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Legislative News and Views - Rep. Fue Lee (DFL)

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Legislative Update - March 17, 2019

Sunday, March 17, 2019



Education Minnesota Unity Day on the Hill


Minnesota Coalition for the Homeless Day on the Hill


Hunger Solutions Minnesota Day on the Hill

THIS WEEK IN THE LEGISLATURE

FIRST DEADLINE OF 2019 SESSION WAS ON FRIDAY
Friday marked a major legislative milestone -- the first committee deadline of session. Deadlines help state lawmakers narrow the large list of bills that will advance in the law-making process. The first deadline is for committees to act favorably on bills in the house of origin. Click here for more information about committee deadlines. Over the coming weeks, House DFLers will begin announcing major budget bills for priorities like K-12 education, transportation, health care, and more.

APARTMENT ACCESS FOR CENSUS WORKERS
On Tuesday I presented HF 2059 in the Government Operations committee to allow apartment access for Census Workers. This bill is needed because the upcoming 2020 Census will decide whether Minnesota retains eight Congressional seats. Additionally, the Census drives many federal funding formulas. It is estimated that for every resident who is not counted, Minnesota will lose $2,800 annually through a wide variety of federal funding formulas. Having access to apartment buildings will allow us to reach as many residents as possible. The bill was passed and referred to the General Register.

26th AVE N OVERLOOK
I also presented HF 2132 on Tuesday in the Environment and Natural Resources Finance Division. This bill is asking for an appropriation of $3,000,000 from the bond proceeds fund to design and construct “The River Link/26th Avenue North Overlook” project that connects 26th Ave N to the Minneapolis Grand Rounds at Ole Olson Park by the Mississippi River. The bill was re-referred to the Ways and Means committee. On Friday the Chair of the Ways and Means committee referred the bill to the Capital Investment Division.

MODIFICATION TO THE MINNESOTA POLLUTION CONTROL AGENCY’S SMALL BUSINESS ENVIRONMENTAL LOAN PROGRAM
HF 1584 was also presented on Tuesday in the Environment and Natural Resources Policy committee. Currently, the MPCA provides low-interest loans to small businesses for capital equipment purchases that help the company meet or exceed environmental regulations, and costs associated with the investigation and cleanup of contaminated sites. Common benefits include a healthier workplace, lower waste disposal bills, and reduced regulatory obligations. This program hasn’t been updated since 1996 and is outdated.

My bill would expand the availability of this loan program to businesses with less than 100 full-time employees; eliminate the $1,000,000 cap on a business’ net-worth; lower the interest rate on loans; and raise the allowable loan amount from $50,000 to $75,000. The bill was re-referred to the Ways and Means committee. On Friday the Chair of the Ways and Means committee referred the bill to the Environment and Natural Resources Finance Division.

EQUITY GOALS IN BONDING PROJECTS
On Wednesday I presented HF 2000 in the Labor committee. Currently, when a state agency seeks bids from contractors for goods and services of at least $100,000 (e.g. a building project), the agency cannot accept bids from contractors unless those contractors have a diversity hiring plan that has been approved by the Minnesota Department of Human Rights.

This requirement applies only to contractors that have more than 40 full-time employees. This law has been on the books for a long time, and hundreds of contractors in the state currently have certificates of compliance from MDHR that are good for four years.

My bill adds equity goals to bonding projects and extends these requirements in law to cities, counties and other entities that receive proceeds from General Obligation bonds. The bill was re-referred to the Ways and Means committee.

PUBLIC ELECTRIC VEHICLE CHARGING STATIONS
On Thursday I presented HF 1853 in the Environment and Natural Resources Finance Division. My bill appropriates $10 million to the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency for the development of electric vehicle charging stations that are accessible for all members of the public.

The majority of these funds will go to “DC fast chargers,” which will go along highways and interstates to allow longer-distance travel throughout the state.

My bill will provide a public electric vehicle infrastructure and incentivize the shift to electric vehicles. This will help improve air quality in communities throughout the state that are impacted by pollution. Where we know the costs of pollution fall disproportionately on children, the elderly, economically disadvantaged communities, and communities of color. The bill was re-referred to the Ways and Means committee with a recommended re-referral to the Energy and Climate Finance and Policy Division.

BAN ON IVORY AND RHINO HORN TRADE IN MINNESOTA
I also presented HF 1403 in the Environment and Natural Resources Policy committee on Thursday. The U.S. is one of the world’s largest commercial ivory markets, and there is a persistent availability in Minnesota of ivory and rhino horn products for sale via online and antique outlets. My bill will align Minnesota law with federal interstate commerce regulations.

In 2016, the U.S. enacted a near-total ban on commercial ivory trade. This bill largely mirrors the new federal regulations and applies the federal standard governing interstate trade to intrastate trade in Minnesota. It restricts trade of most ivory and rhino horn products with exemptions for bona fide antiques (over 100 years old) with a small amount (less than 200 grams) of ivory and musical instruments. This bill would not criminalize possession of ivory and rhino horn, including cultural artifacts currently owned by Minnesota residents, nor prohibit inheritance. The bill also establishes outreach and education to communities concerned about cultural artifacts. The bill was re-referred to the Ways and Means committee.

MINNESOTA HOUSE UNANIMOUSLY APPROVES BILL TO ESTABLISH VETERAN SUICIDE AWARENESS DAY
Veterans face unique mental health challenges, especially those who experience combat, and those challenges are resulting in a heartbreaking disparity in suicide rates, with veterans 1.5 times more likely to die by suicide than civilians.

Monday the Minnesota House unanimously approved legislation to increase public awareness of this problem by establishing a Veteran Suicide Awareness Day. House File 586, authored by Rep. Jamie Becker-Finn of Roseville, designates the first Saturday of October every year as Veteran Suicide Awareness Day.

MINNESOTA HOUSE UNANIMOUSLY APPROVES NEW FINANCIAL ASSISTANCE FOR FAMILY FARMERS
On National Agriculture Day, the Minnesota House unanimously approved new financial assistance for family farmers who are hurting after winter weather destroyed barns, livestock, and equipment.

MINNESOTA HOUSE OVERWHELMINGLY VOTES YES TO PREVENT YOUTH TOBACCO USE
With strong bipartisan support, the Minnesota House on Thursday approved legislation that adds e-cigarettes in the Minnesota Clean Indoor Air Act.

House File 349 would prohibit vaping on public transportation, at public meetings, in places of employment, health care facilities and clinics, public schools, state and local government buildings, buildings owned by public colleges and universities, and other facilities.


I encourage you to contact me with any questions, comments, concerns, or ideas on any legislative topic. Also, I am available during select hours on Monday and Friday mornings most weeks for in-district meetings, if Northside residents aren’t able to make it to the Capitol. If you would like to send me a message or set up an in-district meeting, you can reach me by phone at 651-296-4262 or by email at rep.fue.lee@house.mn. I look forward to hearing from you!