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

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Legislative Update- March 29, 2019

Friday, March 29, 2019
Dear Neighbors,
 
We are now halfway through the legislative session, and time is flying by at the Capitol. Here are a few updates from this week:
 

Putting a “cop on the beat” in the Student Loan Industry

Minnesota is currently experiencing a student loan crisis.  Student loan debt is now the second largest type of debt held in the United States, surpassing credit card debt (only mortgage debt is higher).  There are 775,000 Minnesotans holding student debt totaling $27.1 billion. 
 
The student loan system is endlessly complex and every day we hear stories of how the student loan companies abuse and confuse Minnesotans.  That is why I authored House File 1424, which creates a Student Loan Advocate inside Minnesota’s Department of Commerce.  The role of the advocate is simple: to be on the side of Minnesota’s students and student loan borrowers.  To help them navigate the endless web of rules and forms that characterize our student loan system.  To answer their questions, and help them avoid small mistakes that have big consequences.  The Advocate will also police bad behavior by student loan companies and enforce a new “Borrower’s Bill of Rights” that the bill creates.
 
We had a press conference on Wednesday to explain the details of the bill.  Later the same day, the bill passed through its final committee.  I am very hopeful we’ll get student borrowers the advocate they need as they struggle to deal with their record debts.

Bill to Support Sexual Assault Victims Clears Senate Committee

I am very happy to report that the Senate companion bill to one I authored in the House is moving forward. House File 15 and its Senate companion gets rid of Minnesota's “marital rape exception,” which prevents prosecution of certain criminal sexual conduct cases if the victim was married to their rapist at the time of the incident.
 
This is a very emotional issue, especially for the victims, but it should not be a partisan issue. I hope my colleagues in the Senate will join the House in supporting victims of sexual assault as it moves through committees. You can find Star Tribune’s coverage of the story here.
 

Allina and Coon Rapids High School Center for Biomedical Sciences and Engineering

I recently had a very exciting meeting with representatives of Allina and Coon Rapids High School Center for Biomedical Sciences and Engineering. I've been working to set up this meeting for awhile, and was thrilled to see it come to pass. We talked about the great work CRHS students and teachers are doing, as well as opportunities for collaboration between the high school and Allina. I can't say enough good things about Allina's willingness to invest in their local community, as well as Coon Rapids High School's innovative work. I am very excited to see what comes of this partnership!
This meeting actually had its origins two months ago, when I attended the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce's pre-session priorities dinner. At the dinner, I talked to representatives from Allina about CRHS's great program and asked if they'd be willing to help out. They were immediately enthusiastic.
 
The whole experience is proof that if you work hard, good things can happen. After all, while there have been some disagreements along the way, there is so much more that we can all agree on.
 

House Announces Framework for Budget

This week the leadership of the Minnesota House announced their proposed budget framework. I am reviewing this framework and thinking about how it will impact the communities I represent.  I was pleased to see that the education component, which should allow Anoka-Hennepin Schools to continue to provide outstanding services without significant property tax increases.  The budget also would freeze tuition at the University of Minnesota and MNSCU schools for two years.  I am eagerly waiting more details on the proposals relating to transportation and health care.  Those details should be forthcoming in the next two weeks, as the committees responsible for those areas of the budget take the overall framework released today and fill in the specifics.
 

Education Town Hall

This weekend I have a Town Hall scheduled with Speaker of the House Melissa Hortman and Senator John Hoffman. We will be focusing on education-related issues, and I hope to see you there! You can find the details below:
 
  • Saturday, March 30 at 1:00-2:30 p.m. at Champlin Park High School in Champlin, 6025 109th Ave. N., Champlin, MN 55316
Sincerely,
Zack Stephenson
State Representative