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Legislative News and Views - Rep. Tama Theis (R)

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Capitol Update from Rep. Tama Theis

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Dear Neighbors,

It's been a busy start to the 2016 legislative session, with committee meetings, floor sessions and many constituents coming down to visit and share their priorities for state government. Here is an update from Saint Paul.

Unemployment Insurance Trust Fund Legislation

Last Thursday, the House passed legislation that offers relief to businesses both large and small across the state, helping them keep more of their money to reinvest and hire more employees.

In addition to extending unemployment benefits for out-of-work steelworkers on the Iron Range, the bill also credits businesses who pay into the Unemployment Insurance Trust Fund which is currently overfunded and sitting on about $1.5 billion. By crediting approximately $258 million to employers and reducing their future obligations to pay into the fund when it rises about the fully-funded threshold per federal standards, more money will remain in the private sector. Furthermore, when our trust fund isn't overfunded, it reduces the risk of the fund being raided by state government in the future.

This bill is a win-win for everyone and does not take any money from our General Fund. Employers and employees benefit under this legislation, and I am pleased it's moving forward.  

Next Door Housing

Minnesota's population is growing older, and serving on the Aging and Long-Term Care Committee allows us to gather information on technologies and policies that will benefit our state and its citizens in the coming years.

One key proposal is Next Door Housing—small, independent living homes that can be placed on already existing property for your loved ones. So for aging parents or a sick relative who needs temporary, affordable, and disability-accessible housing, this is an alternative that helps people make room for a family member right next to their home.

These homes are small but fully equipped with kitchens, a bathroom and bedroom, and the homes access water and power through the main home.  It's a solution that can work for many families, and the legislation passed out of our committee last week would permit the building of these "temporary family health care dwellings" in single-family residential areas.

Primary Elections

In the Government Operations Committee last week, we held an informational hearing on changing Minnesota from a caucus state to a primary state for presidential elections. The caucus system would remain for all but presidential elections under this proposal. I think the presidential primary idea has merit and is worth consideration, as it may increase participation in elections and make it a more accessible process.

Additionally, there was a discussion on the advantages of open vs. closed primaries, meaning whether or not people must choose which political party for which to fill out a ballot. It's a topic garnering some serious discussion at the Capitol after our recent March 1st Minnesota Caucuses, and I will keep you updated should a proposal move forward this session.

Independent Living Center Bill

In the Jobs Committee last week, my bill was heard that will expand work opportunities for people with disabilities and mental illness to enter the workforce. The legislation provides a variety of grants and is an important initiative to provide more Minnesotans with the opportunity to be employed and live independently.

This funding was taken out of the Jobs Omnibus bill at the end of last session, and I am hoping it can move forward this year with strong bipartisan support.

Congratulations SCSU!

SCSU is not only an excellent academic institution, but it also has some top-rate athletes! Congratulations to the men's hockey team for winning its first NCHS Frozen Faceoff Championship last week. Also, congratulations to the wrestling team for winning your second straight Division II National Championship.

Way to go Huskies athletics on all of your outstanding accomplishments!


It’s an honor to be your voice at the Capitol.