Last Tuesday, the House took up the omnibus energy bill. This legislation requires a 40% renewable energy standard by 2030 for investor-owned utility companies (Xcel Energy, Minnesota Power, Otter Tail Power, Alliant) including a 4% solar mandate with a goal of a 10% solar mandate. What does this mean for you? Skyrocketing electric bills! Imposing such dramatic renewable energy standards will make energy more costly and less reliable and ignores the inefficient and expensive nature of the energy sources being mandated. This bill is so bad that the Iron Range was given a special exemption from its impact. It’s a shame the entire state didn’t receive the same sort of carve-out. Because of the increased energy costs this bill will impose on hard-workings Minnesotans, I voted no. Unfortunately, it passed the House. I’m eager to see what it looks like after conference committee.
The House also debated the “bullying bill” last week. In short, this legislation is a $50 million per biennium unfunded mandate on our schools and creates a “School Climate Center” to oversee compliance with statewide bullying policies. I fully agree that no student should be bullied for any reason, and that school should be a place where students should feel safe and comfortable to learn without fear of intimidation or harassment. But when bullying does occur, it’s best handled by school administrators and teachers on site – not legislators in St. Paul. A one-size-fits-all solution is the wrong way to address bullying. Furthermore, the schools in our district told me they didn’t want this mandate and that they’re best equipped to addressing bullying. I agree with them and voted against the “bullying bill” on final passage.
Much of the attention on the House last week related to the bill to change the definition of marriage. There’s no question that this is an emotional issue for many. I believe good people can fall on different sides of this debate. Ultimately, after hearing from constituents and taking the time to think about the issue on a personal level, I voted against redefining marriage. I appreciate the work that Representative David FitzSimmons (R-Albertville) did to successfully amend the bill to protect churches and religious groups from being forced to perform gay marriage ceremonies. Our First Amendment rights to freedom of religion are very important to me. While this legislation is on track to become law, I appreciate that our churches will be protected from legal action for declining to officiate or recognize marriages between same-sex couples.
This is our last full week of session at the Capitol – barring a special session – as we are likely to debate the conference committee reports of several omnibus bills. We’re expecting some late nights and early mornings before the May 20 legislative session deadline.
As the legislative session comes to a close, I remain interested in your feedback. Please feel free to contact me by e-mail at Rep.Marion.ONeill@House.MN or contact my office at 651-296-5063. You can also send me mail to my office address: 229 State Office Building, 100 Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., St. Paul, MN 55155. Please feel free to share this e-mail with your family, friends, and neighbors so they can sign up and stay in touch.