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Legislative News and Views - Rep. Steve Elkins (DFL)

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End of Year Update

Monday, December 18, 2023

Dear Neighbors,

I hope you had a great fall and are enjoying the holiday season.  

Energy Assistance Program

With the return of the holiday season we also have a return to cold weather. Open now until May 31, 2024, the Energy Assistance Program helps pay energy bills for eligible Minnesotans. This program is free and provides benefits up to $1,400, with additional support to respond to emergencies. Both renters and homeowners can qualify, and eligibility is based on income and household size. This program is federally funded and administered by the Minnesota Department of Commerce. You can access the application here.

Here is an update on a few things you may have missed and some things coming up as we head towards the end of 2023.

New Laws

As a quick recap to a historic session, new laws went into effect on July 1st and August 1st. Another set of laws will go into effect on January 1st as well. These laws will have a lot of positive benefits for our state, and I can't wait to see them work! The nonpartisan office of House Public Information has a summary of the new laws here:

2024 Legislative Activity

I have acquired a reputation for taking on complex legislative initiatives that require extensive research and collaboration and, in 2023, there wasn’t the time to hear these types of bills in committee. However, key committee chairs have indicated to me that three of my big bills will be heard early in the session that begins on February 12th, and I’m spending most of my time right now making sure that these bills are ready to be heard. 

Minnesota Consumer Data Privacy Act (HF2309)

I have been collaborating with state legislators across the country on comprehensive consumer data privacy legislation that would require companies to protect your data and would limit their ability to sell it to advertisers. Bills using the same framework have now passed in a dozen other states, half red and half blue. If you’ve been seeing privacy notices on the web that say “If you live in California, Colorado, … you have these additional rights …” you can expect that Minnesota will soon be added to that list of states. This same bipartisan group of legislators is now turning its attention to Artificial Intelligence. 

Legalizing Affordable Housing Act (HF2235)

As described in this recent report from the Minneapolis Federal Reserve Bank, housing affordability has become a key economic success factor for regions around the country. If you want to attract young workers to your state, there has to be a supply of “starter homes” on the market that are affordable to young couples who are ready to start their families. Last year, we passed historic housing finance legislation; however, it doesn’t matter how much money we appropriate for affordable housing if cities won’t allow it to be built. This regulatory reform bill is a bipartisan effort – my Senate author is still Republican Rich Draheim. If you’d like to better understand this issue, I recommend this interview with Jenny Schuetz on the Ezra Klein show. I just finished reading her book, Fixer Upper, which is incredibly insightful. I’m proud that Bloomington has taken the lead in allowing new affordable housing to be built in our own community.

Electric Vehicle Road User Charges (HF2428)

In many states, legislatures are imposing draconian vehicle registration tax surcharges (upwards of $200) on electric vehicles to (over) compensate for the fact that EV owners don’t pay gas taxes. I’m participating in another multi-state working group convened by the National Conference of State Legislatures on a practical way to collect a fair mileage-based road user charge for EVs that would be equivalent to the gas tax tax paid by equivalent gas-powered cars. Utah and Virginia already have pilot programs. If you have a late model car, the manufacturer is already capturing all manner of data from your car and some of them are selling it (hence the need for a comprehensive data privacy bill – see above). For this program, the EV manufacturer would have to report odometer readings (and only odometer readings) to a private administrator hired by the State to collect the road user fee. 

I’m also working to ensure that EV charging infrastructure is available at reasonable cost in both single-family and multi-family housing. Most current EV owners charge their cars at home at night, both for convenience and because electricity is much cheaper at night. 

Earned Sick and Safe Time Starting Soon

Effective Jan. 1, 2024, Minnesota’s earned sick and safe time law requires employers to provide paid leave to employees who work in the state. This is a fantastic win for workers across the state who will no longer have to choose between a paycheck and recovering from an illness. You can find a full FAQ of this important new law, here.

Flag Redesign Commission

Minnesota is getting a new flag and seal! The commission received 2,123 flag submissions and 398 seal designs in total, but will announce a final design on Tuesday and finalized the new state seal.  If the legislature does not intervene the new emblems will become official on Minnesota Statehood Day on May 11.


Session Priorities Constituent Survey

As we prepare for the upcoming 2024 legislative session, House DFLers want to hear about the issues most important to you.

That’s why I wanted to share with you our Minnesota Values Project Survey, an easy way to share your values, hopes, challenges, and ideas with us on solutions at the legislature. It only takes a few minutes to fill out, and can be found here or using the QR code below.

2023 MVP Survey QR Code

Free COVID Tests

With COVID cases on the rise, here’s a quick reminder that you can now order up to four free rapid-antigen COVID tests through the federal government’s at-home testing program to be delivered directly to your home. These tests are intended to be used by the end of this year. For more information or to place your order, you can visit

Statement on the Israel-Hamas WarMy wife and I traveled to Israel and Palestine in 2019 with a bi-partisan legislative contingent on a trip organized by the Minnesota Jewish Community Relations Council. We traveled from the Golan Heights and the Lebanese border in the north to the Gaza border wall in the south and saw the rocket shelters that are an essential feature of every home in an Israeli border town. We visited a peace memorial at the border wall in the village of Netiv HaAsara on the Gaza border. On October 7th, Hamas militants flew over that wall on paragliders and murdered at least 20 residents of that village.

We also visited East Jerusalem and the town of Ramallah (founded by Christian Arabs) in the West Bank. There, we witnessed how Palestinian economic opportunity was suppressed by the border wall (a response to the violence of the second intifada in the mid-2000s), water rationing, inadequate telecommunications infrastructure (e.g., 3G internet) and restricted movement (due to illegal Israeli West Bank settlements).

Both Israelis and Palestinians have legitimate festering grievances. Being appalled by Hamas’ savagery does not make one Islamophobic. Being opposed to the Netanyahu regime’s West Bank settlement policies does not make one antisemitic. I found this account of an exercise that Robert Reich conducted with his university students helpful in finding my own moral clarity. My views on the subject have also been shaped by the reporting of Minnesota native Thomas Friedman, who has been covering the region for decades. Ezra Klein’s fascinating interview series with observers bringing a variety of perspectives on the conflict is highly illuminating, as well.

I have come to believe that both Jews and Palestinians are indigenous to the region. I fundamentally believe that both peoples have the right to live safely and with dignity behind secure and internationally recognized borders and that they each possess that right regardless of the other party’s willingness to recognize it. I do not believe that there will be peace in the region until both peoples are willing to grant each other that respect. I do not believe that either the atrocities committed by Hamas on October 7th or the indiscriminate bombardment of Gaza in response to those atrocities are going to bring the parties closer to agreement on this principle. To the contrary, each new cycle of violence reinforces the grief, resentments and hatred felt on both sides of their shared borders. A fair and lasting resolution recedes further into the distance with each incremental rocket and bomb.

Keep in Touch

Don’t hesitate to reach out if I can provide any assistance. Please follow me on my Facebook page for further updates and invite your friends and family to do so as well. 

Thanks for the honor of representing you at the Capitol. 


Steve Elkins
Representative, District 50B
Minnesota House of Representatives