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Legislative News and Views - Rep. Steve Elkins (DFL)

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Summer Update

Thursday, July 7, 2022

Dear Neighbors,

I hope that everyone was able to get out and enjoy the holiday weekend celebrating our nation’s birth. Participation in Bloomington’s annual Summer Fete celebration on Sunday night was back to pre-pandemic levels and the Bloomington Symphony Orchestra was in fine form for this year’s concert on a balmy summer evening.


On Monday, the rain stopped just in time for the annual Edina Fourth of July Parade.

Special Session Prognosis

At this point, it appears unlikely that a special session will be called as Senate Republicans are unwilling or unable to make the compromises necessary to come to a final deal. After the primaries, these legislators will have more room to negotiate. This will be of little solace to school districts or personal care provider organizations that are trying to balance their budgets, now. The collateral damage from our legislative inaction is immense. For my part, I am poised to return to the Capitol at any time.

Legislative Activity

If you are wondering how I spend my time between sessions, here’s a sampling of my recent legislative activities. Being “otherwise retired,” I spend most of my time between sessions conducting legislative policy analysis and collaborating with my peers across the country to develop next year’s legislation.

Healthcare Pricing Transparency

Under Federal law, hospitals are required to publish their prices to the public so that we can see how much their services are going to cost before we commit to having them performed. However, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), which is responsible for enforcing this law, never specified how this should be done and so every hospital publishes their prices in a different way and carefully hides them in obscure locations on their websites. 

This past session, I authored a bill which would require Minnesota hospitals to post their prices in a prominent location and in a consistent format. When I suggested to CMS staff that they should do the same thing, nationwide, they made me Chair of a Technical Expert Panel (TEP) composed of healthcare data experts from hospitals, including the Mayo Clinic, and organizations seeking to publish price comparisons using this data whose goal was to come up with such a standard. We have been meeting every other week since February and are close to achieving our goal. If we succeed, you may be able to easily compare Twin Cities hospital prices for specific services by this time next year. To get an idea of what this would look like, go to Turquoise Health and click on the “Patients” tab where you will see a prototype of how this would work.


Minnesota Technical Advisory Council (TAC)

Since Governor Walz first appointed his Blue Ribbon Council on Information Technology Reform, I have been actively engaged, as a member of the informal bipartisan and bicameral legislative IT Caucus, in the state’s initiatives to upgrade its IT capabilities. The legislature made this advisory group permanent in the form of a Technical Advisory Council (TAC) which meets regularly to develop recommendations for improvements. I regularly participate in these sessions, including recent meetings which discussed digital accessibility to state information for people with visual or tactile disabilities and creating a sustainable funding model to ensure that state systems are kept up to date.

The Governor has created a second Blue Ribbon Council, this one to study the future impacts of self-driving vehicles, and I am actively engaged in this Council’s work, as well.

Future of Transportation Funding

Gasoline tax revenues are declining because of improved vehicle fuel efficiency and the growing acceptance of electric vehicles. Last week, I participated in a national Road User Charge Summit hosted by the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) in Salt Lake City. I joined state legislators from 25 other states to explore the potential use of mileage taxes to supplant the use of fuel taxes. This past session I introduced a bill to start assessing a fair mileage-based tax on electric vehicles which was based on an existing program passed by Republican legislators in the state of Utah. The tax would be based on odometer readings only, and would be on par with the gas taxes collected from equivalent gasoline powered vehicles. 


NCSL staff asked me to moderate one of the panel discussions at this conference because of the expertise that I’ve acquired through my ongoing research into Road User Charging technology and privacy issues. I was also asked to moderate a panel on “The Future of Transportation” at the NCSL Summit in Tampa last December.


Two of my Republican colleagues from the Senate Transportation Committee accompanied me to this conference and, afterwards, the current chair of the Senate Transportation Committee, Sen. Scott Newman, told me “Steve, after attending this conference I regret not having given your bill a hearing this session.” Developing and passing significant legislation is equal parts research and relationship building and this is a prime example. It usually takes a few years to really move the needle on any important legislative initiative that requires fundamentally rethinking the way we approach a subject.  

Consumer Data Privacy

At the end of this month, I will be presenting at another NCSL conference in Denver about my ongoing work on Consumer Data Privacy. For the past three years, I have been collaborating with legislators in about a dozen other states on a common framework for extending the privacy rights currently enjoyed by residents of California to other states, including Minnesota. Virginia and Colorado have already passed bills based on this framework which was developed by a state senator in Washington. My role in this collaboration is to leverage my background in transportation and in data management to strengthen the provisions related to locational data privacy and the duty of companies to protect the privacy and security of your data. My own bill, House File 1492, is currently in its third draft and there will be a fourth draft before the next session begins in January.

MNDOT Street Design Class

I have been working to make our streets safer since I was a Bloomington City Councilmember and that work continues today with my legislation granting cities more authority to set their own speed limits. I’m still working on speed limit policy so I recently enrolled in a three-day MNDOT class on basic street design so that I could have better informed discussions with traffic engineers on topics like the “design speed” of a road.


The instructor was State Senator Ann Johnson-Stewart, who has been teaching these MNDOT classes for decades! The class took me back to my high school trigonometry days!


Keep in Touch

Don’t hesitate to reach out if I can provide any assistance. Please follow me on my Facebook page for further updates and invite your friends and family to do so as well. 

Thanks for the honor of representing you at the Capitol. 


Steve Elkins
Representative, District 49B
Minnesota House of Representatives

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