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Legislative News and Views - Rep. Shane Mekeland (R)

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Legislative update

Friday, June 18, 2021

Dear Neighbor,

A special session is underway at the Capitol to finish work on a new two-year state budget and the first finance package the House majority brought to the floor would result in skyrocketing health care costs, reduced health care options, and create instability in Minnesota's individual insurance market.

Specifically, House Democrats presented an omnibus commerce/energy bill that fails to reauthorize Minnesota’s nation-leading, proven reinsurance program.

Not exactly a bang-up start. The silver lining is after spending more than 12 hours discussing this bill, it was tabled just before midnight Thursday and a vote has not yet taken place on it.

From 2014-2016, Minnesota's individual health insurance market was brought to the brink of collapse by the Affordable Care Act, with health plan costs soaring up to 60%, insurers fleeing the marketplace, enrollment caps, and many counties left with just a single health plan option.

Then, in 2017, House Republicans led efforts to pass a nation-leading reinsurance program that stabilized the market, and resulted in lower health care costs for thousands of Minnesotans. The program has been funded for the past four years by the original appropriation set aside in 2017, and could have been renewed for a fifth year without needing additional state funding.

In other words, reinsurance was working. But, instead of extending it, House Democrats and Gov. Walz have refused reauthorization.

As for energy provisions in the bill, I touched on this subject in depth in a column I sent to area newspapers this week. The gist of it is that, as other states experience major energy issues, Minnesota House Democrats and environmental extremists are looking to undermine our state’s ability to produce affordable, reliable energy on a stable grid. 

Specifically, they are looking to repeal a 2017 law that was enacted to replace coal plants being shuttered in Becker with a natural gas-fired power plant on the same Sherco property. This legislation passed the Legislature with bipartisan support as a stand-alone bill to make up for lost coal energy by providing Minnesotans with more reliable, affordable energy via natural gas in Becker.  

Now, due to opposition from extreme environmentalists, we understand Xcel Energy is considering alternatives to the commitment that was made to Becker.

Nothing has changed in the four years since that good bill to construct a gas plant in Becker passed on its own merits, again, with bipartisan support. Yet the radical left now wants to kill this project and limit our energy options. House Democrats recently passed an omnibus bill which repeals the 2017 Becker gas plant statute. I offered an amendment to the preserve the project but House Democrats, including Rep. Dan Wolgamott, voted against it. 

In support of natural gas and Becker, I drafted the following language as an amendment to the current commerce/energy bill: “The office may not provide any assistance or services to a local unit of government that has adopted an ordinance banning the use of natural gas or propane for residential use within its boundaries.”

I remain passionate about seeing this natural gas plant project in Becker to the finish line and appreciate the work Sen. Mathews is doing to help prevent it from being rescinded. Legislative options are under consideration for now and into the future to ensure access to a reliable, affordable energy grid in Minnesota.

As I continue working on the legislative side of this issue, I encourage people to reach out to Xcel Energy and area Democrat legislators to let them know where they stand on this issue. Public input also can be provided to the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission on this issue (Docket 19-368) by visiting this link.  

Our energy plan should be an all-of-the-above approach to provide Minnesotans with affordable, reliable energy on a stable grid. The Becker gas plant would help in that regard, and I will keep fighting to make it happen.

Until next time, stay in touch.