The legislative session has a constitutional deadline to adjourn tomorrow at midnight, but there are many unresolved issues that remain before that set time arrives. As this weekend continues, legislators will be at the Capitol working to complete several remaining issues. I hope the legislature will be able to complete this work on time.
Governor Dayton has proposed a compromise budget offer to address the urgent needs facing Minnesotans. He released a spreadsheet detailing the compromise Tax Bill offer to cut taxes for over 2 million Minnesotans, and simplify tax filing for individuals, families, and businesses. Governor Dayton also sent a letter to Legislative Leaders, offering compromise solutions for the Budget Bill in these final hours.
Taxes and Emergency School Aid Funding
The House passed the final conference committee report for the tax bill earlier this week, which was then sent to the Governor’s desk. Governor Dayton has been very clear that delivering Emergency School Aid was his first priority, and he vetoed the tax bill as a result. Minnesota has a modest budget surplus and schools facing projected budget shortfalls that will be forced to lay off teachers, support staff and cut important programming for students. I agree with the Governor that we also need to be investing in our students. These are important priorities for both Republicans and Democrats, and I am cautiously optimistic a compromise on a tax bill and emergency education funding can be reached by Monday.
It seems that Republican leaders are going to use the pensions of 600,000 Minnesotans as an end-of-session bargaining chip. I think that is disgusting and wrong. The pension bill passed in the Senate unanimously early in the session.
There was a push this session to change both legislative and statewide sexual harassment policies, including a measure from the Republican House Majority Leader to effectively nullify a long-used "severe or pervasive" legal standard to determine if a sexual harassment case could be heard in court. Over the last several decades, judges had interpreted that standard so narrowly that cases rarely made it to trial. The Republican bill was a bold move that got bipartisan support. The measure failed in the Senate, and because it has been strongly opposed by some businesses in the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce it seems as though it will not resurface this year.
Opioids and Elder Abuse
The conference committee finalizing the omnibus supplemental budget bill took up articles relating to the ongoing opioid epidemic and the issue of elder abuse last night. The bill doesn’t go far enough by letting big pharmaceutical corporations off the hook for paying for the addiction problems they helped create. Republicans seem to lose all motivation to do anything meaningful when the big-money lobbyists for the pharmaceutical companies get to the Capitol. I was so disgusted by how spineless some of our legislative leaders have become in the face of big pharmaceutical companies that I got up to speak about it on the House floor on Wednesday. On a related note, the supplemental budget bill only passes a task force for elder abuse, instead of enacting meaningful changes to make senior care providers crack down on the problem.
Earlier this week the House passed a bonding bill to fund approximately $825 million in capital investment infrastructure projects throughout Minnesota. I support many of the projects in the bill, which are desperately needed, but I opposed the bill because it is far too small. This bill contained half the investment we need to improve infrastructure in Minnesota, like the Western Lake Superior Sanitary District Heat and Power Energy Project. Bonding creates thousands of jobs while improving state infrastructure assets at the same time, and it’s important to make these investments now while interest rates continue to be low. However, the Senate bonding bill failed on Wednesday, and I hope we will see an improved larger bill come back to the House floor for a vote before we adjourn.
A House and Senate conference committee, with five members of each chamber, is hashing out differences in each area of the state budget. The Governor is certainly weighing in as well, and he has identified at least 63 provisions to which he has strong objections. One area of unresolved disagreement is the DFL proposal to expand affordable healthcare for Minnesotans with the MinnesotaCare Buy-In. This would allow people to take advantage of premiums less expensive than on the private market, and with access to a vast network of quality doctors. I support this initiative as an option to improve the health insurance market.
Hands-Free Cell Phone Use
On Wednesday, DFLers renewed the call for debate and a vote on the ‘hands free’ cell phone bill on the House floor. This bill has earned broad bipartisan support and would ban handheld cell phone use while operating a motor vehicle. With numerous co-authors from each party and the support of 80 percent of Minnesotans, this bill deserves to be heard and voted on. Unfortunately, the effort was blocked by Republican leadership in yet another display of putting politics ahead of Minnesotans’ safety.
Secretary of State Steve Simon called on the legislature to release $1.5 million in federal funding for Minnesota’s election cybersecurity. The federal law requires the legislature and Gov. Dayton to accept the funds before they can be delivered. I support setting aside politics and authorizing the state to receive these funds. This is necessary funding to protect our elections and I hope we find a resolution for this issue without delay.
Keep in Touch!
Feel free to respond to this email to let me know what your priorities are. As your voice at the Capitol, my top priority is to make sure that the people in our region have a chance to succeed. That means everyone has access to a quality education, a job that rewards hard work with fair pay, and a secure retirement.