This week at the Capitol, discussions continued on a variety of issues including the governor’s tax and budget proposals. Governor Dayton proposes to expand the sales tax to services, both those used by individuals and business to business services, and clothing over $100, while dropping the overall tax rate to 5.5 percent. The Governor also proposes an increase in the top income tax rate, a property tax rebate for homeowners, and a so-called “snow bird tax” on Minnesotans who spend part of the year in other states. A bill reflecting all of the governor’s tax proposals was introduced in the Senate and was referred to the Tax Committee where it awaits further action.
Also this week, the Judiciary Committee turned its focus to firearms, and began holding informational hearings on many bills that have been introduced in the Senate. It is expected that the chairman will make his recommendations for an omnibus bill in the coming weeks, and votes on any provisions would be held at a later date. The bills mainly centered on topics of proxy purchasers, background checks, mental health, and other similar topics. To date, no bills have been introduced in the Senate that ban or limit the possession of semi-automatic military-style assault weapons (SAMSAWs) or size of magazines, many of which were the subject of hearings in the Minnesota House last week.
The Medical Assistance bill (SF 5) was signed into law by the governor. This new law expands Medical Assistance coverage for persons up to 138 percent of the federal poverty guideline. The transportation committee heard SF 256, requiring all vehicles to always display their headlights, regardless of the time or weather. Because of concerns about law enforcement making traffic stops and issuing tickets for a simple violation of this requirement, the committee adopted an amendment that would make a violation of this provision a secondary offense. As such, a driver could only be cited for a violation of the “lights on” requirement if they were stopped for an unrelated violation. A proposal authored by Sen. Bruce Anderson calling for state recognition of a new “Honor and Remember” flag had its initial Senate hearing this week. The Honor and Remember Flag recognizes all individuals who have died as a result of serving in the United States military dating back to the founding of our nation. The Senate Education Committee heard a bill this week that would repeal a requirement that prospective teachers pass a basic skills test prior to receiving licensure in Minnesota. The requirement has been around for years and was strengthened last session. On Tuesday, a joint Senate-House environment committee heard public testimony on issues surrounding industrial sand mining in southeast Minnesota. Industry representatives, local government officials, chamber of commerce representatives and concerned residents all provided testimony. No bill was heard and no action was taken.