Greetings from St. Paul, where we are nearing the end of another busy week during the 2022 legislative session. Here is a look at some of the latest items of note from the Capitol:
The emergence of highly pathogenetic avian flu in Meeker County and elsewhere in Minnesota is causing concerns after an outbreak in 2015 resulted in nine million birds in Minnesota either killed by the virus or euthanized to slow its spread.
This is a good time to note poultry remains safe to eat, with proper handling and cooking of poultry and eggs to an internal temperature of 165°F always advised. The Centers for Disease Control also recently announced this strain of avian influenza is a low risk to the public.
The hope is our state is in better position to mitigate an avian flu outbreak this year compared with 2015. The Legislature provided significant resources to help manage an emergency of this sort and the Minnesota Department of Agriculture instituted numerous biosecurity measures geared toward slowing its spread.
We continue to monitor this issue in St. Paul and are working to make sure we minimize the impacts of this outbreak. Also, the Board of Animal Health has set up a website with resources on this matter and I encourage you to visit it to learn more.
Unemployment tax hike unresolved
We are at the end of the first fiscal quarter of the year, which means Minnesota employers are now seeing increases on their unemployment insurance rates hit home after House Democrats stopped preventative legislation from reaching enactment.
This tax increase easily could have been avoided but, for whatever reason, the House majority decided to not act. The House simply needed to approve the same bipartisan bill the Senate already passed more than a month ago by a veto-proof margin. Instead, House Democrats stopped the bill from even coming up for a vote and now a tax increase is unnecessarily taking place at a time the state has a surplus of around $10 billion.
Furthermore, employers could face state and federal penalties if they do not comply with the state’s new unemployment insurance tax rates. Employers are advised to keep an eye on their tax tables to make sure their accounting is in order. Given the potential penalties, it was bad advice for some Democrats to suggest to job providers that they “wait and see” on UI tax relief instead of following their prescribed payment schedule. The last thing we need is for penalties to make this bad situation even worse for people.
House approves reinsurance bill
The House on Thursday approved legislation extending the reinsurance program Republicans established in Minnesota in 2017 to successfully stem a wave of double-digit rate increases for premiums in Minnesota's individual health insurance market.
Our state had the reputation of being a national leader in health insurance but, unfortunately, some of the good services we provided were diminished with the implementation of Obamacare and MNsure. Reinsurance has helped us restore some of what was lost, increasing access to insurance and reducing costs for the people in our state who need it most.
Have a good weekend and please stay in touch.