Criminal justice reform has been a topic of discussion for several years at the Legislature. Several bipartisan bills have been introduced again this session. Two topics that I have been involved with for a number of years are the Uniform Collateral Consequences of Conviction Act (UCCCA) and Restorative Rights in Felony Convictions. I recently offered some comments on this subject in a legislative column. Click here for the full text, including what I believe is helpful background information that provides context beneficial to obtaining a wide-scope view of this issue.
I look forward to continuing the discussion on this subject. In the meantime, we are six weeks into the 2019 session and more than 1,000 bills have been introduced. Here is a look at some of the latest developments at the Capitol:
House majority reverses course on health insurance
The Legislature successfully lowered health insurance premiums on the individual markets two years in a row after achieving reforms and nation-leading reinsurance program during the last biennium. There was vehement opposition to that bill from the minority at the time, with just one House Democrat having voted for the reinsurance bill, while the former governor allowed it to become law without his signature.
Now, after decrying reinsurance as a proposal “borne straight from the insurance industry,” and a “giveaway” to insurance companies, House Democrats have changed their tune by authoring a bill to extend the state's reinsurance program for three years. Just two Democrats voted against the bill this time in a committee meeting.
You can find a video compilation with just a sampling of those previous criticisms of reinsurance here.
Proposals would further reduce taxes on Social Security
Hearings are taking place this week for bills that would continue efforts to reduce taxes on Social Security income. House Republicans delivered social security tax relief two years ago, improving Minnesota’s status as an outlier among states in its full taxation of Social Security. Because of this, nearly 284,000 senior citizen tax filers were estimated to receive tax reductions; 72,000 of those citizens no longer pay state income tax on their Social Security benefits. I hope this is the year we can finish the job and eliminate social security taxes entirely, making our state a better home for retirees.
Gov. Walz puts Line 3 back in court, more delays expected
The governor this week announced he had decided to proceed with efforts to challenge the Enbridge Line 3 replacement pipeline by filing a petition for reconsideration against the unanimous decision the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) made in granting the certificate of need required for the pipeline project to proceed.
The Environmental Impact Statement has been completed, years of studies and intense scrutiny have been applied, and the PUC spoke unanimously. It is time to recognize that due process has taken place and honor the experts who provided their approval so work can begin on replacing this antiquated, 60-year-old pipeline across northern Minnesota, from Alberta to Superior, Wis.
Earlier this week, the Star Tribune reported that safety officials are concerned by increased oil train traffic coming in from Canada. The article specifically cited "pipeline limbo" as a factor that is partially to blame for the increase in rail traffic.
Look for more news from the Capitol as these and other subjects develop throughout the session. While I will continue to send periodic updates, a number of other resources are available to help keep people in the loop. Here are just a handful I hope you will find helpful: