A closer look at the Minn. Legislature’s first bills

MPR’s Brian Bakst reports a bill addressing rising premiums for health insurance posted on the open market is on the fast track to passage. A DFL version of a relief bill has also been filed.

It’s House File No. 1 in the first slew of the hundreds — thousands — of bills that will be filed in the two-year session of the Minnesota Legislature. The first bill is intended to be declaration of priorities for the majority.

But there were 80 bills filed today. Here are some of the other more interesting ones:

STUDENT LOAN RELIEF
HF8 provides a tax credit of up to $2,000 for student loan payments. The credit represents one half of the loan payments in excess of 10 percent of adjusted gross income. If the amount of the credit exceeds the income tax owed, the student would get the remainder of the credit back from the state.

A TAX BREAK FOR SOCIAL SECURITY
Only six states apply a tax to Social Security. Minnesota is one of them although there is no income tax for the first $32,000 of benefits for a married couple or $25,000 for a single filer.

HF9 would allow 20 percent of Social Security income to be deducted from federal taxable income (the figure on which Minnesota state income taxes are based) starting next year. That would increase 20 percent each year until 100% of Social Security income is non taxable in Minnesota.

A BREAK FOR DISABLED VETS
HF17 would exempt disabled veterans from paying auto registration fees and taxes.

RELIGION IN SCHOOL
HF23, called the Religious Liberties Act of 2017, would protect student expression of religion in homework, artwork, class assignments. It also would allow students at public forums, such as graduations, to speak on religious beliefs as long as there is a disclaimer that the speech does not constitute an endorsement from a school district.

DRUG TESTING FOR PUBLIC ASSISTANCE
HF28 would ban anyone with two or more DWI convictions within five years from receiving public assistance benefits. It also requires drug testing for benefit applicants “who the department has reasonable suspicion to believe, based on screening, engages in illegal use of a controlled substance.”

SUNDAY SALES
HF30 would allow Sunday sales of liquor in Minnesota, an issue which has been derailed over the years by representatives of the beverage industry.

THE BATHROOM/LOCKER ROOM
HF41 revisits a 2016 debate over accomodations provided to transgender students. It would require public school restrooms, locker rooms, changing rooms, and shower rooms to be used only by students of the male sex only or by students of the female sex only. Gender is defined by their “physical condition” at birth.

END OF THE ELECTORAL COLLEGE
HF42, which seems to be somewhat bipartian, would include Minnesota in the number of states holding popular votes in presidential elections. It’s part of the National Popular Vote movement, already passed in 11 states with a total of 165 electoral votes, that would allow for a popular vote election once the number of states approving of such legislation reaches 271 electoral votes.

CEO PAY
HF65 imposes a 10 percent tax on corporations if the ratio of CEO pay to median worker pay is at least 100:1 but less than 250:1. It imposes a 25 percent surcharge if the ratio exceeds 250:1.

  • Gary F

    Now that Phyllis is gone, no more 16 year old right to vote bills!

    • There are another 1,920 bills coming (at least).

      • wjc

        How inspiring!

        • Gary F

          More reason to only let them show up once every two years and start docking their pay if they go beyond the deadline.

          • Kassie

            I think for this year we should have a pool for the last day of session and/or how long the shutdown will be in July. I’d put money on a four week shutdown, last day the legislature meets is July 31 (to end the shutdown), with State staff returning to work on August 1.

          • CHS

            I’d laugh and think this was a great idea, except I think you’re far too likely to be right, and if I remember correctly this hits a little too close to home for you and your household.

            I actually am pessimistically optimistic that there won’t be any shutdown this year. So I guess I’m taking the under on your pool.

          • Kassie

            I stood in front of a 110 State Employee today (and members of my union local) and told them a) there may be a shutdown b) there may be layoffs c) we likely aren’t getting wage increases for the next two years and d) the paid parental leave we worked for will likely be gone very soon. Hope for the best, prepare for the worst. I was caught completely off guard by the last shutdown, so I will be prepared for this one if it happens.

          • jon

            So much got done around my house during the last shutdown.

            Every garden bed weeded, everything clean, marvelous dinners cooked every night, the storage areas all neatly organized (I of course couldn’t find a thing.)

            Of course my wife doesn’t work for the state any more so I wouldn’t get to see a repeat of this because of another shutdown…

          • crystals

            I was at a meeting last night at a state agency where they talked about the need to be prepared for the possibility of a shutdown this summer. It was a jolting moment.

          • Kassie

            Starting to add it to my project risks for anything going past 7/1/17…

          • Robert Moffitt

            I have seen the way North Dakota handles its once-in-two years sessions. It’s not an improvement over MN’s system.

  • wjc

    HF30 – Can we put a stake through the heart of this one? Please.

    HF41 – Really want to go down that road? I guess it has really worked well in NC, huh?

    HF42 – The EC is embedded in the Constitution. So this just requires that the state’s electoral votes go to the national popular vote winner. I’m OK with that.

  • Robert Moffitt

    My personal take on some of these bills.

    RELIGION IN SCHOOL
    (code for protecting bigotry –no)

    DRUG TESTING FOR PUBLIC ASSISTANCE
    (okay, as all state lawmakers get drug tested too — go ahead, I dare you)

    THE BATHROOM/LOCKER ROOM
    (uncoded bigotry. Ask NC how well this type of law works)

    • Mike Worcester

      Why not all elected officials? 🙂

    • Ralphy

      Drug tests for anyone:
      Receiving compensation in any form via tax payer $.
      With a conceal-carry permit.
      That buys ammo.
      That has a hunting license.
      That drives a vehicle.
      That has an Rx for pain meds.
      Hmm, maybe getting a tad bit intrusive?
      Well, those on public assistance should forgo their civil rights, yes? (Snark)

      Bathroom/Locker room:
      Government so small it fits in your pants!

