Guest Opinion: A busy 4 weeks in the Legislature
It's hard to believe that the fourth week of the 2016 legislative session has officially come to a close and with it, the first committee deadline. Due to the unusually short session, much of our work in St. Paul has been focused on committee hea...
It's hard to believe that the fourth week of the 2016 legislative session has officially come to a close and with it, the first committee deadline. Due to the unusually short session, much of our work in St. Paul has been focused on committee hearings as a number of bills have been making their way through the legislative process.
In addition to committee work, the House has approved a handful of bills during the first four weeks of session.
On Tuesday, the House passed legislation that would allow Minnesota to begin preparing for the implementation of REAL ID.
REAL ID was the topic of numerous news stories over the winter as folks were concerned that they may be unable to board an airplane with their driver's license because Minnesota IDs are not currently compliant with federal regulations.
The measure approved by the House on Tuesday allows the Minnesota Department of Public Safety to study the cost, timeline and other steps needed for our state to implement REAL ID.
There is still a lot of confusion regarding this issue, so I want folks to know that their Minnesota driver's license will not have any impact on travel plans until 2018 at the earliest. The legislation we passed on Tuesday allows the state to begin the process of bringing Minnesota into compliance well in advance of the 2018 deadline while also balancing the privacy concerns that many have regarding federal regulations.
In addition to this legislation, the House approved a measure last week that will bring much needed relief to nearly 2,100 unemployed steelworkers on the Iron Range by extending unemployment benefits.
While this unemployment extension will help in the short term, I am committed to working towards long term solutions for folks on the range that are struggling with unemployment. Simply put, these workers are looking for jobs, not more unemployment benefits. That's why I am hopeful that the Polymet and Twin Metals projects will move forward.
On that same day, the House passed a bill that makes much needed corrections to the state's unemployment insurance trust fund.
Thanks to these corrections, a $258 million premium reduction will be extended to employers who paid above the needs of the fund while also reducing their future obligation when the balance exceeds the fully-funded threshold per federal standards.
This leaves businesses with additional funds that can be invested in employees and their communities.
Funding for our roads and bridges and tax relief remain my top priorities this session and discussions on a final bill with the Senate and governor are ongoing.
More specifically, a transportation plan that meets our needs without raising the gas tax.
Regarding a tax bill, I continue to be a strong supporter of eliminating the state's tax on Social Security benefits and military pensions. If you have any specific ideas for what you would like to see included in a tax relief bill, please be sure to contact me.
It truly is an honor to represent you and your family in St. Paul. If you ever have a question or comment regarding a piece of legislation or a state agency, please do not hesitate to contact me. I can be reached by phone at 651-296-4333 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org .
Rep. Josh Heintzeman, R-Nisswa, represents Minnesota House District 10A.