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Commerce conference committee adopts agreement on budget, policy bill

Reminiscent of the scene in “The Princess Bride” where Billy Crystal’s character says the body lying in front of him is “mostly dead” — a House conference committee that declared its work done May 5 really meant it was “mostly done.”

The conference committee on the commerce budget and policy bill met briefly Monday to adopt a delete-all amendment to construct the committee’s report, making just one notable change. The cap on “payday loans” would now be a 50% annual percentage rate rather than the previous limit of 36%.

Sen. Matt Klein (DFL-Mendota Heights), who sponsors HF2680/SF2744* with Rep. Zack Stephenson (DFL-Coon Rapids), calls it a “historic bill.”

“It will really improve the lives of Minnesotans. Many of these initiatives are ones that Minnesotans have been asking for for many years.”

The agreement would appropriate $834.7 million in the 2024-25 biennium to fund operations and programs of the Department of Commerce.

[MORE: View financial agreement spreadsheet]

Several policy changes are included, most notably:

  • creating a Prescription Drug Affordability Board to take action against drug companies making excessive price increases;
  • fortifying laws regarding deceptive trade practices;
  • prohibiting boat insurance contracts from excluding coverage for family members;
  • establishing the Digital Fair Repair Act;
  • prohibiting price-gouging after emergency declarations;
  • allowing a life insurance company to deny a death benefit only if the insured dies within one year of the issuance of the policy; current law permits a two-year exclusion;
  • requiring health plans to limit patient co-pays to no more than $25 per one-month supply for prescription drugs used to treat chronic diseases;
  • establishing a student loan advocate to educate students on educational loans; and
  • prohibiting lenders from collecting on loans made under coercion by a third party, such as a domestic abuser.

Stephenson expressed confidence that both bodies would repass the bill before the House’s anticipated adjournment date of May 18.

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