Hello from the State Capitol,
The House heard and passed a number of omnibus finance and policy bills this week including Education, Health and Human Services, and Tax bills.
Tax Relief for Minnesotans
On Wednesday, the House passed the omnibus Tax bill. This bill does a lot to help citizens in Greater Minnesota, including farmers, seniors and veterans. It also includes provisions to help spark statewide jobs and innovation. The most significant part of this package – a new Minnesota personal or dependent tax exemption – could save a middle-class family of four $564 over the next two years.
Other highlights include:
I am the author of three provisions that were included in the omnibus Tax bill.
The first provision expands the sales tax exemption for accessories and supplies required to use durable medical equipment, to include purchases by any insurance plan. It also allows an extra year to file claims for refunds allowed in 2014 on purchases of certain durable medical equipment and associated supplies such as wheelchairs, CPAP machines, or other medical equipment used to allow people to stay in their home, and aid in a better quality of life.
Another provision allows for individuals who have farmed their land for 10 or more years to not have to qualify annually as being a farmer, and as long as the property they live on is less than four townships away, to still have their original property classified as an agricultural homestead. Their original property, which in this case they would still own, can remain an agricultural homestead as long as it is still being farmed.
My final provision frees up more than $80 million over the biennium by capping a portion of local government aid (LGA) funding to large cities such as Minneapolis, St. Paul, and Duluth.
Frankly, the premise behind LGA is to assist smaller cities, who do not have the tax capacity to generate adequate revenue, to fund basic infrastructure and services offered by the community.
This bill addresses the problem facing the LGA program that sees large cities like Minneapolis, St. Paul, and Duluth receiving so much more LGA funding in actual dollars and compared to the state average per capita.
Health and Human Services Omnibus Bill
The House passed the Health and Human Services omnibus bill early Wednesday morning. The legislation protects the most vulnerable, while expanding access to quality, affordable care for all Minnesotans.
Included in the bill is a new statewide rate of reimbursement – which will strongly assist nursing homes in Greater Minnesota, improve the wages of care providers and provide a permanent solution to statewide nursing home needs.
Also included is a one-time five percent cost of living adjustment for home and community based care workers.
Additionally, I have two provisions that I authored that were included in the bill. The first provision requires any person who serves as a navigator for MNsure to be subject to background checks.
More specifically, the person must submit a completed criminal history records check consent form, a full set of classifiable fingerprints, and the required fees for submission to the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension.
It is important that these individuals submit to a background check due to the nature of their job in handling sensitive medical and personal information.
I have another provision included in this bill that modifies the Group Residential Housing (GRH) program by adding quality controls and makes adjustments that help clients in transition to independent living.
GRH is a state program that provides payments on behalf of eligible persons to pay for room and board and related housing services.
Student Based Education Bill
Last Saturday, the House debated and approved the Education omnibus bill. This bill is a student based approach will improve our education system by ensuring that every child receives a world class education. Next to parental involvement, effective teaching has the greatest impact on student learning, and this bill will give school districts the flexibility they need to attract and retain quality teachers in each and every classroom.
Along with important policy reforms, our bill also invests $16.87 billion, a $1.06 billion increase over current spending to help address funding disparities between school districts across the state.
Additionally, I had a provision included in the bill that requires the commissioner of education to work with the Minnesota School Safety Center to ensure that school crisis response teams are available to school districts in every region of the state.
Oftentimes, school districts will bring in counselors and other professionals to assist grieving students and staff if a student were to pass away in a car accident or in light of another tragedy. This bill will establish crisis response teams that would be in all regions of the state to ensure that school districts would have professionals available in the unfortunate event that a tragedy would occur.
Ultimately, our Education Finance omnibus bill will help our schools make student-focused decisions and offer more flexibility to locally elected officials to ensure that we’re offering all students a quality, well-rounded education.
Public Safety and Crime Prevention Policy and Finance Bill Passes
On Monday, A bill that will fund judiciary and public safety priorities over the next two years passed with overwhelming bipartisan support in the Minnesota House Tuesday by a vote of 115 to 19.
Included in the bill is a provision I authored that amends provisions related to sex trafficking in a number of different areas including: data privacy, predatory offender registration, evidence, crime victim identity protection, and affirmative defenses and limitations periods.
By doing this, we are able to strengthen penalties and expand eligibility for predators to be charged with a crime and punished by law while working to protect sex trafficking victims’ identities.
As always, please do not hesitate to contact me if you ever have questions, concerns, or comments on any number of issues related to the legislature. I can be reached by phone at 651-296-9236 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org