By Rep. Jordan Rasmusson
The Legislature re-convened in St. Paul this week after Gov. Tim Walz called a special session to complete unfinished business on a new two-year state budget and address other timely issues.
Agreement on a general budget framework was reached too late for approval during the regular legislative session, which ended May 17. Legislators have been seeking agreement on various budget subjects since then. We began conducting robust floor sessions this week to finish omnibus finance bills and put a complete budget in place by the June 30 end of the fiscal year.
It appears proposals to raise taxes on Minnesotans amid a multi-billion-dollar surplus appropriately have been eschewed. And it looks like businesses and unemployed Minnesotans won’t face unjust state tax increases on their Paycheck Protection Program loans or unemployment insurance benefits.
Other top priorities during this special session should include ending the governor’s emergency powers, sparing people from suffering soaring health care costs, and increasing safety in our cities that have seen wild spikes in violent crimes.
There are more than a dozen state finance packages in all and one related to commerce was among the first omnibus finance packages to come to the floor this special session. That bill includes language I personally authored in H.F. 1915, dealing with regulations on reinsurers who help our Minnesota underwriters effectively manage risk. Approval of this provision will reduce costs for all lines of insurance.
The commerce bill also includes a provision with relevance to the Hoot Lake power plant closing in Fergus Falls. The measure creates and funds a new Office for Energy Transition that will help fill the economic void caused by the power plant operation being shut down and aid impacted communities.
Unfortunately, the omnibus commerce bill did not include a reauthorization of the state’s reinsurance program. A failure to extend this proven, nation-leading reform could cause rising health care costs, reduced health care options, and instability in Minnesota’s individual insurance market.
Public safety is another issue that needs to be addressed this special session. Last year, violent crime spiked in Minneapolis and St. Paul by more than 20 percent, and this year the Minneapolis murder rate has doubled compared with this point last year.
City leaders have refused repeated requests from their chiefs to increase the number of police officers. Minneapolis is down more than 200 officers compared to last year, which is stretching law enforcement resources and their ability to respond to crime. In addition, judges and prosecutors are giving out light sentences or staying sentences altogether, putting dangerous criminals back on the streets. In recent weeks, there have been multiple high-profile examples of innocent bystanders being killed in incidents involving criminals who should have been in prison.
House Republicans put forward a package of several public-safety solutions, including not only measures to bolster on-the-ground efforts, but also to improve police-community relations so that law enforcement and the communities they serve can collaborate to stop crime and build trust.
One way we can do this is by establishing pilot programs across the state for the Community Out Post (COP) House program, which has been successful in the St. Cloud area by building police-community relations. The COP House has brought law enforcement and that community closer and is reducing crime in the process with an eye on the long term.
I look forward to continuing efforts on these and other issues during this special session.