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Legislative News and Views - Rep. Zack Stephenson (DFL)

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Legislative Update- March 15, 2019

Friday, March 15, 2019
Dear Neighbors,
Every day that I have the honor of serving you and our community at the legislature, I continue to be inspired by your stories. I have been working on several bills that are inspired by the stories I’ve heard, with the intention of making Minnesota better for everyone. Here are some of my updates from the past week:

Consumer Protection for College Graduates

Along with the rest of the country, Minnesota is experiencing a student debt crisis. Minnesotans currently are burdened by $27.1 billion in student debt, an amount that has increased by 127% since 2007. Part of the problem is that the student loan system is endlessly complex and difficult to navigate. To make things worse, student loan servicing companies are known to engage in deceptive and misleading practices. As I talk to people with student loans, I hear one consistent complaint: there is no one on the side of the student. This year, I am working hard to change that.
My bill, HF 1424, creates a Student Loan Advocate in Minnesota's Department of Commerce, who would be charged with helping students navigate the student loan universe, educating students about their options, and police the student loan servicers.
The bill passed through the Higher Education committee yesterday with strong support. The committee heard the testimony of a number of Minnesotans who are struggling with heavy debts and abusive practices by student loan services. I am excited to keep driving this bill forward so we stop the abuses in the student loan industry and help students make informed decisions about their future.

Updates on Clean Energy Initiatives

Minnesota is lucky to have such a beautiful environment, and it’s something we need to protect for future generations. We know that climate change is an existential threat to that environment, and if we don’t act soon there will be irreversible damage.
One of my top priorities this year is to pass my Clean Energy First bill, which would ensure that new electrical generation facilities built in Minnesota are clean energy, unless there is evidence that those clean energy resources can’t meet Minnesota’s needs reliably and affordably.  Since almost all of Minnesota’s fossil fuel energy plants are set to retire in the next two decades, this bill would result in the transformation of Minnesota’s electrical sector from fossil fuels to clean energy.  My bill is supported by a very broad coalition, and has bipartisan support.  In fact, the Senate sponsor is Republican Senator David Senjem.  This week, my bill made progress in both the House and the Senate.  In both chambers, the bill will return in about two weeks for another hearing.

Minnesota House Approves Equal Rights Amendment

I’m committed to ensuring all Minnesotans have the opportunity to succeed, regardless of gender. Minnesota women deserve equal rights in all aspects of life, but we know that is all too often not the case.  Women are paid less than men, and are subject to violence and harassment at much higher rates than men.  To address these fundamental problems, we need to ensure that our government is fundamentally equal.  This is why I am happy to announce that last Thursday, the House met and approved an Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) ballot question to let Minnesotans decide whether or not to give everyone, regardless of gender, full equality under our State Constitution.
During the debate on the floor, another member said that the amendment was “unnecessary” because “we are already there.”  That comment really bothered me.  You can watch a video of my remarks in response here.
Zack Stephenson
State Representative