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

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Legislative Update- April 11, 2019

Thursday, April 11, 2019
Dear Neighbors,
I hope your week has been good, and that this update finds you well. Major budget bills are coming together and our focus will soon shift from committee to longer floor sessions. Here’s an update from the Capitol:

New Tax Bill Announced

The Chair of the House Taxes Committee rolled out the House Tax bill on Monday and at first glance, I am very pleased. I have been working with the Chair all session for property tax relief and cuts to the tax on social security benefits (including at a Town Hall in Champlin). This bill contains both, and much more. In fact, two-thirds of tax filers in Minnesota receive a tax cut under this bill. Even better, these tax cuts are paid for not by gimmicks or cuts to essential services, but by holding large corporations accountable for the profits they stash in overseas tax havens. I’m tired of companies sending money to Bermuda to avoid paying taxes. I’d much rather ensure that retirees can stay in their homes by holding the line on property taxes. While many negotiations will still occur before a bill is approved, I am hopeful that measures such as these will be approved.
The Star Tribune has a story about the new House DFL tax bill here. For even more specifics, check out a fact sheet here.

Mississippi Point Park Project Moves Forward

We had exciting news for Champlin on Tuesday! My bill to fund a reconstruction of Mississippi Point Park was included in the House Bonding Bill! This project would be a capstone to all of the work that has been done in the vicinity of the Mill Pond in recent years, and would help set the stage for new development along the riverfront (hopefully including new restaurant options).
A major thank you to our great Mayor Ryan Karasek for his help in getting this project moving at the Capital. Ryan came down to St. Paul and gave a very compelling presentation. Several weeks later, people are still coming up to me and telling me about how much they enjoyed that hearing.
Unfortunately, the Senate has so far taken the position that there should not be any bonding bill this year. They are claiming that the “usual practice” is to not have a bonding bill in odd numbered years. Aside from not being true (there has a bonding bill in each odd numbered year since 2007), it’s a silly and arbitrary argument. We should have bonding bills when the state has infrastructure needs and the debt capacity to meet them, regardless of what number the year ends with.
Fortunately, there are many weeks left in session, and that means there are many weeks for the Senate to come to the table. I know Sen. John Hoffman has been a strong advocate for this proposal and will continue to fight for it.

Hands Free Bill

On Tuesday, the Minnesota House passed the hands-free driving bill for the final time. This was following a conference committee that took place to reach a compromise between the House and Senate versions of the bill.
I was very pleased to invite my predecessor, Mark Uglem, onto the floor for this vote. Mark worked hard for this bill while he served, and I was glad he had the opportunity to see it finally pass.
The Minnesota Senate approved the conference committee report on Thursday, and Governor Walz plans to sign it into law, which would make Minnesota the 17th state, plus the District of Columbia, to have a hands-free cell phone law on the books. According to WCCO’s latest Reality Check, crashes and fatalities on the road decrease when states have these laws.

Clean Energy in Minnesota

On Tuesday, Clean Energy Economy Minnesota’s annual report came out, which announced some important information on Clean Energy in Minnesota. The report announced over 61,000 clean energy jobs in Minnesota, showing that the industry grew by 5 percent last year.
This rate is faster than the state’s average job growth, and the total number of jobs is more than many workforce sectors. Minnesota’s clean energy workforce employs more workers than all of the state’s teachers and education-related services, banking and credit unions as well as the state’s med-tech industry, according to the Bureau of Labor Employment Statistics.
As an author of the House’s Clean Energy Bill, I am very happy with these findings.  Additionally, in response to this release, Gov. Walz held a press conference explaining what the impact of the findings are. You can read more about the speech here. Or if you’d like to watch it, you may do so here.
Zack Stephenson
State Representative