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Package of proposed consumer protections heads to House Floor

The House Commerce Finance and Policy Committee discusses amendments to HF4077, the committee’s policy bill March 22, sponsored by Rep. Zack Stephenson who chairs the panel. (Photo by Michele Jokinen)
The House Commerce Finance and Policy Committee discusses amendments to HF4077, the committee’s policy bill March 22, sponsored by Rep. Zack Stephenson who chairs the panel. (Photo by Michele Jokinen)

The Department of Commerce oversees more than 40 industry areas in Minnesota and licenses more than 250,000 professionals and businesses to ensure their services and products are fair, accessible and comply with state laws.

That breadth was on display Friday as the House Commerce Finance and Policy Committee approved its policy bill.

House commerce panel approves HF4077 3/22/24

Much of the bill would beef up consumer protection laws, but other provisions propose changes to insurance laws, financial regulations, and telecommunications regulations.

Sponsored by Rep. Zack Stephenson (DFL-Coon Rapids), the committee chair, HF4077, as replaced by a delete-all amendment, was supported on a split-voice vote and sent to the House Floor.

Notable consumer protection provisions in the bill would:

  • prohibit the deceptive trade practice of advertising, displaying, or offering goods or services without including all mandatory fees;
  • require retailers selling aerosol dusters containing difluoroethane to keep them behind the counter; limit sales to purchasers who prove they are at least 21 years old; and sell no more than three cans in a single transaction;
  • protect individual ticket buyers by prohibiting ticket sellers, bulk ticket buyers and resellers from using speculative pricing and deceptive advertising; and
  • require a social media platform to allow users to indicate what content they do or do not want and requiring a platform’s algorithm to abide by those preferences.

Notable insurance and financial provisions in the bill would:

  • prohibit a health plan from excluding coverage for medically necessary gender-affirming care;
  • require financial institutions to develop, implement, and maintain an information security program to protect customer data; and
  • expand the scope of laws prohibiting coerced debt.

Telecommunications policy

Although consumer protections make up much of the committee policy bill, a telecommunications provision in it took center stage in committee discussions.

The bill would allow local governments to negotiate franchise fee agreements for broadband providers’ use of the public right-of-way.

Proponents call the provision the “Equal Access to Broadband Act” and said franchising is a proven way for cities to raise revenue that would ensure equitable and complete delivery of broadband lines.

Republicans opposed the provision, saying broadband service providers would pass along the fees they are charged to consumers, which amounts to a hidden tax levied without voter input.

An amendment unsuccessfully offered by Rep. Harry Niska (R-Ramsey) would have let city residents decide, through a ballot referendum, whether their city should have franchise agreements with broadband service providers.

What’s in the bill?

The following are selected bills have been incorporated in part or in whole into the commerce policy bill:

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