Sunday, July 19, 2009

My 2009 Bills That Passed

Here's a wrap-up of my legislation that passed from 2009. You can look up the text of the bills at the House web site.

HF167/SF0185: The Governor signed SF2082 (the State Government Finance Bill) on May 16th. In that bill there was the text of my HF167, which extends the term of the Legislative Coordinating Commission Working Group on Ethnic Heritage & New Americans. I'm the House DFLer on the working group, which brings together business, labor, and advocates on the issue of immigration to help find pragmatic solutions. The bill is now Chapter 101 of 2009 Session Laws, Article 2, section 1. This bill was an initiative of the Working Group.

HF239: For two years, several of us from the suburbs have worked to assist homeowners who have been hassled by their builders or remodelers over breaches of warranty. Some Shoreview residents I know have spent $100,000 out of pocket in legal fees while the builders delay a settlement, hoping that the homeowner will give up. Others in the state have had to spend thousands of dollars in hotel or rental housing costs when their house is uninhabitable. My bill, HF239, would allow homeowners to be reimbursed for short-term housing if they have to be out of their house as a result of warranty work. It passed the House and Senate and was presented to the Governor on May 15th. The bill is now part of Chapter 103, 2009 Session Laws. The Governor vetoed the bill and discusses details in his veto letter. I dispute his rationale for the veto but we need to move on. This bill was initiated by advocates for homeowners and Shoreview constituents.

HF356: HF2088 is an omnibus economic development and housing bill that the Governor signed recently to replace a previous bill that he vetoed. It included my legislation from HF356 to maintain the solvency of the manufactured housing relocation trust fund. The bill is now Chapter 78 of 2009 Session Laws, Article 8, Sections 1 to 3. (The Governor made some line-item vetoes in the bill but not my legislation.) This bill will help make sure that owners of manufactured housing (aka mobile homes) will be able to tap into a self-insurance pool should the owner of their mobile home park sell the land, requiring all residents to vacate. There are about 500 manufactured homes in my district. This bill was an initiative of All Parks Alliance for Change.

HF403: HF2123, the environment and energy finance bill, passed with a high number of votes on the House floor from both parties. It included budgets for the MN Pollution Control Agency, the DNR, and several other smaller agencies. My legislation in the bill included provisions that will boost two industries in Minnesota--bioplastics and compost. Many district residents are asked by their waste hauler to dispose of their yard waste in a rolling cart or a compostable bag because the regular plastic bags contaminate the finished compost. Haulers pay a higher fee to get rid of plastic and compost site operators can't sell their compost. The legislation has all metro area residents use certified compostable bags starting January 1, 2010 if they use a bag. (Carts and reusable bags are fine too.) The idea is to increase quality and streamline rules across multiple jurisdictions. We have several Minnesota manufacturers of compostable bags who will be able to meet consumer demand, and they are part of our growing bioplastic industry. The original bill was HF403. This bill was signed by the Governor and is now Chapter 37 in Minnesota statutes. This bill was my own initiative.

HF1333: The Governor signed HF1298, a non-controversial bill with various tax compliance and other tax provisions. My bill HF1333 that authorizes bonding for Met Council transit facilities was included. The bill is now in Chapter 88 of 2009 Session Laws in Article 6, Section 20. This bill was initiated by the Met Council.

HF1373: My legislation to promote greater coordination of transit for the disabled and others who cannot drive passed. It's actually in two parts. The legislation creates the Minnesota Council on Transportation Access, where state and regional agencies that serve the disabled come together to figure out how to make a very fragmented and inefficient network of transit services more efficient and cost-effective. HF1373 was the original bill and the funding ended up in HF1309 and the enabling legislation ended up in the omnibus transportation policy bill in HF928. HF928 passed the House on May 17th and is now Chapter 151 of 2009 Session Laws, Section 28. The Governor vetoed the bill, and mentioned my legislation in his veto letter. The Governor signed HF1309 that is now Chapter 36 of Minnesota statutes. However, the Governor did direct the Department of Transportation to add additional members to the Interagency Committee on Transit Coordination (ICTC) as would have been required in my bill. Senator Dibble and I initiated this legislation.

