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CAPITOL CHATTER: Partial quick start for Minnesota Legislature

State legislators watch as Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton signs the first bill of the year into law on Friday, Jan. 13, 2017. It matches state law with federal tax law and provides $21 million in tax relief. (Forum News Service photo by Don Davis)

The first new law of 2017 came nine days into the annual legislative session.

Now, that's zippy in a process that often drags on until May, especially when the issue is taxes, like the legislation Gov. Mark Dayton signed Friday, Jan. 13.

And a couple other issues are moving fast, sort of.

A bill to provide relief to Minnesotans paying high health insurance premiums passed the Senate and should pass the House in a few days. However, it will probably will hit a speed bump because the Dayton administration says some of its provisions would delay the aid.

The third fast-track bill is to allow Minnesota to comply with a federal Real ID requirement, which basically requires the state to do more background checks on people before their driver's licenses can be used to board airlines or enter federal facilities. While it is passing committees, it may not be done in a matter of days.

Dayton and leading tax legislators Friday celebrated a bill lawmakers unanimously passed to match state income tax law with federal law. In conforming to federal law, more than 200,000 Minnesotans will share in a $21 mllioin tax break, Dayton said.

"This is a great way to start the legislative session on a strong bipartisan note," Dayton said, later admitting that he does not expect smooth sailing the rest of the way to the May 22 adjournment date.

The tax bill will provide clarity to taxpayers, Revenue Commissioner Cynthia Bauerly said. "It was very important to have this bill to pass so quickly because in 10 days we will begin income tax filing season."

No more MNsure time

Gov. Mark Dayton asked federal officials to extend the deadline for buying 2017 individual health insurance policies from the state-run MNsure sales site, but he got a rejection letter.

Secretary Sylvia Burwell of the Department of Health and Human Services wrote to Dayton that federal law requires 2017 individual insurance policies to be sold by Jan. 31, so she cannot offer an extension.

"However," she wrote, "I am directing my staff to work with you and MNsure to explore options that may be available to ensure that consumers in Minnesota have the time they need to enroll in coverage."

Minnesotans should not get their hopes up that they will be able to buy insurance later.

Burwell and the rest of the Obama administration have just one week left in office, so may not have time to take action. And with federal law as it is, Dayton sounded like he did not expect any change.

More super drinking

A Minneapolis lawmaker says Super Bowl fans visiting the Twin Cities next year should get an extra two hours to hit the bars.

Democratic Rep. Ray Dehn introduced a bill that would allow bars to remain open until 4 a.m. on Super Bowl weekend, but only if local governments approve. The legislation only applies to bars in Ramsey and Hennepin counties, but it has sponsors from both parties and other areas, including Rep. Dave Baker, R-Willmar.

The Super Bowl will be Feb. 4, 2018, in U.S. Bank Stadium on the east end of downtown Minneapolis.

The concept has been discussed before for the Super Bowl and other big national gatherings, such as the 2006 Republican National Convention in St. Paul.

Lewis top budget rookie

New U.S. Rep. Jason Lewis starts his tenure as the top freshman on the powerful House Budget Committee.

The Minnesota Republican said he can use the position to help fulfill campaign promises such as "repeal and replace Obamacare and make healthcare accessible and truly affordable for all Americans."

The committee is key in writing the federal budget.

Lewis also serves on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee and the Education and Workforce Committee.

Lewis replaces John Kline, who did not seek re-election last year, representing the southern Twin Cities and areas to the south.

Wood stove rule delay wanted

Wood stoves are due to come under strict emission regulations soon, but U.S. Rep. Collin Peterson wants them delayed three years.

"Wood stove manufacturers and consumers simply want to safely and effectively heat their homes during cold winters but further regulations on wood and pellet stoves will make this more difficult," the western Minnesota Democrat said. "This bipartisan bill will provide the time necessary to meet new requirements without penalizing manufacturers as they seek to make improvements for consumers using these stoves."

If the bill becomes law, the stricter standards would begin in 2023.

Lawmaker wants to mow down rule

Minnesota state Rep. Chris Swedzinski, R-Ghent, says he hears from landowners that new state permitting process for mowing ditches places too much of a burden on them.

The Minnesota Department of Transportation has implemented the new permitting process for mowing and baling on state right of way.

"People are frustrated," Swedzinski said. "They see this as another example of government encroachment with unelected bureaucrats in St. Paul making decisions that illustrate yet again how out of touch they are with rural Minnesota." Swedzinski's bill prohibits road authorities from regulating when ditches may or may not be mowed and also prevents requiring permits to be obtained for mowing.

Don Davis
Don Davis has been the Forum Communications Minnesota Capitol Bureau chief since 2001, covering state government and politics for two dozen newspapers in the state. Don also blogs at Capital Chatter on Areavoices.
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