Chairing the Veterans Affairs Division this week.
Here is the latest news from Saint Paul.
House File 235 Passes House
On Thursday, a bill I authored and spearheaded passed the House with bipartisan support.
House File 235 does two key things. First, it repeals the Made in Minnesota Solar Incentive Program that is primarily subsidized by Xcel Energy ratepayers. In addition, it also transfers the balance of the Renewable Development Fund which is currently managed in the private bank account of Xcel Energy, to a state account, the Special Revenue Energy Fund to increase transparency and help our state better invest in cleaner, more cost-effective and innovative alternative energy development and production.
Under the current Made in Minnesota Solar Incentive Program, individuals, non-profits and businesses are paid for all the solar energy they produce if they buy and install solar panels from a pre-approved Minnesota solar manufacturer, even if they consume all that energy themselves. The $15 million a year allotted to this program has average Minnesotans subsidizing an extremely expensive program that benefits very few and produces very little energy. In the three years this program has been in operation, the amount of energy produced can be produced in just four hours by the two base load power plants in our community. What’s more, in the most recent year of production (2016), the cost of solar through Made in Minnesota was 13x the market rate for solar. We can do better and produce more solar energy other ways.
House File 235 provides a commonsense change that better serves Minnesotans and makes more prudent clean energy investments. With an amendment added by my Democrat colleague, Rep. Mahoney, putting a cap on how much can be collected from ratepayers into the Special Revenue Energy Fund, it will save ratepayers $7 million in the first year of operation. I hope that Governor Dayton will agree to eliminate this wasteful program and sign the bill into law.
House Passes Energy, Agriculture Bills
In addition to my legislation which passed on Thursday, three other key bills passed on the House Floor last week.
House File 14
On Monday, the House passed legislation to replenish funds for the Rural Finance Authority Loan Program. This public-private partnership with agriculture lenders helps provide low-cost financing to farmers across the state. Whether they’re starting a farm, funding needed repairs or expanding, these low-interest rate loans are helpful to keep a major industry moving in our state. Because the program expired at the end of last year and farmers are already planning for the upcoming planting season, it was imperative we moved this bill through quickly.
House File 113
On Thursday, the House passed a bill that will facilitate the building of a natural-gas fired power plant in Becker, replacing two coal-fired units that are set to shut down. Not only will this bill help reduce emissions, but it will also provide economic and energy stability to the area, as well as keep jobs in central Minnesota.
House File 234
Finally, House File 234 passed on Thursday which clarifies regulations of consumer-owned utilities including rural electric co-ops and municipal electric utilities. This legislation reduces government regulations, makes energy more affordable, and protects Minnesota ratepayers.
Civil Forfeiture Bill
This week, the Civil Law Committee passed my bill, House File 389, which allows co-owners of impounded vehicles to petition the court to have the vehicle returned to them. If someone is arrested for DWI and has their car taken from them, under current law, the co-owner of that car like a spouse or family member does not have legal standing in court, and all parties have lost rights to that vehicle.
My legislation, which has bipartisan support, would allow the second owner to petition the court and plead their case to get their vehicle back. The legal standard remains the same, which is the highest in civil cases, clear and convincing evidence. This gives people a fair chance to get their property returned to them, especially if they did not know it would be used for unlawful behavior.
If you need assistance on an issue pertaining to state government, my office is available to you. You can e-mail at Rep.Marion.ONeill@House.MN or call my office at 651-296-5063. You can also write a letter to me. My office address at the Capitol is 549 State Office Building, 100 Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd, St. Paul, MN 55155.