Last week saw the passage of three energy bills that will help keep energy stable and affordable in Minnesota. These proposals are detailed below, as are a few other items from this past week.
Energy Security and Affordability.
The first bill passed during session last Thursday, HF113, allow Xcel Energy to move forward with their plan to build a natural gas-fired plant at the existing coal-fired Sherco Power Plant site in Becker,
Minnesota. Sherco is the largest power plant in the Midwest, and has the ability to power 50% of our state. Replacing the two retiring coal-fired units at Sherco will help our state meet federal clean energy standards, while providing reliable baseload power to our state that cannot be supplied by other clean energy sources like wind and solar. This is the most cost-effective option to keep energy reliable and stable in our state.
The second bill, HF234, cuts red tape for energy cooperatives in regards to net metering disputes. Because stakeholders in energy cooperatives are also their consumers, there isn’t a stakeholder/consumer conflict of interest in resolving these disputes, and there is no need for the Public Utilities Commission to broker these interactions. This bill preserves the right for energy co-op consumers to manage themselves.
The final bill that passed the House floor last Thursday was HF235, a bill that frees up funds from the Made in Minnesota Solar Project and allows for investment in other cost-effective clean energy sources. The Made in Minnesota project incentivizes companies and individuals to buy solar panels from a short list of Minnesota companies, some of them charging up to 32 times the market price for these panels. This incentive is available to businesses and individuals even if they use all the energy they produce themselves. What’s more, the $15 million per year allocated to this program is paid by Xcel Energy rate payers, meaning that average Minnesotans are helping a select few buy expensive solar panels to provide themselves with energy. By disbanding the Made in Minnesota program, this $15 million can be used for reliable, clean energy sources that benefit the rest of our state.
Medal of Honor Memorial
In the last week, Veterans Affairs held a hearing on HF755, my bill that provides money for the construction of a Medal of Honor recipient memorial at the Capitol. We passed the bill through Veterans Affairs without difficulty, and the next stop for this legislation is the House floor for a final vote, likely in an omnibus bill.
Charitable Gambling Tax Deduction
My bill, HF226, would allow charitable organizations such as VFWs, American Legions and Lions Clubs that make revenue from gambling, like pull tabs, to just pay tax on the revenue that they actually keep as an organization when the rest is donated to charity.
In other words, if a VFW takes in $1,000 from pull tabs and they want to donate $800 to their local youth baseball team, they will only have to pay taxes on the remaining $200. Currently, the entire $1,000 in this example would be taxable, regardless of whether a portion was donated to a charitable cause or not.
This bill received its final committee hearing in the House Taxes Committee yesterday, and now is awaiting inclusion in an omnibus bill.
MCCL Legislative Dinner
This Wednesday I had the honor of attending the Minnesota Citizens Concerned for Life Annual Legislative Dinner. I support MCCL and the work that they do in safeguarding the rights of the unborn. I look forward to working with them towards this goal for as long as I am in elected office.
Recently, I’ve had several people individuals contact me about two bills going through the House regarding protesting. I want to reassure everyone that these bills do NOT make anything illegal that is not already illegal in existing state law. There are already laws regarding unlawful assembly and public nuisance in Minnesota that apply to individuals who break these laws while protesting and not while protesting. It is illegal to block a highway whether you are protesting or not.
One of the bills in questions simply allows municipalities to sue for the cost they have incurred from a defendant while they were breaking the law IF this person is convicted under these existing laws. The second bill simply raises the penalty for obstructing a highway, again, only if someone is convicted. That is all.
I am disappointed that many news outlets in our state has been very misleading in regards to these bills.
Freedom of speech and assembly are protected under the United States Constitution, and they are imperative to the functioning of our democracy. By the same token, if someone breaks the laws of our land, they should be prepared for the consequences of their actions.
State High School Wrestling Tournaments
In the next couple of weekends I will be refereeing the Division 7AA and State High School League wrestling tournaments. I’m honored to have the opportunity to participate once again this year in the State Tournament as I have in years past, and look forward to seeing many of you there!
As always, thank you for the honor of being your representative. Please don’t hesitate to contact me with any questions or concerns you may have.