2009 Bills That Will Be Back in 2010

These are bills I introduced in 2009 that I would likely bring up again in 2010. You can look up the text of the bills at the House web site.

HF170: This bill would require publishers of telephone directories to allow consumers to opt out of delivery. I asked for an informational hearing only since I want to spend most of my legislative time helping to create jobs or address the deficit. The Yellow Pages Association and R.H. Donnelly testified about the bill and demonstrated Dex's opt out web site. You can hear audio of the hearing on-line. This hearing concluded my work on this issue for the year. KARE-11 did a web article on the bill on the KARE website. This bill was my own initiative. The 2010 version of this bill would likely just remove the state’s requirement that phone book publishers must distribute a White Pages.

HF298: This bill would remove some regulatory barriers for day training & habilitation (DT&H) organizations to serve more people with their bus and van fleets. Nonprofits in our area that pick up and drop off adults with developmental disabilities are interested in transporting other clients from other organizations to be more efficient, but their insurance rates would go way up, making the venture prohibitive. I don't have a Senate author, and after talking to a senator about it, I chose to invest time in HF1372 instead because it was a more wide-ranging initiative. This bill was initiated by Merrick Inc. and other DT&H providers.

HF336: This bill would allow homeowners associations to inform their residents about pesticide applications up to 48 hours in advance using newsletters, e-mail, etc. in lieu of sticking up those little signs after the application. This bill was initiated by a constituent with sensitivity to lawn chemicals. I didn't get a Senate author for this bill this year but would plan to proceed with this in 2010.

HF418: This bill would allow local governments to enact their own tougher ordinances to combat the spread of buckthorn. The bill received a hearing in the Agriculture Policy Committee and passed, and then was held up in the local government committee due to lack of time. This bill was initiated by a North Oaks resident, and I would like to proceed with it in 2010.

HF457: This bill would allow Minnesotans to donate their remains after death to an organization accredited by the American Association of Tissue Banks instead of just to a university. This bill ran into opposition to a consortium of mortuary science stakeholders (seriously) that had worked on some reforms in this sector several years ago. I was under the impression that some other reforms would be forthcoming from another member this year and I could incorporate this legislation into that bigger bill, but the legislation did not materialize this year. I plan to pursue this issue in 2010. This bill was initiated by a constituent.

HF500: This bill would create standards for recycled water so that builders, plumbers, and others would have some guidance from the state when they are creating greywater systems that use treated wastewater. The dialogue among stakeholders was late in coming during the session so I did not proceed with this bill by the committee deadline in March. I hope to work on this in 2010. The bill was initiated by Sen. Jungbauer.

HF1118: This bill would change the allocation formula for revenue from the Solid Waste Management Tax (SWMT). The SWMT is collected on your waste hauler bill and up to 70% of it goes to the state's environmental fund to pay for cleaning up old landfills, recycling programs, etc. The bill would set an allocation formula for county funding. The bill received a hearing in the House Taxes Committee and was referred to the Environmental Finance Committee for consideration in 2010. The bill was originally authored by Rep. Demmer, who didn't have time to work on it. The bill was initiated by the Association of Minnesota Counties.

HF1217: This is a bill to set up a product stewardship program for unused pharmaceutical products to keep them out of our wastewater and drinking water and to keep them out of the hands of kids. Old medications often get flushed down the toilet and the chemical compounds do not break down in the wastewater treatment process. Many of these compounds are endocrine disruptors, meaning that they can change the DNA of fish and other aquatic life. They can also end up in our drinking water when it comes from a source where treated wastewater feeds into that source, like the Mississippi River. The bill would have the drug industry fund a secure "take-back" system at pharmacies. This is a pretty complicated bill so I introduced it this year so that stakeholders and I can discuss it during the interim and then I can modify it in 2010. This bill was my own initiative.

HF1286: This bill would give free fish and game license eligibility for disabled veterans. This bill was heard in the Veterans' Affairs Subcommittee and was referred to the main Agriculture & Veterans' Affairs Committee but it was too late in the session to get through. This bill was initiated by a constituent.

