“California” Green Energy First Bill
As you have likely already heard, Governor Walz is proposing a massive overhaul to the state's green energy initiative. The goal is to make Minnesota carbon neutral by 2040. To do that they are going to require renewable energy to be used unless a traditional energy source is cheaper. The catch is the new restrictions will make using traditional energy sources much more expensive. HF10 received a hearing this week in the Climate and Energy Policy and Finance Committee, I offered four amendments to the "California" Green Energy First Bill:
?? Requiring wind turbine blades to be disposed of in MN or recycled
?? Requiring solar developers to clean up the toxic chemicals from industrial solar arrays
?? Public Utilities Commission should not support child slave labor used to make green energy products
?? Requires the Commission to compare carbon emitted during the entire supply chain (mining, refining, manufacturing, transport, energy production, and decommissioning) of all energy sources instead of pretending that wind turbines and solar panels grow out of cornfields.
“California” Green Energy First Bill
The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency has scheduled public information sessions to discuss the Governor's proposal to bypass legislative due process and bring California's auto standards to Minnesota through rulemaking. The sessions will be online at 3 p.m. on February 22-23. Click here for more regarding those sessions. Before adopting the new rules, there is a public comment period running through March 15. You can learn more or submit your comments here.
There continues to be a very short supply of vaccines in Minnesota, with about 35,000 doses being available to seniors as of last week. If you already signed up for the state’s vaccine pilot program, you do not need to take any further action, as they will be continuing to draw names for the state’s community vaccination sites. Those who were not able to get onto the waitlist should reach out to their healthcare providers directly to see about scheduling a vaccine. You can find the list of vaccine providers here: https://mn.gov/covid19/vaccine/find-vaccine/locations/index.jsp
There is still a limited amount of vaccine, so appointments may not be available at each of these sites.
Of the 918,000 seniors in our state, only 12% have received a vaccine. Seniors are at the highest risk for illness, hospitalization, and death from COVID, and need to be the priority in our State’s distribution plan. Minnesota has been allocated 444,166 vaccine doses and only 25% of those have gone to Minnesota’s seniors. The rest have gone to everything from prisoners to teachers and even zoo workers. Minnesota’s seniors are more at risk than any of these groups and need to be prioritized as such.
90% of Minnesota’s deaths from COVID have come from the 65 and up population. At the rate we are vaccinating, it will take 16 weeks to vaccinate all of our seniors.
These websites have good additional info:
COVID-19 Community Vaccination Program / COVID-19 Updates and Information - State of Minnesota
Vaccine Locations / COVID-19 Updates and Information - State of Minnesota
Cassy’s Law moves out of Committee
This week, HF865, “Cassy’s Law” unanimously passed the committee on public safety. I authored this legislation in 2019 after meeting with Tim Barry, the father of Cassondra Barry. Cassy was 26 when she gave birth to her daughter and had hernia surgery, which resulted in a massive stroke, damaging her frontal lobe. Her leg was amputated to save her life. Due to her lack of impulse control, she ran into trouble with the courts and was in solitary confinement for most of the time she was incarcerated.
This bill directs judges to order a neuropsychological evaluation before sentencing when a defendant with a traumatic brain injury (TBI) is convicted of a felony. If the assessment reveals a lack of impulse control due to a TBI, then sentences could be adjusted to seek effective treatment. We should not be criminalizing mental illness.
This legislation passed the House with bipartisan support last year, and I am a co-author of this years’ bill carried by Rep. Athena Hollins (D-St Paul) to help people in Minnesota. I am pleased to see Rep. Luke Frederick (D-Mankato) as another local co-author, as he brings his experience from working at the St Peter Regional Treatment Center to this effort. We need to work together more often when our priorities align. I will continue to fight for this legislation as it advances through the legislative process.
The Governor's Budget
Walz unveiled his budget for the 2022-2023 biennium. He proposes a new fifth income tax rate of 10.85 percent and a hike in the corporate income tax rate to 11.25 percent. Minnesota already has the fifth-highest top rate of state personal income tax in the United States - 9.85 percent on income over $164,400 a year. Only Oregon, New Jersey, Hawaii, and California have higher top rates.
