health care market.
I am pleased we were able to address premium relief and health care reform early this session, as this was a top priority for many families and small businesses in Eden Prairie.
National School Choice Week
The week of January 23rd is National School Choice Week. Our goal in Minnesota is to provide every child with the opportunity to receive a world-class education, and that means providing options and education choices that best fit the needs of children and families across our state. For some, that means attending a traditional public school, while for others it could mean enrolling in a private school, charter school, magnet school or homeschooling.
Coinciding with School Choice Week, the Education Finance Committee heard legislation this week that will create opportunity scholarships for low and middle income children that would be funded through private contributions made to non-profit scholarship granting organizations. A donor would be able to receive a tax credit equal to 70 percent of the amount contributed to a qualifying foundation. The legislation is similar to programs that exist in seventeen other states across the nation including our neighbors Iowa and South Dakota. I am proud to be a co-author of this school choice proposal.
Closing the achievement gap, finding innovative ways to improve student learning and providing families with more choice in education are all initiatives we will be working on this session in the legislature, because academic success for all children is essential to the future of our state.
This year, I am again carrying legislation to legalize Sunday alcohol sales in Minnesota. Last week in the Commerce and Regulatory Reform Committee, my bill passed on a bipartisan vote of 15-4. The legislation would allow liquor sales between the hours of 10 am and 6 pm on Sundays, and would ban liquor store retailers from accepting alcohol deliveries on Sundays.
It's time to give consumers the choices they want, allow liquor stores the option to be open any day of the week they choose, and help Minnesota businesses remain competitive. Repealing the Sunday alcohol sales ban is supported by a majority of Minnesotans, and I hope that we can get this legislation signed into law this year.
The next step for this bill is the House Floor, and I will keep you updated on its progress.
This week, Governor Dayton delivered his State of the State Address and laid out his budgeting priorities for the next two years. I know many of you have seen the recent news about his health and cancer diagnosis, and I hope you will join me in sending prayers and well wishes to the governor and his family.
I am still reviewing in detail the Governor’s budget proposals, but overall I am a bit concerned with his call for substantial tax increases and new fees at a time when we have a significant budget surplus. For example, he wants to extend the provider tax which amounts to a $1.4 billion tax increase on trips to the doctor. In addition to the provider tax, the governor has proposed another $1.6 billion in new taxes and fees over the next two years, including a gas tax and metro area sales tax increase. While his plan does call for $125 million in tax relief, with a $1.4 billion surplus and nearly $2 billion in budget reserves, I believe we should pass a far more robust and comprehensive tax relief bill this year for Minnesota families, students, seniors and small business owners.
House Republicans will craft their budget after the February forecast is released by Minnesota Management and Budget. I expect our plan to fund our citizens’ shared priorities, responsibly limit state government growth and provide substantial tax relief for Minnesota families, small businesses and hardworking taxpayers.
Town Hall Meeting in EP
On Saturday, February 4th I will be hosting a Town Hall at the Eden Prairie Library to discuss issues moving through the legislature this session. I welcome and encourage members of our community to attend and share their priorities with me. I hope to see you there!
When: Saturday, February 4, 2017
Time: 10:00-11:30 AM
Location: Eden Prairie Library, Large Meeting Room, 565 Prairie Center Drive, Eden Prairie, MN
If I can be of assistance to you with a state government matter, please feel free to contact me. I always welcome your views, questions and suggestions on issues of interest or concern. I can be reached via email at email@example.com or you can call my office at 651-296-7449. I look forward to hearing from you!