HF1372/SF1323: This bill would require that retailers of more than 90 syringes in a carton must provide a "sharps" collection container for the consumer to store used syringes. Used syringes are one of the biggest safety hazards to waste haulers and other maintenance people. After passing the Senate easily and after passing the House Environment Committee on a voice vote, I was contacted by a national organization working on the issue and they asked for a delay in a floor vote on the bill in order to make some necessary changes. I will be working on this bill during the interim and will present some changes in 2010. This bill was initiated by a Minnesota vendor of collection containers.

HF2182: This bill would require the Department of Finance to request more information from state and local government agencies when they submit bonding requests for capital investment projects. This relates to the annual "bonding bill." I was interested in seeing more objective information when public entities want state funding so legislators can compare projects more clearly. The bill was introduced too late to be heard in the Capital Investment Committee, but the chair was interested in having an informational hearing. This bill was my own initiative.

HF2402: This bill would increase the fee charged by auto shops for unreturned used auto batteries from $5 to $10. Right now battery manufacturers are charging $10 to auto shops that do not exchange a used battery for a new battery, instead of the $5 they used to charge. State law requires that auto shops charge $5 to consumers when they don't return a used battery, so the auto shops are $5 short when this happens. Obviously consumers who bring in an old battery when they buy a new one get a total refund of $5. The bill was introduced too late to get a hearing but it will come forward in 2010. The bill was initiated by the Alliance of Automotive Service Providers of MN, Inc.

HF2407: This bill is a sweeping product stewardship initiative to keep hazardous or valuable waste materials out of the garbage. It would create a process by which the MPCA would suggest products that would require special attention. This was introduced on the last day of the session so that I could get feedback from industry and government before requesting a hearing in February. This bill was my own initiative.

My 2009 Bills That Did Not Proceed

Here are bills of mine that did not proceed in 2009.

: The Governor signed SF2082 (the State Government Finance Bill) on May 16th. The final bill did not include my HF625 that would require the state to use an Application Program Interface (API) that would allow third parties to analyze exported state budget information. Who says that the state must be the only entity that holds data and information that we paid for? Politics in Minnesota has followed this legislation and reported on the need for this legislation for greater government transparency. They have also aggressively followed up on it in articles on May 6th and May 7th. (The state Department of Finance doesn't like it because it is pretty sweeping legislation.) HF625 got in the House file of the State Government Finance Bill but not the Senate file and it was not accepted in the final conference committee. This bill was my own initiative.

HF663: This bill would require that truth in taxation notices for your property taxes get mailed before the November general election. You can see the video of the hearing. The bill was "laid over" by the Property Tax Division of the Taxes Committee so it might get included into an omnibus bill by that division. There were several lobbyists for the school board association and the Association of Minnesota Counties as well as the Department of Revenue who testified against the bill. The legislation got into part of a bigger tax bill but was ultimately removed because of objections from local governments. This bill was initiated by a constituent.

HF808: This bill would increase the reimbursement rate for an intermediate care facility for the developmentally disabled (ICF/MR) in Shoreview. Reimbursement rates are set by the state, and a group house in Shoreview has increasing costs to care for these adults who have no family. The bill was initiated by Lutheran Social Services and did not receive a hearing.

HF1548: This bill would cap property taxes as a percentage of income for seniors. This bill was initiated by the Minnesota Senior Federation and a constituent. It did not receive a hearing.

HF1642: This bill would create a Health Opportunity Account (HOA) pilot project for medicaid patients in Minnesota. Patients would have a high deductible account but the state would pick up the deductible. The idea is that the total cost of this arrangement would be lower than our existing Medical Assistance program while providing the same level of service. Earlier this spring, Congress prohibited new HOA pilot projects, making the bill moot. This bill was initiated by a constituent.

HF1643: This would change the levy referendum component of the K-12 education funding formula. Specifically, it would increase the referendum market value equalizing factor that has not been raised in many years. In English, this means that school districts like Centennial that have a smaller commercial tax base would see an increase in state funds for education. The bill was heard by the K-12 Education Finance Committee and was held over for possible inclusion in their omnibus bill. It was not included because of the cost during this difficult budget year. The bill was initiated by constituents in the Centennial School District.