The first two weeks of the 2017 legislative session have flown by. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to serve as your representative for a third term in St. Paul!
Preserving Tax Deductions for Minnesotans
The legislature has many important issues to tackle this session and we have started quickly. Last week, we passed House File 2, which conforms Minnesota tax code to the federal tax code, on a vote of 130-0. The financial result of this bill is $21.7 million in tax relief for 220,000 Minnesota tax filers. Some key aspects of the bill include: deductions for higher education costs and teacher classroom expenses. The bill also provides for an itemized deduction for mortgage insurance premiums and it eliminates the need for two sets of equipment depreciation schedules. The Senate passed this bill Thursday and Governor Dayton signed it into law today. It was urgent to get this bill passed in the beginning of session to avoid any complications for Minnesotans filing their 2016 taxes this year.
Health Insurance Cost Relief
In addition to passing federal tax conformity on the first day of session, the House moved to declare an urgency and suspend the rules to vote on House File 1, The 2017 Health Care Emergency Aid and Access bill.
House File 1 consists of three key aspects: providing $300 million of premium relief for those Minnesotans who qualify on the individual market; ensuring continued access to doctors; and making individual market reforms, such as ending surprise billing, conforming with federal law to allow small businesses to offer a direct contribution toward health insurance premiums, and allowing for-profit health maintenance organizations (HMO) to enter the individual market.
Unfortunately, due to needing 90 votes for the motion to suspend the rules to pass, instead of a simple majority, the motion failed on a vote of 75-55. It was my understanding, as well as my other Republican colleagues, that we had an agreement with House Democrat leadership to be able to pass this bill. It is very disappointing that they went back on their word and blocked millions of dollars in premium relief for folks struggling to pay health insurance costs, as well as some good reforms for the insurance market.
The bill passed the Senate Thursday and is headed back to the House for a vote next week. If the bill passes the House, which I am optimistic that it will, it will then go to conference committee with the Senate to finalize the language before it heads to the Governor’s desk.
This week, the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED) issued a release stating that Hubbard and Becker County will be receiving a state grant to expand broadband access. The $1.74 million grant will provide access to 785 unserved households, 26 unserved businesses, 2 unserved community anchor institutions, 143 underserved households, and 2 underserved businesses. The total eligible project cost is $3.48 million with a $1.74 million local match. This is good news for our area, greater access to broadband not only benefits those wanting better access to the internet, but it also improves the commerce and education sectors. Last session, the legislature approved a total of $45 million in broadband grants during the 2015 and 2016 legislative session. When combined with federal CAF II funds, Minnesota will see more than $100 million in broadband expansion this year alone.
If you ever have any questions, comments, or concerns regarding any issue related to state government, please feel free to contact me at either 651-296-9918, or firstname.lastname@example.org.