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Legislative News and Views - Rep. Fue Lee (DFL)

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Legislative Update - February 10, 2017

Friday, February 10, 2017

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Visiting New Horizon Academy

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Constituents visiting as part of the Second Chance Day on the Hill

Town Hall Update

Thanks to everyone who attended the town hall meeting we held this week at the Davis Center. We had excellent conversations and I appreciate hearing directly from you.

Legislative Notes

This week we heard three bills (HF 314, HF 246, and HF 600) in the Government Operations & Elections Policy committee that will impact political redistricting and workers’ rights in Minnesota.

HF 314 and HF 246

Currently, the Minnesota Constitution requires the Legislature to redraw the Congressional District boundaries and the Legislative District boundaries every 10 years after the census. If the legislature cannot come to an agreement, the Court can take it upon themselves to redraw the lines.

Two bills, HF 314 and HF 246, were discussed and will affect how we have redistricting for political districts. Under HF 314, only the state legislature is allowed to redraw the lines. HF 246, which I co-sponsored, will establish a nonpartisan commission of five retired judges to do this task. Under both bills, if the legislature fails to come to come to an agreement, the Court will have the authority to redraw the lines. 

HF 314 was amended to include a provision that states “districts must not be drawn for the purpose of protecting or defeating an incumbent” and was approved by the committee on a voice vote. It moves next to the House State Government Finance Committee.  

HF 246 was laid over for possible inclusion in a future bill.  

You can find the House Public Information Services coverage here

HF 600 (Preemption)

This week we also heard HF 600, the preemption bill, in the Government Operations committee and it was approved on a 10-6 roll-call vote, sending it to the House Ways and Means Committee.  

My DFL colleagues and I unsuccessfully offered 11 amendments that would have allowed certain exceptions for local governments to pass ordinances requiring paid leave in certain situations, such as employees who have been diagnosed with a terminal illness or someone with a sick child.  

In the end, we voted against this bill because it will take away hard-earned benefits of workers in Minneapolis and St. Paul. Additionally, it would prohibit any future efforts in our local communities throughout Minnesota to increase wages, enhance benefits or do anything to improve working conditions or protect worker safety.  

You can find the House Public Information Services coverage here

Energy Votes

Yesterday, the House voted 77-51 to pass HF 113, a bill that will allow Xcel Energy “at its sole discretion” to construct and operate a natural gas plant in Becker (at the Sherco coal facility site).  

HF 113

The core of this bill is about electrical rates – how much Xcel customers pay for their electricity.  

In an unprecedented move, by passing HF 113 the Legislature gives Xcel permission to build a super-sized natural gas plant in Becker, MN and specifically lets Xcel bypass the Public Utilities Commission (PUC), the agency that protects customers.  

Xcel estimates that the plant will cost $800 million and that does not include the cost of a new pipeline or lines. In a previous committee hearing, Xcel would not speculate on the cost of a pipeline or lines, but others have estimated another $200 million or more for the pipeline construction.  

While it is very likely that the PUC would have authorized a natural gas plant in Becker, bypassing the PUC means that we lost out on a potentially smaller plant supplemented by wind generation that is already cheaper.   

I voted against this bill because Xcel recovers the cost of this plant through their electric rates, so the more they spend, the worse it is for customers.  

You can find the House Public Information Services coverage here.