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Legislative News and Views - Rep. Jerry Hertaus (R)

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News from Representative Hertaus 03-15-2013

Friday, March 15, 2013
Dear Friends,
It was quite an eventful week here at the Capitol. Here are some updates from Saint Paul:
Health Insurance Exchange
Yesterday evening, the House passed HF05, more commonly known as the Health Insurance Exchange (HIX). The bill essentially creates a $300 million dollar website where uninsured Minnesotans as well as employers will be able to shop for health insurance, similar to travel sites that allow you to compare airfare and hotel rates.
Unfortunately, the bill that was passed is extremely flawed, as it limits consumer choice. A truly competitive exchange would allow all insurance companies to compete for the business of Minnesotans looking to purchase insurance. Instead, a seven-member board subject to extremely limited legislative oversight is allowed to pick winners and losers, arbitrarily setting standards that insurance companies must meet if they wish to sell their plans on the exchange. Limiting choice by definition limits competition. Government should never be in the business of picking winners and losers, particularly when the insurance plans of an estimated 1.2 million Minnesotans are involved.
Even after going through conference committee, the final bill failed to address any of the concerns raised by Republicans about the out-of-control costs, the limited consumer choices, and data privacy. One DFL member joined all Republicans in voting against this mess of a bill.
You can see the speech I gave on the House floor yesterday evening about the exchange by clicking here.
K-12 Education Budget
I recently submitted the following letter to our local newspaper that I'd like to share with you about the Governor's K-12 budget and the importance of paying back our schools and investing in Education:
Governor should repay schools, invest more in education
The Governor has stated time and again that budgets are about priorities. One of the top stated priorities for both parties this legislative session has been increasing funding for K-12 education. Republicans and Democrats alike can agree that there are few things more important than ensuring a quality education for our children.
That's why I was pleased when the majority introduced House File 01, the first bill of the session, aimed at paying back the money owed to our schools from the school shift passed in 2009. It was a stated priority, and introducing it as the first bill of the legislative session seemed to indicate a level of seriousness about paying back the school shift.
Upon the initial release of the Governor's budget, I was disappointed to learn that the Governor's plan fails to pay back the school shift until 2017. Since the release of the budget, the majority has dragged their feet and defeated motions that would have used the state's cash reserves to pay back the money owed to our schools. Delaying shift payback to 2017 or later will add over $100 million dollars in interest to the balance we already owe, an unacceptable amount of money to put on the tab of the taxpayers.
If the Governor's priority is indeed to improve K-12 education, we should be committed to making sure any increases in education dollars are dedicated to the area that makes the most impact on the results in the classroom, and closing the achievement gap. The current proposal is rife with unfunded mandates and new bureaucracies, such as the creation of a "school climate center" and new "regional centers" for the Department of Education.
Rather than wasting money on bloated bureaucracy, the Governor should look to increase per-pupil funding, and alleviate any of the unfunded mandates included in his education proposal. That's the right thing to do for our schools, and the right thing to do for our children.
Have a great weekend,
Jerry Hertaus
State Representative, District 33A


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