This week at the Capitol, a number of issues took center state. None were more controversial then the passage by the full Senate of S.F.1 (Lourey) the Minnesota Insurance Marketplace Act, also known as the Health Care Exchange. The bill was passed by the Senate late Thursday night after 11 hours of debate and discussion of over 40 amendments. This action follows passage of a similar bill by the House earlier this week.
This legislation is being pursued in response to the Affordable Care Act which was passed by Congress a few years ago. The exchange will act as clearinghouse for approved health care plans and Minnesotans will be able to purchase coverage through this entity. Much of the discussion surrounding the bill centered on date privacy for consumers as well as the lack of impact the bill will have on overall health care costs.
With final passage by both legislative chambers, the bill now heads to a conference committee where the differences between the two proposals will be worked out. Once an agreement on final language is reached, it will be re-passed by the House and Senate and sent to the governor for his signature.
The Jobs, Agriculture and Rural Development Committee heard testimony on five minimum wage increase bills this week. Legislation was introduced and discussed to raise the minimum wage in Minnesota to $7.25, $7.50, $9.50 and $10.55 per hour. Because of the number of testifiers on the proposals, further action on the bills was delayed to a future hearing. The State and Local Government Committee passed Senate File 778, a bill that could result in the unionization of child daycare providers. Under the bill, daycare providers who choose not to join the union would still be forced to pay union fees, be subject to the terms and conditions negotiated by the union, and be effectively deemed employees of the state. The bill will be heard next in the Health, Human Services, and Housing Committee.
The Senate Education Committee held a hearing on a bill that would create a new anti-bullying law in Minnesota. S.F. 783 (Dibble) contains a series of new mandates, definitions, and reporting requirements for public and nonpublic schools alike, all aimed at preventing bullying in our schools. There were a number of amendments considered to the bill and it was ultimately passed and referred for further vetting in the Senate Judiciary Committee. Several key data practice measures have begun moving out of the Judiciary Committee and are being sent to the full Senate. These include a data classification and retention policy for law enforcement use of automatic license plate readers, a procedure for people to find out who is accessing their private data that the government holds, and a requirement of more investigation and report to private citizens when their data is breached. Another important bill moving to the Senate floor is to remove the civil statute of limitations for a person who was sexually abused as a minor. This means that a person who was sexually abused as a child will have a longer time to heal and come to terms with what happened, without them losing their ability to find civil relief in court against their abusers.