      Regarding religion in school – that is a recipe for a parent complaint/lawsuit that their kid flunked the science class because their religion doesn’t believe in science.
      Let the games begin!

      • Jack

        //Receiving compensation in any form via tax payer $. //

        Including getting a break on income tax for itemized deductions. Oh and the beloved property tax refund.

        • Ralphy

          Tax breaks, private or corporate, that’s money from the tax payers’ pockets.

          ‘Course, we could just legalize, tax and control intoxicants, but that would make too much sense.

  • crystals

    HF 23, HF 28, HF 41 are all flawed solutions in search of essentially non-existent problems.

    All three are also authored by the same two people, which certainly tells me a lot about their priorities.

    • Knute

      exactly.

  • Kassie

    While definitions of “Public Assistance” vary, I’m really concerned with this one. One thing public assistance pays for is drug and alcohol treatment. So not allowing people with two DWIs to get assistance could lead to people trying to get sober not being eligible for those benefits and they are the exact people who need it.

    • Kassie

      I actually just clicked the link and looked at it (which I should of done first.) This is for General Assistance and MFIP. So it wouldn’t affect the program that pays for in patient treatment, but it would take away their pocket money, which is called “Personal Needs” money which comes from General Assistance. Not as big of a deal, but still, this is very unnecessary.

  • RBHolb

    I see that the drug testing for “public assistance” is limited to those who receive general assistance. Shouldn’t the definition be expanded further to, say, people who receive state contracts, or TIFF for their business projects?

    • Mike Worcester

      It’s been my experience that when this topic comes up (usually in the form of some sort FB meme), “public assistance” = “welfare”. Of course welfare is never clearly defined. Are farm subsidy payments welfare? Are SBA loans? Was TARP considered welfare? My takeaway was that folks believed welfare was what people were getting to sit around and not work and eat Cheetos. Never mind that more than one other state — Florida, I’m looking at you — tried the drug testing and it failed miserably to prove that there was rampant drug use amongst recipients of public assistance. But hey, it made a great campaign slogan.

      • jon

        FL, where the party of fiscal responsibility decided to stop giving money to druggies… and instead funneled far more money into a drug testing company…

        FISCAL RESPONSIBILITY, spending more to get less.

  • Jack Ungerleider

    A couple of thoughts: The Electoral College bill should also work towards getting 37 states to agree. Then they can call for a Constitutional Convention, which lead Congress to get an Amendment to the States.

    On the CEO pay bill: I’ve been think this is one way to use the tax code to nudge companies in the direction of fairer wages for a long time.

    • Noelle

      Yeah, unless the CEOs “cut” their pay and increase whatever bonuses they get while keeping wages for the worker bees stagnant.

      • Veronica

        That’s easy to fix. Include bonuses in the calculations. Done.

        • Jack

          Include stock options as well. That’s where they are cleaning up.

          • Ralphy

            And perks such as corporate suites at stadiums, private corporate jets, executive “conference centers”, corporate golf club memberships, corporate cars for executive use, insurance deals…

          • Jack

            Some years ago I took a couple classes in executive compensation. They were quite insightful – many of the comp practices can be directly tied to limits on deductibility of executive salaries. There’s a reason I don’t practice in that area.

            BTW – if HR follows the tax law, the execs are being assessed taxable fringe benefits and paying tax. However those are often grossed up for tax purposes so there is no money out of the execs pocket. Anyone remember the tax situation on the Medtronic deal where the execs had their taxes covered but the ordinary shareholders were out of luck?

          • jon

            as I recall the medtronic situation ended as such:
            The execs got an extra tax for moving out of the country, something like 30% on top of everything else, the tax was designed to dissuade them from moving out of the country…

            The corporation covered that tax, it did not cover the regular capital gains tax that every other stockholder had to pay.

  • tboom

    I like the electoral college rule, HF42, hope there are no unintended consequences.

  • Michael

    I like giving one electorial vote based on who wins each district in our state, and the last two for who wins the popular vote in the state.

    I still havn’t found/heard of a solution to one of the problems that the electorial college was created to solve, we have some of the problem in our state elections. How do citizens in the rural areas get a say in what is done if most of the vote comes from the urban areas?? How does Montana, North Dakota and South Dakota — to name a few — get there issues heard during the presidential election with such a small population, but different needs then the east coast.

    Their voices get drowned out, not that the system is working so well now, states like us and them are ignored because they can be “counted on” to vote the same way and not be a swing state. But if we replace it with just the popular vote they will be even more drowned out then they are now.

    • Are anybody’s issues getting addressed in campaigns anymore.

      • Ralphy

        The Koch Brothers did ok.

      • MikeB

        The way we are trending, the Electoral College will be privatized. Want an Electoral vote? Just buy one, or some. That’s how “freedom” works

    • Lexi Jannson

      Pray tell how rural voices got ‘drowned out’ in this last election when the popular vote winner lost the election? Rural America was heard loud and clear and their votes already weigh more that those in urban areas. And, it is only in blue and swing states that there are attempts to implement this scheme. How is that more democratic? If this is done in a few states, it should be done in ALL. Otherwise, might as well not have an electoral college at all. Your plan would be great impetus to call for scrapping it altogether.

  • Will

    Nice, Sunday Sales! We might finally be able to purchase alcohol on Sundays, freedom!

  • Rob

    Gods bless the Republicans; generally proposing wrong-headed legislation aimed at making life even harder for the marginalized and less fortunate.

    • Jerry

      It’s a self fulfilling ideology. They believe government only has a negative impact on people’s lives and they are bound and determined to make sure it stays that way.