Hello from St. Paul,
While we’re still waiting on a full budget proposal from House Democrats, a number of other bills have been spotlighted. Here are the highlights.
FLOOD RELIEF APPROVED IN HOUSE
On Thursday, the Minnesota House approved legislation that would transfer $10 million into Minnesota’s disaster contingency account. This account is used to help pay for the state’s portion of disaster relief – think clean-up and repairing infrastructure - after the governor calls a state of emergency. The fund currently sits empty following two major flood events last year in Brainerd and Duluth.
Since we are seeing major flooding projections in nearly every corner of the state, it’s good that the state is making preparations to have needed funding in place.
ADDRESSING THE OPIOID ADDICTION EPIDEMIC
A bill that deals with opioid addiction was approved by the Minnesota House. The bill establishes new registration fees for opioid wholesalers and manufacturers which will total $20 million based on the percentage of opioid units for which each manufacturer and wholesaler is responsible. $12 million is paid by manufacturers, and $8 million is paid by wholesalers. From there, the money would address the opioid epidemic through programs focused on prevention and education as well as intervention, treatment, and recovery.
HANDS FREE CELL PHONE USE BILL APPROVED IN MINNESOTA HOUSE
With strong bipartisan support, the Minnesota House approved legislation that would require hands-free cell phone use for drivers, which I believe is necessary in order to reduce the number of accidents that occur due to drivers who pay more attention to their cell phones than the road.
The bill would allow voice activated cell phone use only, along with one-touch or headsets, which will hopefully keep more drivers’ eyes on the road rather than checking out their cell phone. The legislation now heads to the Minnesota Senate for further debate.
This week, my bill (House File 104) that would increase penalties on someone who injured or killed someone while illegally using a cell phone while driving was heard in the Minnesota House Transportation Finance Division. I was joined by Tom and Wendy Goeltz, whose daughter
Megan died in 2016 when another driver veered off Highway 95 near Stillwater and hit her.
My bill focuses on holding drivers accountable and providing penalties for drivers who are risking lives by their actions. It includes an exemption for using devices with a hands-free setting, and pertains only to accidents that result in bodily harm or death.
KARE 11 did a story about this bill hearing, you can watch it here.
The House pensions committee held over my bill, House File 549, to include in a comprehensive pension proposal that will be unveiled late this year. The bill allows veterans to buy back up to 5 years of military service if they are working in a job that falls under PERA, such as a firefighter or law enforcement officer.
This week the House taxes committee heard my bill, House File 294, which exempts lawful gambling equipment and items purchased as prizes for charitable gambling from sales tax. It was held over for possible inclusion in a larger taxes bill that will be unveiled in the coming weeks.
House File 1657, which is my bill that would bring more reliable broadband service to the Scandia area, was heard in the House government operations committee.
Speaking of Scandia, my proposal that addresses the creation of the Gateway Trail from William O'Brien State Park to Scandia was also heard in the environment and natural resources committee. City Administrator Neil Soltis testified in favor of my bill.
This week the House Veterans committee approved my bill that would designate June 30 as American Allies Day to honor foreign-born persons who fought in conflicts around the world along with U.S. Armed Forces.
VETERANS DAY ON THE HILL
Wednesday was “Veterans Day on the Hill,” where vets from around the state visited the State Capitol, I had the privilege of speaking to hundreds of them in the Capitol rotunda.
Have a good weekend,