Dear Constituents and Friends,

We are less than two weeks away from adjourning the 2015 legislative session. This week the Senate took on the Tax Omnibus Bill and conference committees are in full swing. On the Senate floor we are also taking up bills on general orders. We are still waiting for final budget targets to give us the direction we need on piecing together a final, comprehensive budget.

I am serving on the HHS conference committee and without a target we are unable to reconcile the major budget differences between the Senate and the House budget proposals. This will be a very difficult task as the bodies are $1.5 billion apart. I look forward to working with my House colleagues to compromise and come together to address the health and human services needs of our state.

Sincerely,

Melisa

Omnibus Tax Bill

The Senate passed a bipartisan omnibus tax bill Monday that provides broad property tax relief and carefully targeted income and sales tax credits for small businesses, working families, and veterans.

Every type of property will see property tax relief from the Senate bill – including farmers, businesses, homeowners, and cabin owners. After a decade of cuts, the bill returns Local Government Aid to pre-recession levels and adds stability to county budgets. An additional $54 million investment in aids to local governments helps cities, counties, and townships take pressure off local property taxes while continuing to improve local services.

The Senate tax bill also lowers business property taxes and modernizes the way railroad property is valued. A slight change in commercial tax rates takes pressure off homeowners and farmers who have seen drastically increased property values result in higher taxes. The average property tax reduction will be 2.2% for homeowners, 2.1% for agricultural homesteads, and 4.3% for cabin owners. Smaller business owners will see an average 2.8% cut. The property tax decrease for apartments – a factor in maintaining affordable rents – should be 2.4%.

The Senate's tax bill also includes a one-time appropriation to pay back a shift used to balance a past budget deficit. Undoing this shift is a responsible provision that will provide tools for future legislatures facing a deficit. 

Plastic microbeads

Microbeads are plastic particles fewer than five millimeters in size. When used in personal care products like facial scrubs, soaps and toothpaste, the tiny microbeads head straight for our water systems, where they are often ingested by fish or other wildlife. The most recent proposal prohibits the manufacture or sale of personal care products containing plastic microbeads by December 31, 2016, except for over-the-counter drugs. On December 31, 2017, over-the-counter drugs containing plastic microbeads would be prohibited from manufacture or sale as well. Certain microbeads that completely break down in the environment within two weeks in Minnesota's aquatic environment can be made exempt.

STATUS: Passed the Senate Floor (S.F. 507)

Automated license plate readers and body cameras

Legislation regarding the use and storage of data collected from automated license plate readers cleared its final senate hurdle on Thursday. The bill says that police may store the data for up to 90 days to assist in criminal investigations. Privacy advocates have argued that law enforcement should not store the data at all, however amendments on the floor that would make that a reality failed in the Judiciary and Transportation Committees.

The bill was amended to include guidelines on the use and retention of data collected from body cameras used by police officers. The bill would presumptively define all data collected from body cameras as private, unless the footage was recorded in a public place and involved the use of a dangerous weapon or physical force by a peace officer that caused at least substantial bodily harm. This legislation also allows for victims to gain access to the data, and spells out a process for a person to initiate court proceedings to gain access to data that was recorded in a non-public situation. Body camera footage is also an important tool to aid in law enforcement investigations, but law enforcement agencies should not be able to retain the footage indefinitely without cause. The bill today says, except in very specific circumstances, law enforcement agencies must maintain the footage for 90 days and then destroy it with in the year. (S.F. 86) (S.F. 86 – A19)