Hands Free Bill Passes Minnesota House

Legislators passed a bill in the Minnesota House late Monday night that would make it illegal to use a cell phone while operating a vehicle unless using a hands-free device. The bill (HF 50) aims to solve the problem of distracted driving according to its authors. But main opposition to the hands-free bill assert that distracted driving is already illegal and that the bill would not solve the underlying problem.

The bill states when a motor vehicle is in motion or part of traffic, the person operating the vehicle is prohibited from using a wireless communications device, which "includes but is not limited to: 1) initiating, composing, send, retrieving or reading and electric message and 2) engaging in a cellular phone call, including initiating a call, talking or listening, and participating in video calling." Exception: if a wireless communications device is used "solely in a voice-activated or hands-free mode." Violators of the hands-free law would face a $225 fine for their second infraction.

Exempt from the bill are law enforcement officers and emergency vehicles. An amendment offered by Rep Steve Drazkowski (R-Mazeppa) would have removed this exemption, but was defeated decisively on the House floor.

Action 4 Liberty opposes this bill because it limits individual freedom and increases government control. It's not clear how the tens of thousands of Minnesotans who rely on mobile devices for commerce everyday will be able to continue activities such as ride-share services. The bill also seems to unequally harm lower income folks who do not drive vehicles with hands-free features.

The vote was 106 to 21.


Minnesota House Passes Opioid Fee Bill

The Minnesota House passed a bill (HF 400) last night that would establish an Opioid Stewardship Fund in the state. The fund's revenue would come from fees on manufacturers and wholesalers of opioid medication. Fees will be determined by the board of the Opioid Stewardship Fund based on its $20 Million annual budget.

HF 400 dictates how much opioid pain medication can be prescribed to patients following major trauma or surgery. The bill states "when used for the treatment of acute pain associated with a major trauma or surgical procedure, initial prescriptions for opiate or narcotic pain relievers listed in Schedules II through IV of section 152.02shall not exceed a seven-day supply."

The bill also adds another mandated coverage to Minnesota health insurance plans. According to the bill, all "health plans must cover acupuncture services for the treatment of pain and ongoing pain management."

Action 4 Liberty opposes this bill for several reasons. With rising health care costs in this country, this bill adds more costs that will inevitably pass on to consumers. Action 4 Liberty seeks to reduce mandates on health insurance plan coverage, but this bill increases mandates. Lastly, government should not get involved in the decision-making of prescribing pain medication from medical professionals.

Last night's vote was 94 to 34.


The Freedom and Opportunity Budget

Proposed by the New House Republican Caucus

The New House Republican Caucus is the first legislative group to propose a budget following the release of Governor Walz’ bloated, tax-raising budget proposal. Unlike past proposals by Republican caucuses that grew spending, their budget actually cuts government by over $300 Million. Total spending would be $45.2 Billion under their plan.

According to the February budget forecast, the state government expects to take in $47.5 Billion in revenue and would have over $50 Billion in resources when accounting for the massive budget reserves currently being held by the state.

The New House Republican Caucus plan would eliminate taxes on social security benefits and the estate tax penalty. It would also give Minnesota citizens a one-year fee holiday for vehicle license and tabs using a billion dollars from the reserves account.  On top of that, the proposal conforms with federal Section 179 deductions, permanently retires the health provider tax and makes money earned via tips tax free.

Where Are the Cuts?

Overall, the proposal cuts current spending levels by only 1% with areas like E-12 Education and Public Safety receiving marginal increases. However, over $300 Million in savings comes from the Health & Human Services budget where programs like the Child Care Assistance Program are funded.

How the Budget Compares to Governor Walz’ One Minnesota Plan

Governor Walz’ budgetgrows government by 9% adding $4 Billion in new spending. To pay for the massive budget, the Governor proposes reinstating the provider tax and increasing the gasoline tax by 70%.

If state spending was represented by a football field, the New House Republican Caucus would be in the Small Gov't End Zone, the complete opposite side of the field from Governor Walz.

Action 4 Liberty believes the New House Republican Budget proposal should be adopted by Senator Paul Gazelka and the Senate Republican Caucus. This plan keeps the promises of Republicans who keep telling us they want to cut government. It also places Republicans in a position of strength when dealing with the Democrats at the Capitol who want to massively expand the size and scope of government.