Minnesota does not just tax "the rich" heavily. Our State's lowest personal income tax rate - 5.35 percent on the first dollar of taxable income - is higher than the highest rate in 25 states.
The strategy of simply increasing taxes to cover our spending "wants" is not good long term planning. There are many wonderful reasons people choose to live in Minnesota, but we must be careful to assume those reasons have limits. Especially when the amount of people's income subject to taxation continues to grow. We have always accepted that corporations and high income earners represent a smaller portion of our society, but pay a larger portion of the state taxes. If a larger portion of those corporations and people move their permanent residence to lower tax states, this will not only decrease the number of jobs, but also disproportionately increase the tax burden on everyone. This is a concern we must keep in mind as we exponentially increase our spending year over year. We must also remember that as corporate taxes increase, new companies choose not to build here and existing companies choose not to expand. Those who continue to do business in Minnesota simply pass the additional costs on to the consumers, or decrease their wage costs.
You can count on me to honor my commitment to never support a tax increase. In fact, it's time the State shared in the sacrifices that it's forced upon many of us since last March. These unconstitutional and immoral lockdowns have placed an extreme burden on business owners in our State. The Governor plans to increase taxes on these folks who have managed to weather the storm. His budget is short-sighted and reckless.
Requiring Masks by Law
In the Health Policy and Finance Committee, I voted against HF 604, a bill putting into law the Governor’s Statewide mask mandate. I received hundreds of emails opposing this bill. I support people's individual rights and their ability to take whatever steps they feel are necessary to protect one's self. I also support a business's right to ask customers to wear masks.
By turning this into law we are not only setting a dangerous precedent but also signaling to all Minesotians that Walz doesn’t trust you. His executive powers have gone on long enough, and this bill will simply prove to him that these lockdowns were the right thing to do. Masks and these lockdowns have proven to be far more dangerous than the virus itself.
Recreational Vs Medical Cannabis
Last week, House Democrats introduced a bill - HF 600 - to legalize recreational marijuana in Minnesota. In response to this legislation and many emails and phone calls from constituents for and against this issue, I conducted an online, ten-question survey. I received responses from over two thousand individuals. Participants in the survey were 59% female / 41% male, 58% Republican / 42% Democrat or other party affiliation and spread evenly across all age groups. The results from two questions on expanding, or legalizing cannabis in Minnesota are listed below:
Q1; Do you support the medical cannabis program, which allows cancer patients and others with a doctor's permission to use cannabis?
3%: No, any cannabis use is wrong
22%: Yes, I support medical cannabis oil, and it should stay limited
74% I support expanding medical cannabis to allow bud (plant material)
Q2; If recreational marijuana was on the ballot in 2022, how would you vote?
Minnesota is one of 35 States which allow medical cannabis but the only State which does not allow plant material. 15 States, including South Dakota have legalized the personal use of cannabis. Given the change of power in DC, we are likely to see changes to the federal prohibition of cannabis. Whether or not you support expanding cannabis use in Minnesota, I believe it is important to study the impacts and address legislation around future changes. Given the overwhelming support for medical cannabis, I do believe it is important to address these concerns which will allow our veterans easier access to cannabis as an alternative to opiates or other prescription drugs.
There is still assistance available to income-eligible households (both owners and renters) for home heating bills and furnace repairs. The State's Energy Assistance Program can help by providing financial assistance, such as:
- Pay past due energy bills to avoid disconnection
- Purchase fuel for delivery in emergencies
- Repair or replace homeowners' malfunctioning furnaces.
The application period is open until May 31 this year, and you can find more information and links to apply at the Minnesota Department of Commerce website.
Thank you for being engaged in Government,
State Representative, 23B
If you have any questions regarding COVID-19, please don’t hesitate to contact me or my office. We are still attempting to provide regular contact remotely so if you have other needs, please email my Legislative Assistant, Grayson, at Grayson.email@example.com
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