My first two weeks at the Capitol have been very exciting and productive. I want to thank you all again for electing me to serve you in St. Paul. It has been a great honor thus far. This week was the first time I had been in the Capitol since high school. The restoration and renovations look amazing; I highly recommend taking a tour of it, or at the very least, come and wander around to take in the incredible craftsmanship. If you are interested in a tour, visit: http://www.mnhs.org/capitol/activities/tours.
Health Insurance Reform & Premium Relief
The 2017 legislative session started at an extremely fast pace. On day 2, House Files 1 and 2 were taken up for consideration on the floor. House File 1, The 2017 Healthcare Emergency Aid and Access bill, was attempted to be taken up on a declaration of urgency. The House of Representatives took a vote to suspend the rules. The vote was 75-55, unfortunately, 90 votes are needed to suspend the rules. I am proud to say that I was one of the 75 to vote in favor of it.
House File 1 consists of three main provisions: providing $300 million of premium relief for those Minnesotans who qualify on the individual market; ensuring continued access to doctors; and making individual market reforms, such as ending surprise billing, conforming with federal law to allow small businesses to offer a direct contribution toward health insurance premiums, increasing transparency by having rates become public 10 days after initial filing, and increasing options by allowing for-profit health maintenance organizations (HMO) to enter the individual market. The $300 million of health insurance premium relief would come from the budget reserves, providing a 25% rate reduction for the first three months of the year, as well as an option for a 120 day extension for continuity of care for critical cases. As the bill is written now, those who qualify must have purchased their plan on the individual market, within 300%-800% of the federal poverty line, and not currently receiving a health insurance subsidy.
I am in favor of this plan over the Governor’s plan for multiple reasons; most importantly because the House’s plan provides the relief directly to you: the health insurance consumer. I also favor this plan because it begins to offer substantial and long-term reforms towards fixing the health insurance market. I look forward to continuing to advocate for House File 1 and other reforms this session during my time on the Health and Human Services Finance Committee. House File 1 began going through the committee process this week and I am optimistic that it will pass the House when it reaches the floor again for a vote. However, once the bill is in conference committee with the Senate, some provisions and details in the bill may change. Health insurance was the most talked about issue when I visited our community door-to-door this past summer and fall, and we (the state legislature and government) have an obligation to improve the insurance market by supporting premium relief that helps make insurance more affordable and long-term reforms to fix it going forward.
Tax Relief & Federal Tax Conformity
The House was successful in declaring an urgency and suspending the rules to take up House File 2, which passed 130-0. House File 2 conforms Minnesota tax code to federal tax code. The financial result of this bill is $21.7 million in tax relief for 220,000 Minnesota tax filers. Some key aspects of the bill include: deductions for higher education expenses and deductions for teacher classroom expenses up to $250. The bill also provides for an itemized deduction for mortgage insurance premiums and it eliminates the need for two sets of equipment depreciation schedules. The Senate passed this bill Thursday and the Governor signed it Friday. It was extremely important to get this bill passed in the first few days of session to avoid any complications for Minnesotans filing their 2016 taxes this year. I know many in our community are not feeling the same surplus in their bank account as the state is experiencing, this is why I and my Republican colleagues will be supporting greater middle class and property tax relief later in session.
Here are some pictures from the first day of Session:
I want to thank you again for giving me the opportunity to serve our community’s interests at the Capitol. I will serve you with honor. If you ever have any questions, comments, or concerns regarding anything related to state government, please do not hesitate to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or 651-296-8635.