Senate Republicans Bail Out Insurance Companies

On Tuesday, Senate Republicans renewed the Reinsurance plan that subsidizes health insurance claims over $50,000 using taxpayer money. The bill (SF 761) passed with bipartisan support and all Republican Senators present voted for it.

Immediately following the vote, the Senate Republican Caucus initiated a social media campaign to brag about their "reforms" bringing down the cost of health insurance. State Senator Michelle Benson, one of the bills authors, wrote "today the Senate voted to extend the successful reinsurance program. The results are indisputable — after years of double digit increases, reinsurance held premiums in check and actually reduced costs for many customers."

Action 4 Liberty opposes the bill and believes the Senate Republicans are misleading the public. Health insurance plans are reducing in price because taxpayers are paying for the biggest cost to insurance companies.

The program is similar to the objective of ObamaCare's exchange market: to give the perception that health insurance prices are lower than they truly are. In the case of Obamacare, taxpayer money is used up front to subsidize the purchase of policies in the state exchanges. The Republican bill uses taxpayer money on the back end and goes directly to the insurance claims.

Here's the vote:


Revised Budget Surplus Still Over $4 Billion

The Minnesota State Economist released the February Economic Forecastthis morning that showed the government continues to overtax us and hold a record level of our money in a reserve account. According to the report, revenue projections fell by nearly $400 Million for the upcoming biennium.

Government numbers suggest a total budget surplus of $1.052 Billion and our lazy media reports that number as accurate. However, the surplus assumes automatic 4.2% growth in spending and that government will continue to withhold a whopping $2.4 Billion from job creators and families for reserves.

Action 4 Liberty calls for Republicans to hold the line on spending and significantly reduce the budget reserves. If spending froze at current biennium levels and half the reserves were given back to taxpayers, the budget surplus would be $4 Billion

What to do with $4 Billion? Legislators could reduce income taxes, eliminate the death tax, get rid of social security taxes and never let the Walz gas tax see the light of day.


Democrats Go After Guns

Making It Illegal to Lend Your Brother-in-Law a Firearm

What is proposed: Democrat legislators in the Minnesota House and Senate introduced two gun control bills. House File (HF) 8 is the Universal Background check that requires law-abiding gun owners to go through a background check when buying or transferring a firearm to a relative, friend or acquaintance. HF 9 (SF 436 in the Senate) is known as the Red Flags bill and it allows government to confiscate firearms from individuals without due process when someone alerts local law enforcement that the individual is “dangerous”.  The Red Flag law would violate our 2nd, 4th and 6th Amendment rights, making individuals “guilty until proven innocent”.

Who introduced it:The bills were introduced by the most radical gungrabbers in the legislature: Rep Dave Pinto (DFL – St Paul) and Sen Ron Latz (DFL – St Louis Park).

What are they trying to do:The intent of the universal background check bill is to create a gun registry of gun owners that would aid in the eventual confiscation of firearms when the mood of the nation turns against gun rights. Democrats seek to eventually ban “assault style” rifles and handguns. Many Democrats believe the government should confiscate these types of firearms.

Current status:The Democrats have control of the Minnesota House and likely have the votes for the bill in that chamber. They have a bigger challenge in the Senate where Republicans hold a slim majority and there is public opposition to the bill by rural DFL senators. However, two Republican Senators, Scott Jensen (Chaska) and Paul Anderson (Plymouth) have shown support for gun control bills in the past. The MN House will have a committee hearing on Wednesday, Feb 27th at 7 pm that will generate a lot of media attention.

What you can do: Political activism comes down to two things: give your time or give your money. We need gun owners to show up to the Public Safety Committee hearing on Wed, Feb 27that 7 pm in Capitol Rm 120. Democrats want to stack their people at the hearing so the media says “the people” demand gun control. Let’s stop them.

Can’t make it? Help us pay to get the message out to more gun owners. Contribute to Action 4 Liberty by visiting our Paypal Donate button. Let’s stack the hearing room with our people!

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Walz Budget Expands Government By 9%

Governor Tim Walz just released his first budget proposalthis afternoon. Instead of prioritizing giving back the massive budget surplus to taxpayers, Walz proposes spending it all and increasing taxes. His budget grows the state government by $4 Billion or 9%.

