By Rep. Jordan Rasmusson
While discussions related to the state’s next two-year budget will soon take center stage, the focus at this point in the 2021 session remains on bringing bills through the committee process.
Multiple bills I have authored received positive responses during initial committee hearings, and I am grateful for the bipartisan support. I have been working hard during my first months as a House member to cultivate working relationships with fellow legislators. This common-sense, collaborative focus is evident in some bills I have drafted this session, including:
H.F. 1559: This bill provides a critical update to Minnesota’s Safe Place for Newborns law, which allows a mother to safely, and anonymously, leave her unharmed newborn, within seven days of birth, in a medical facility or to dial 9-1-1 to dispatch an ambulance for relinquishment. This law was originally passed in response to tragedies of abandoned infants.
While designed to help a mother protect her child, flaws in the system have been exposed over time and my bill would provide necessary changes. First of all, mothers cannot give birth in a medical setting and utilize Safe Place protections, which creates unnecessary risks for both mothers and newborns.
My bill addresses this issue and others and has been blessed with broad, bipartisan support from legislators and stakeholders alike. It was approved in a unanimous, 19-0 vote of the House Human Services Committee and in a 15-0 vote in the House Judiciary and Civil Law Committee.
H.F. 1305: Improving access to mental health services is a top priority of mine. The objective of this bill is to strengthen the few crisis stabilization units we have left as a state and lay the groundwork for providing more lower-cost, short-term services that provide critical support to our neighbors experiencing a mental health crisis. This bill, too, received strong bipartisan support and remains viable for passage this session.
Productive Alternatives, which operates a residential crisis stabilization unit out of Fergus Falls, has been instrumental in helping to prepare and advance this bill, which allows the state to establish a statewide rate for crisis stabilization services.
H.F. 777: I also am co-authoring this bill to prevent businesses from suffering an undue state tax burden on forgivable emergency loans recently issued by the federal government.
The Tax Foundation reports Minnesota is the only state in the Upper Midwest that has yet to exempt forgiven Paycheck Protection Plan loans from state income taxes. These loans were offered as lifelines for businesses to keep employees on the payroll and meet other specific financial obligations amid COVID-19 restrictions. More than 102,000 Minnesota businesses received them and now many face an unexpected state tax bill.
The state should not be skimming off the top of emergency business loans, and the House should act quickly to help correct this problem. Bipartisan support has been expressed and the sooner we can send a clean bill to the governor for enactment, the better. Our businesses have been through enough over the past year, and the state should not be dealing them yet another setback, especially in light of Minnesota’s $1.6 billion surplus.