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Omnibus commerce bill approved on party-line vote

Policy provisions and an additional $6.54 million in fiscal year 2023 would impact regulations and enforcement in a host of areas from social media platforms, homeowner association fees, dental insurance, appraiser licenses and fraud investigations.

All are part of the omnibus commerce finance and policy bill.

Approved 10-7 along party lines Wednesday by the House Commerce Finance and Policy Committee, HF3607, as amended, is headed to the House Ways and Means Committee.

“I think we have a very good and balanced bill before us,” Rep. Zack Stephenson (DFL-Coon Rapids) said during Tuesday’s initial walkthrough.

[MORE: View the spreadsheet]

Rep. Tim O'Driscoll (R-Sartell) knows the committee is pushing up against Friday’s final committee deadline, but hopes the Legislature would continue to address issues he sees in the bill’s provisions about market conduct and the Commerce Department’s fraud investigation bureau.  

“There are different things we can do to tighten up the language in a few of these things,” he said.

Stephenson agrees.

“I think we’re a good way there, but I’m aware that more work can be done,” he said.

Before the vote, a number of amendments offered by Stephenson were added.

One would put guardrails on the Commerce Fraud Bureau to ensure it spends the bulk of its time on insurance fraud as it expands its jurisdiction into other financial crimes.

All of the bureau’s funding currently comes from assessments on insurance licenses, but the omnibus bill would also have money come from the General Fund. The aim, Stephenson said, is to give the bureau another funding source so it can investigate other financial crimes such as theft by swindle, forgery or identity theft.

“We want the fraud bureau to investigate other white-collar crimes outside of insurance fraud. They’re exceptionally capable, exceptionally good at it.”

Other adopted Stephenson-offered amendments would: 

  • put a limit on statutory penalties that could be assessed on social media companies for each violation of proposed legislation to ban using algorithms to direct content to children;  
  • require the Commerce Department to try to informally resolve market conduct examination violations with methods such as consent orders or a nonpublic letter of reprimand;
  • delete certain provisions about dental insurance so stakeholders can continue working on them;
  • reflect stakeholder compromise language on powers of unit owners’ associations, health benefit proposal evaluations and dental provider contracts;
  • add $400,000 to the auto theft prevention program and exempt human services and health boards from making changes to its licensing procedures this year; and
  • exempt registered scrap dealers from penalties for having catalytic converters. Legislation passed last year puts rigorous controls on how scrap dealers handle catalytic converters, so it makes sense to exempt them from a prohibition on possession, Stephenson said;

The companion, SF3287, is sponsored by Sen. Gary Dahms (R-Redwood Falls) and awaits action by the Senate Finance Committee.

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