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Lawmakers strike deal on commerce policy, consumer protection package

Sen. Matt Klein and Rep. Zack Stephenson share a laugh before convening the commerce conference committee May 8. (Photo by Michele Jokinen)
Sen. Matt Klein and Rep. Zack Stephenson share a laugh before convening the commerce conference committee May 8. (Photo by Michele Jokinen)

Legislation that would beef up a host of consumer protection laws will head back to both bodies for their consideration and possible passage now that a conference committee worked out the differences on their respective commerce policy bills Wednesday.

The committee agreed on a package containing provisions ranging from enhancing protections against coerced debt, to establishing “net neutrality” rules, to restricting the sale of “duster” aerosol cans.

Conference Committee on S.F. 4097 - Omnibus Commerce policy provisions - 05/08/24 (Video courtesy Minnesota Senate Media Services)

The conference committee report on HF4077/SF4097* now goes back to each body, where — if it’s passed as expected — it would go to the governor.

With co-chair Sen. Matt Klein (DFL-Mendota Heights) acting as emcee, co-chair Rep. Zack Stephenson (DFL-Coon Rapids) offered up motion after motion, guided by a side-by-side tracking sheet, to merge portions of HF4077, passed by the House April 15, and SF4097 passed by the Senate April 4.

After adopting more than a dozen, mostly technical amendments offered by Stephenson, the committee adopted the conference report, including the following provisions.

From the House

Noteworthy provisions from the House included in the report would:

  • prohibit a health plan that covers physical or mental health services from excluding coverage for gender-affirming care;
  • allow a religious organization to not cover some or all benefits for contraceptives or gender-affirming care if the organization has religious objections;
  • establish “net neutrality” rules, such as prohibiting internet service providers from impairing or degrading traffic based on content;
  • specify strict conditions on who can possess a used catalytic converter; and
  • prohibit retailers from displaying a price that does not include all mandatory fees.

From the Senate

Noteworthy provisions from the Senate included in the report would:

  • enhance the rights of students taking out student loans;
  • prohibit the sale and possession of a phone case that reasonably appears to be a firearm;
  • tighten regulations governing the bail bonds industry, including prohibiting soliciting bail bonds on the grounds of a prison or jail; and
  • strengthening the disclosure rules for sellers of subscription services and how consumers can unsubscribe from those services.

From both bodies

Noteworthy provisions from both the House and Senate would:

  • limit the sale of aerosol “dusters’ containing difluoroethane;
  • strengthen restrictions on forced debt, such as making a violator civilly liable for the amount of an unlawful loan;
  • require financial institutions to develop, implement, and maintain information security programs to protect customer data; and
  • provide consumer protections for users of cryptocurrency or virtual currency ATMs.

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