This week, the House of Representatives began the long and time-consuming process of debating and voting on omnibus finance bills. These bills represent the entirety of the DFL majority's budget and policy priorities.
Omnibus bills package several smaller bills into a single bill and are accepted as a single vote by the legislature. Whether or not omnibus bills should even exist would easily take up an entire 500-word editorial, but that's an argument for another day.
Over the course of four days, we passed omnibus bills related to K-12 education, jobs and energy, transportation, taxes, and health and human services.
With the DFL majority in the House of Representatives, it probably comes as no surprise that I could not vote for any of these bills. While my "no" votes were fairly easy to take, I was disappointed that I was unable to take a vote on some of the policy provisions as standalone legislation.
As is the case with most omnibus bills, there are provisions in each and every one of these bills that I would support on its own if it was given a simple up or down vote. Unfortunately, members have to consider the entirety of the legislative package, policy and spending included, when making a determination on how they may vote on a particular omnibus bill.
For instance, I believe that every child in Minnesota should have access to a world-class education. However, serious spending concerns aside, I was unable to vote for the omnibus education bill because it contained dozens of controversial policy provisions like requiring schools to teach sexual education backed and drafted by Planned Parenthood and provisions that remove automatic license denial and revocation requirements for prospective teachers convicted of fifth-degree domestic assault.
Another good example is the health and human services omnibus bill. Like the education bill, there are provisions included in this legislation that I would have supported if they were brought forward on their own. However, the bad far outweighs the good with billions in tax increases on health care services, the establishment of a OneCare buy-in insurance scheme that threatens the financial viability of rural hospitals and clinics due to lower reimbursement rates, and little to no reforms to address rampant fraud in the state Childcare Assistance Program (CCAP).
In fact, instead of reforming and bringing oversight to CCAP, the Democrat bill expands the program. As you recall there were two reports from the nonpartisan legislation auditor that found extensive fraud, waste, and abuse in the program.
I had issues with the other three omnibus bills that were approved this week with many of my concerns associated with burdensome regulations on businesses and billions in tax increases, which are especially inappropriate at a time when the state has a $1 billion budget surplus.
Next week, we will continue work passing the remaining budget bills and then enter into final budget negotiations with the Republican-controlled Senate. I am hopeful that the Senate will be able to hold the line on these excessive tax increases, stop the $68 million dollars in cuts to nursing homes, and eliminate the controversial policy positions I've highlighted.
Either way, it's sure to be a busy and eventful final month of the session. As always, please do not hesitate to reach out to me to share your thoughts and concerns about state government. I can be reached by phone at 651-296-4333 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Have a great weekend,