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Legislative Update from Rep. Sondra Erickson

Thursday, February 7, 2019

Dear Friends and Neighbors,

It’s been another busy week in St. Paul with a number of bills receiving hearings in House committees. Here is a brief recap on a few of the bills that were under consideration this week.

Automatic Voter Registration

On Tuesday, the Government Operations committee heard a bill that would create an automatic voter registration system in Minnesota. More specifically, the bill would automatically register someone to vote whenever they apply for a new driver’s license or state ID card unless they check a box to opt out.

Each year, Minnesota consistently has one of the highest voter participation rates in the entire country. As a public official, it is my hope that all Minnesotans that are eligible to vote do indeed participate in our elections. An engaged citizenry is vital to our democracy.

With that said, I have concerns with this legislation in regards to the state’s ability to effectively flag folks that may already be considered ineligible to vote. We all remember the disaster that was MNLARS and I am not sure if the Department of Public Safety and Secretary of State’s office will be able to effectively share data to ensure that ineligible voters are flagged and not allowed to register.

Further, citizens already have the ability to opt into voter registration when applying for a new driver’s license. I’m not sure why we need to change the system to an opt-out framework. Stay tuned on this as it continues to move through the process.

100% Renewable Energy Mandate

The House Energy and Climate Finance and Policy committee heard a bill this week that would impose a 100 percent “carbon-free” energy standard on the state’s electric utilities.

Most Minnesotans, myself included, agree that energy providers should continue looking for ways to produce clean energy that does not negatively impact the environment. However, the DFL’s proposal is a radical proposition that will cause energy prices to soar and negatively impact local communities that rely on the energy industry for jobs and property tax revenues.

It remains to be seen if this bill has any real support in the House DFL caucus. In fact, Tuesday’s hearing was informational only, meaning that the committee did not take any official action on the bill.

MNLARS Reimbursement

The troubles the state has had with the MNLARS system is well documented. While there are still issues going on with the system, it appears that we have a better handle on things for now. However, there is still substantial room for continued improvement.

On Tuesday, the House Transportation Policy and Finance Division heard a bill that would provide reimbursement to motor vehicle owners who mistakenly overpaid vehicle registration taxes and fees due to errors with the MNLARS system.

House File 131 directly addresses some of the issues identified in a report from the Office of the Legislative Auditor that revealed inaccuracies in tax calculations and collections following the rollout of MNLARS.

This is a commonsense solution to ensure that folks that were overcharged for licensing fees are reimbursed for mistakes made by the MNLARS boondoggle.

Hiring Veterans

Finally, we heard a bill this week in the Veterans and Military Affairs Finance and Policy Division that would provide employers with a nonrefundable income tax credit for hiring disabled or unemployed veterans. The credit equals ten percent of the wages paid to the veteran.

This legislation is about incentivizing employers to hire veterans. Veterans often have numerous job skills they acquired in the military that would be useful for employers and it is our duty as a society to help those that have sacrificed so much to keep us safe and free.

Staying in Touch

That’s all for this week’s update. As always, please do not hesitate to reach out to me if you have any questions or concerns regarding a matter related to state government. I can be reached by phone at 651-296-6746 or via email at rep.sondra.erickson@house.mn.

Have a great weekend,

Sondra

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