SAINT PAUL, Minn. – Today, the Minnesota House of Representatives passed the Commerce and Energy budget on a vote of 70 - 60. The compromise bill aims to address the climate crisis and protect Minnesota consumers from those who seek to take advantage of them. It invests in several clean energy initiatives that will reduce Minnesota’s greenhouse gas emissions and create well-paying jobs, ensures Minnesotans who are disproportionately impacted by climate change benefit from the transition to clean energy, tackles catalytic converter theft, and establishes a Student Loan Borrower Bill of Rights to protect students from predatory lending practices.
“As one of the fastest warming states in the country, Minnesota is experiencing impacts to our health, our farms, and our way of life right now,” said Rep. Jamie Long (DFL - Minneapolis), chair of the House Climate and Energy Finance and Policy Committee. “We must rapidly transition to clean energy, and this bill takes important steps to deploy clean energy, promote energy efficiency, and support workers and communities throughout this transition. These initiatives will create well-paying jobs, help those most impacted by climate change, and lower energy costs.”
The Climate and Energy portion of the budget invests in several clean energy initiatives, using a combination of General Fund resources and $103 million from the Renewable Development Account. It delivers $16 million to install solar energy systems on school buildings and $4.8 million to help state colleges and universities install solar panels on their campuses. These investments will save school districts and colleges money while creating educational opportunities for students. In addition, the bill provides $5.5 million to expand a solar manufacturing plant in Mountain Iron, which would make it the second largest in the nation. It also funds research that may help Minnesota mitigate the impacts of climate change and creates an advisory committee to develop a statewide energy transition plan.
“Our Commerce & Energy budget takes strong steps to protect Minnesota consumers and student loan borrowers, and grow our clean energy economy,” said House Speaker Melissa Hortman. “I am grateful to the members who worked on this bipartisan compromise. It’s clear, however, that we have more work to do to ensure Minnesotans have a clean energy future and a healthy climate.”
Transitioning to clean energy will create well-paying jobs and new industries in Minnesota. House DFLers are committed to ensuring that people and communities who are disproportionately impacted by climate change can access these opportunities. The budget invests $2.5 million in a pilot project in North Minneapolis that helps young people obtain the skills and training to pursue careers in clean energy. It also creates an Energy Transition Office within the Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED) to support workers and communities impacted by the transition to clean energy.
The Climate and Energy budget invests in energy efficiency and system improvements that will reduce greenhouse gas emissions, lower costs, and pave the way for clean energy. It establishes a revolving loan fund that state agencies can use to install energy conservation tools on state-owned buildings, allows natural gas utilities to pursue innovative methods for reducing emissions, and creates a program that brings businesses and utilities together to prepare for and accelerate the adoption of emerging energy efficiency technology.
“Our state is changing, growing and in need of increased protections for consumers, students utilizing loan services, and folks experiencing the effects of increased catalytic converter theft,” said Rep. Zack Stephenson (DFL - Coon Rapids), chair of the House Commerce Finance and Policy Committee. “Predatory practices in the marketplace are not welcome in Minnesota, and this bill is our promise to implement preventative measures for a fairer, and safer Minnesota.”
The Commerce portion of the budget tackles several initiatives to respond to the massive increase in catalytic converter thefts, protects students from predatory student loan lending practices, and expands economic education and legislative engagement accessibility for Minnesotans. The Student Loan Borrower Bill of Rights provision stipulates that to be a student loan servicer, a person must apply for a license to the Minnesota Department of Commerce, and prohibits activities such as misrepresentation or deceptive marketing practices, providing inaccurate information, or misapplying a loan payment. Our students deserve to pursue academics without the harm of predatory practices by student loan servicers.
“The transition to a clean energy economy is underway and it will accelerate whether the CEOs for Big Coal and Big Oil like it or not,” said Majority Leader Winkler. “Democrats will continue fighting to ensure workers, families, and those most impacted by climate change get to reap the economic benefits – not the rich and well-connected people who put us in this position.”
The preventative measures included in the budget in response to raising catalytic converter thefts in Minnesota increases reporting requirements for scrap metal dealers when purchasing a catalytic converter. The provision gives law enforcement, scrap metal dealers, and consumers ways to deter thefts by adding identification numbers and unique markers to make it harder to sell stolen parts. Minnesotans have asked for preventative action like this to protect their assets, not just bigger criminal penalties. The Minnesota Department of Commerce is also directed to create a pilot project to identify the vehicles most likely to be targeted by a theft and establish a process to label those catalytic converters with unique identification numbers using labels, engravings, pain or other methods.
Some of the smaller provisions of the Commerce portion include expanding economic education for K-12 teachers to access advanced professional development programs and expand understanding of economic education in Minnesota, as well as initiatives to increase and fund closed captioning of legislative coverage to ensure that all Minnesotans have access to transparent information regardless of any disability limiting their access. The final budget also includes clarifying language around existing law for statutory bans on toxic chemicals in children’s products (specifically BPA and formaldehyde), as well as clarification on the safe crib statute.
The bill language is available here, and a spreadsheet of the included investments can be found here. Video of today’s floor session will be available on House Public Information Services’ YouTube channel.