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Legislative News and Views - Rep. Joe McDonald (R)

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Legislative update

Friday, April 28, 2023

I took this photo on my way to the House Chamber last Tuesday. It’s easy to forget with all the hard work we have inside to remember how beautiful this Capitol building is both outside and in.


Another busy week of omnibus finance bills is coming to a close as we make our way through votes on budget packages assembled by the House majority.

Here is a look at some notable developments:

House bill shorts nursing homes

House Democrats approved a bill this week which ignores a long-term care crisis in Minnesota by severely underfunding this portion of the state budget.

I have strong concerns over the House Human Services Finance omnibus package (S.F. 2934) for its lack of funding for nursing homes, which came to the floor accounting for just .01 percent of the Democrats’ $72 billion budget proposal that consumes the state’s $19 billion surplus and increases state General Fund spending by 40 percent.

It is irresponsible for this bill to not include sufficient funding for our nursing homes that so badly need support in order to simply keep their doors open. Price increases and a worker shortage already have put this industry in a bind; the challenges are only going to grow if we don’t address this issue. This bill fails to provide adequate support, which leaves me very concerned.

This bill will now move on to a conference committee that will work on preparing it for final passage. Time will tell whether more funding for long-term care is added so that residents and workers alike receive the support they need. I will continue advocating for that to happen.

Tax bill lacks full Social Security cut

In addition to spending the $19 billion surplus and increasing state spending by 40 percent, the overall budget proposed by House Democrats also raises taxes by $9.5 billion. The omnibus tax bill (H.F. 1938) itself – which Democrats approved this week – includes $2.2 billion in new taxes. The bill establishes a new 5th tier tax bracket at just 10.85 percent. This would make Minnesota the state with the highest tax rate in the country – above even California.

Disappointingly, the bill does not provide a full repeal of the state’s Social Security tax. Minnesota is one of just 11 states that still taxes Social Security. A full repeal would give nearly half a million Minnesotans an average of $1276 in relief. Seniors are taxed on their Social Security income starting at just $25,000 of their federal combined income – so Democrat claims that just wealthy retirees are still being taxed is just plain wrong.

Also, House Republicans continue working to eliminate a provision in this bill that would end electronic pull tabs as we know them, dealing a severe blow to local charity organizations/non-profits.

Public safety bill

House majority Democrats this week also passed a public safety bill (S.F. 2909) that is cause for concern a variety of ways. It not only fails to crack down on violent crime but also undermines our constitutional rights under both the First Amendment and Second Amendment.

Public safety is our government’s top responsibility, yet this bill puts felons back on the streets by allowing criminals to serve a significantly reduced prison sentence or probation if they complete Department of Corrections programming. This includes those convicted of violent crimes including manslaughter, rape, kidnapping, assault, or domestic assault. Limiting prison time for violent criminals puts Minnesotans at risk. It appears we are not learning from our recent – and ongoing – history of soaring violent crime, which could leave us doomed to continue repeating it.

As for constitutional rights, a measure in the bill creates a bad-speech registry where the state would compile a government database of perceived “hate incidents” that fall short of criminal acts. To be clear, we’re not talking about “hate crimes” because those already are tracked. It’s an affront to our First Amendment rights.

The bill also features anti-Second Amendment language from two controversial gun control bills: H.F. 14 (universal gun registration) and H.F. 15 (red flag). I support our law enforcement officers’ concerns about provisions that are unworkable and unrealistic to enforce on the streets.

Instead of addressing the root causes of violent crime, this bill will create strict and impractical hurdles for law-abiding Minnesotans seeking to exercise their Second Amendment rights. Criminals looking to acquire firearms will not follow the complex new process laid out in the proposal and it will do nothing to stop the flow of firearms among criminals.

Our efforts should be focused on enforcing the numerous laws we already have governing firearm transfers before the Legislature creates new ones that will harm law-abiding citizens and are unlikely to deter those with bad intentions.

Huge support for veterans bill

A major bright spot at the Capitol during this omnibus bill season is broad, bipartisan passage of a veterans and military affairs finance package. This is an example of good work that can be done when there’s a willingness to put partisanship aside and do what’s right.

The bill (H.F. 1937) funds state’s National Guard members and veterans after their service to our state and nation concludes, with omnibus appropriations for the state’s next two-year budget cycle. It passed the House on a 131-0 vote.

Overall, the bill provides $367.7 million for programs to help veterans over the 2024-25 biennium, a $167 million (52%) increase. Operational funding for three new veterans homes constructed in our state is provided.

Thank you to our veterans for all you do!

A closing note

I want to acknowledge this newsletter comes with a tone that is more negative than I prefer. That said, there is no other honest way to characterize these bills. This newsletter does not come from a place of partisan gamesmanship, it is from a sincere concern for our state’s future given the extreme, hyper-partisan nature of this legislative session.

I’ve been in the Legislature long enough to know that sometimes we engage in partisan bickering for sport. But this session feels different, with the majority treating its razor-thin margin as a sweeping mandate. This is not what Minnesotans asked for and many are in for a shock when the session ends, and they realize what potentially irreversible damage has been inflicted upon people in our state.



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