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Legislative News and Views - Rep. Shane Mekeland (R)

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Legislative update

Friday, May 5, 2023

Dear Neighbor,

Many Minnesotans could be in for a rude awakening later this month unless conference committees spare us from the extreme, bloated budget bills Democrats moved through the House in recent weeks.

That might be wishful thinking, with a Democrat trifecta controlling the House, Senate and the governor’s office.

Regardless of where your political allegiances lie, I can’t imagine many people would have entered the 2023 session saying they support increasing state spending by 40 percent and raising taxes by $9.5 billion at a time the state has a historic surplus. I seem to recall people saying they wanted to prioritize tax cuts, safer communities, and quality education for their children.

But that’s not what Democrats who have a trifecta of power in St. Paul are delivering for Minnesotans. The finance packages they sent through the House on preliminary approval result in a partisan spending spree numerous tax hikes. This includes a 75-cent delivery tax on all retail deliveries and prepared food, a massive hike in license tab fees, and even raising fees for fishing, boating, and other outdoors-related activities.

All this spending, yet House Democrats are under-funding nursing homes and fail to fully eliminate the state tax on Social Security. This is interesting because I swear I heard Democrats join Republicans last summer/fall by saying this should be a priority. I guess fingers-crossed legislating is a thing.

The rude awakening isn’t limited to finances. I get the impression many Minnesotans are unaware their First Amendment and Second Amendment rights also may be undermined by Democrats.

One anti-First Amendment measure Democrats are advancing muzzles free speech by creating a hate-incident registry where the state would create a government database of perceived “hate incidents” that fall short of criminal acts. This would basically create a thought-police system where the state gathers data about incidents in a tattle-tale registry regardless of the fact there is no documentation that the event happened. You don’t have to stretch your imagination very far to see what could go wrong.

As for the Second Amendment, I have major concerns over the universal background check and red flag confiscation orders House Democrats are proposing. A red flag law could result in firearms being confiscated from a person but does not address the underlying issues and leaves people in what could be a dangerous domestic situation. Leaving mental-health pamphlets on the kitchen table as you confiscate someone's guns is not a real solution.

These changes are on top of Democrats already enacting into law this session some of the world’s most radical abortion policies, with more in the works.

We’ll see how these and other controversial proposals House Democrats propose play out in the next couple of weeks with this trifecta of power at work. I will continue pushing for common sense and calling out these radical positions that even most everyday Democrats oppose.

In other news:

House Democrats approved legislation Tuesday which will hurt employee wages and damage businesses by establishing a mandatory paid leave program funded by a new tax on employers and workers at a time the state has a $17.5 billion surplus.

This bill is going to impact small businesses and workers at a time record inflation already has their finances going backward. This would make things even worse, hurting employee wages and causing serious problems for employers, the vast majority of whom already are accommodating workers as much as possible to ensure they keep good help on board during this workforce shortage.

The Minnesota Chamber of Commerce reports 80 percent of their members already provide paid family leave, but this bill takes a one-size-fits-all approach. The program (H.F. 2) would cost billions of dollars to get up and running and require as many as 400 new full-time government employees to develop and administrate. It applies to virtually every industry in the state – private employers, nonprofits, cities, counties, and school districts – despite objections. It would be funded with a $2.9 billion tax on employers and employees and expands employers’ leave obligations to part-time and temporary employees.

Unlike the Federal Family and Medical Leave Act, which only applies to employers with 50 or more employees, Mekeland noted this program would apply to all employers including those with only one employee. Employees can stack leave together, allowing for up to 24 weeks of paid time off per year.

I also have huge concerns about the potential for this program to bring even more fraud to our state at a time examples of taxpayers being swindled continue surfacing. This bill had no guardrails whatsoever as it came to the floor. At least House Republicans were successful in amending the bill to ensure fraudulent acts are treated as crime. I would prefer we have mechanisms to prevent fraud from occurring in the first place, but the majority was unwilling to include such provisions.

Meanwhile, Republicans have developed a plan which takes a different approach, providing a small-business tax credit to incentivize employers to join. The key difference is the minority’s plan provides paid family and medical leave benefits for employees without job-crushing mandates and new taxes.

The House Republican proposal provides a small business tax credit to incentivize employers to join the plan. Minnesotans may opt into the program for $5 per week if an employer does not join by using the parameters of the state’s paid leave policy. Also, the House Republican option is backed by an insurance company, so taxpayers will not be expected to cover the costs of program shortfalls or losses.

The House Republican plan was offered as an amendment to the Democrat bill on Tuesday. House Democrats voted down that offering before approving their own bill, sending it to the Senate for action.

Until next time, have a good weekend and please stay in touch. The fishing opener is just around the corner, so enjoy picking up your license now before a Democrat tax increase makes them more expensive.