The 2018 legislative session began on Tuesday and I am looking forward to another year representing you and your family in St. Paul. I remain committed to advocating for common sense solutions to the issues facing Minnesota.
This year’s legislative session started later than usual because the state’s two-year budget was debated and enacted last year. Due to this, lawmakers generally focus much of their attention during even-numbered years on policy focused initiatives. This year will be different.
Here’s a brief summary of some of the “top-line” items I am expecting to be debated this year.
- Federal Tax Conformity—when federal tax reform was signed into law by President Trump last year, millions of Americans began to see more take home pay in their paychecks. The federal reform also has impacts on Minnesota’s budget. Because of this, the state will have to decide whether we should conform to the new federal tax code or not. If we don’t conform, filing state income taxes will be much more complex and costly for individuals and businesses. I expect some type of conformity to take place, however we need to be cautious in how we go about this. Ultimately my goal is to ensure that Minnesotans see the full benefits of federal tax reform.
- Bonding Bill—even numbered years are historically “bonding” years at the Capitol. However, as you recall, the legislature passed a $987 million bonding bill last session. Nevertheless, I anticipate a bill to be debated once again this year as Governor Dayton has already proposed a $1.5 billion package. Clearly, such a massive package will not be supported by the vast majority of my colleagues in the House. If a bill is approved this year, it will be much smaller and heavily focused on infrastructure and transportation.
- MNLARS Fix—there will certainly be legislation to address the MNLARS debacle that is affecting deputy registrars and DMVs across the state. Taxpayers have already paid over $100 million to build this broken system. Now the Governor wants an additional $43 million to “fix” the program with no guarantees that it will work. I am hopeful that we will dig into the issues surrounding this system and implement some much needed reforms to ensure that it is working.
- Elder Abuse—Last year, the Star Tribune released a report detailing abuse and neglect at a number of nursing homes around the state. The report also went on to say that a number of these incidences were reported to the Department of Health and not followed up on. I will be pushing hard this session for legislation and reforms to ensure our aging loved ones are taken care of with the respect they deserve.
- Opioids—in 2016, more than 400 Minnesotans died from opioid overdoses. These numbers are so staggering that they actually rival the number of Minnesotans that died in car accidents. Clearly, something needs to be done to address this epidemic sweeping across the state and I am hopeful that we will pass legislation this year that will combat this alarming public health emergency.
Staying in Touch
I was visited this week by students from Minnesota State Community and Technical College in Wadena as part of the student group LeadMN. It was great to meet with you!
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