This was a big week for bills on the House floor. We passed one bill pertaining to voter ID and another designed to make our state more attractive to businesses and create jobs.
The voter bill we passed allows Minnesotans to directly decide this fall whether photo IDs should be required at the polls. The Senate may offer changes, but as of now the question would appear on the ballot as such: “Should the Minnesota Constitution be amended to require all voters to present valid photo identification on election day and that the state provide free identification to eligible voters?”
Surveys consistently show 70 to 80 percent of Minnesotans favor a photo ID requirement for voters. This indicates a vast majority of Minnesotans do not have full confidence in our elections. A photo ID requirement would help to protect the integrity of our electoral system and restore faith in voters.
The bill includes several safeguards to make sure each eligible citizen is able to vote. The amendment language itself states free IDs would be provided to those who lack one. Furthermore, provisional ballots would be available to citizens who lack an ID, lose their wallet, etc., and are unable to obtain one in time. Those folks can cast a ballot and follow up with proof of ID after the fact.
Upon Senate approval, the question will appear on ballots this November and, if it is approved, procedural measures will be addressed by the 2013 Legislature.
As for the jobs/tax-relief bill – aka the Tax Relief and Jobs Creation Act – the House passed a package of bills Wednesday night to help make our state a better place to do business and create private-sector jobs. Here are the key provisions:
A statewide business property-tax reduction to begin a 12-year phase-out process;
a $25 million increase in research-and-development credits for Minnesota companies;
a permanent $5 million increase in the Angel Investment Tax Credit;
allowing small businesses to take up-front capital equipment exemptions;
an internship grant program aimed at attracting and keeping talent in Greater Minnesota;
a tax credit for businesses that hire veterans.
I am especially pleased with the business property phase-out. This tax was added in 2001 as a “temporary” tax. More than a decade later, it’s time to retire it and lift our state’s business climate ranking from among the nation’s worst.
Another valuable tool helps small businesses by allowing them to receive an up-front capital equipment exemption instead of having to wait for the lengthy refund process to take place.
We also are waiting for the Senate to take action on this bill – apparently today – and hope the governor approves it once it is in his hands.