On top of that, the Governor briefly mentioned an additional $1.3 Billion in debt spending. Walz plans on releasing a proposed bonding bill next week.  Currently our state government pays $1.3 Billion each biennium just to service our outstanding debt.

As promised on the campaign trail, Walz wants to create a public option in health care for all Minnesotans. His proposal comes with several promises like lower visit costs and prescription drugs prices. He wants to expand the public option to include dental benefits.

How to pay for all of this? Governor Walz proposes increasing taxes by reinstating the health care provider tax and increasing the state’s gasoline tax. Currently, Minnesota’s gas tax falls in line with the national average.

A recent study by Kiplinger ranked Minnesota as the least tax friendly state in the country. Walz appears to wear that ranking with a badge of honor as he expands the egregious taxes that Minnesotans will pay.


Senate Republicans Prioritize Growing Gov't

 

Senate Republicans announced their top four budgetpriorities this morning, ruling out a cut in actual government spending. Instead, they plan to "control spending" referencing the 39% growth over the last 8 years as something that needs to be restrained. However, Senate Republicans overwhelmingly helped pass a budget last biennium that grew government by 10% and also added $2.5 Billion of bonding debt.

Absent from Senate Republicans' priorities is a statement about giving back the surplus to taxpayers. Action 4 Liberty reported that there is nearly $5 Billion of surplusavailable to give back to Minnesota taxpayers. Instead, Senate Majority Leader Gazelka discussed continuing expensive programs like the Health Reinsurance program that Republicans passed last year. That legislation uses taxpayer money to cover insurance claims over $50,000.

The press release highlights four priorities:

  • Take care of people
  • Protect the taxpayer by living within our means
  • Control spending and hold government accountable
  • Be transparent and get done on time

Action 4 Liberty believes that Senator Paul Gazelka and his team have let down Republican voters again by not proposing to shrink government and return the surplus. They show up to conventions telling us that government is too big, but never actually propose shrinking it. On top of that, they are starting in a position of weakness in negotiating the next two year budget with the DFL controlled House and Governor Walz.


Hands Free Driving Laws Don't Work

A bipartisan coalition of legislators at the Capitol want to make it illegal to use a cell phone while driving in Minnesota unless a hands-fee device is employed. The House bill HF50currently has only Democrat authors, but is being supported by Republican leadership behind the scenes. It's companion bill in the Minnesota Senate is authored by GOP Senator Scott Newman.

Politicians are promoting this bill using emotional appeals to people who have lost loved ones in car accidents. But research suggests that hands free device legislation does not lead to lower automobile fatalities. According to the Safety Council, new research suggests that using "voice-to-text is more distracting than typing texts by hand."

If the bill becomes law, violators could face a fine of $225 on a second offense. The bill labels an offense as someone who initiates a cell phone call, talks or listens on a cell phone or views or listens to video content while operating a motor vehicle. Imagine how much commercial and personal business is conducted safely every day using a cell phone in a vehicle. In August of this year, it could be a banned activity.

Action 4 Liberty believes this law limits personal freedom, while not achieving a desirable impact. We will score this vote on our scorecard this year.

Hands free not risk free
Provided by The
National Safety Council


Actual Minnesota Budget Surplus at $5 Billion

Minnesota Management and Budget office released today the most recent economic forecastwhich is used by legislators and the governor to determine the next biennium budget. If you open a newspaper or tune into the 6 o'clock news, you'll hear the same talking point: Minnesota projected to have a $1.5 Billion surplus. But this is a fallacy. The government is overtaxing us by far more than that!

Projected revenues for the next biennium are $48.3 Billion. The expenditures used in the report assume government will automatically increase by 4.2%, but if the government didn't grow and remained the same size it is today, total expenditures would be $45.5 Billion. That means there would be a surplus of $3.5 Billion.

More importantly, our state government has taken our money at an unprecedented level and put it into a rainy day fund. They are holding onto over $2 Billion of cash that is not being used in our economy for investment and expansion, or for you during the Christmas season. If we released half of that money, the scenario we face is actually a $4.7 Billion surplus.