MN Senate Bans Use of Phones in Cars; Unless Wearing Hijab or Scarf

(Photo Credit: CBS)

The Republican led Minnesota Senate yesterday passed a bill (HF 50) to ban cell phone use in vehicles without a hands free device. This bill previous passed overwhelmingly in the Minnesota House. The bill 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.

An interesting amendment authored by Bobby Joe Champion (DFL - Minneapolis) added language that provided an additional exception to using a phone while driving a vehicle. According to the amendment "the use of a scarf or hijab or other item​ of clothing to hold a device in a hands-free manner" is allowed under the new law.

Here's the vote for the amendment:

Here's the vote for the entire bill (which included the above amendment):

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. Adding language that excludes enforcement for people using a clothing device like a hijab, undermines the bill's intent to reduce distracted driving.

 


Vote Today that Expands Sports Agent Regulations

There's a bi-partisan bill up for a floor vote today authored by Rep Chris Swedzinski (R-16A) that would expand regulations for sports agents. The bill is a rewritten version of current state statutes that adds more requirements for agents looking to be licensed by the state of Minnesota, while also providing more reasons for the Commissioner to refuse to issue a license.

HF2363is on the House of Representatives Calendar for the day and currently has two DFL co-authors. The companion Senate bill has no Republican authors.

Action 4 Liberty believes that industry regulations should primarily be done in the private sector, not by government statutes. Licensing is a form of creating barriers-to-entry that discourages competition and protects those already in the business. We oppose this bill and will score this vote on mnscorecard.com.

SEE OUR WATCHLIST


Senate Republicans Want to Grow Spending by Over $2 Billion

The Republican Senate Caucus today released their budget proposal that grows government by over $2 Billion, coming in slightly smaller than the number proposed by the Minnesota DFL House. Although the budget does not raise taxes, it does keep current tax levels elevated and spends the majority of the budget surplus.

How It Compares?

The New House Republican Caucus' budget actually shrinks government and gives back billions of dollars in tax cuts, including a one year holiday on license tabs and fees. Their budget's total price tag is $45.2 Billion, which is over a $300 Million cut from current spending.

Governor Walz' budget proposal spends $49.3 Billion and adds $1.2 Billion of debt. To pay for his budget, Walz raises taxes on gasoline and keeps the health provider tax on the sick.

House Democrats released a budget proposal early this week, but their numbers are hard to properly score. The best estimate we have is that they plan to spend a total of $47.8 Billion, keep $600 Million on hand and issue $1.6 Billion of debt.

Below is how the key players look on the State Spending Football Field. The numbers released by both the Minnesota Republican Caucus and the DFL House are questionable. We used more conservative estimates of their spending numbers to calculate their positions on the field. Both the DFL House and Senate Republicans want a debt spending bill on top of general funds spending. Neither caucus gives back the surplus to taxpayers.

Action 4 Liberty stands with the New House Republican Caucus budget that is more in line with a conservative vision of state government. If Governor Walz is trying to massively expand state spending, the logical approach to negotiations is to start on the opposite side. A4L also believes every dime of the budget surplus should be returned to taxpayers.


Bill to Eliminate Fraudulent CCAP Program

A group of legislators led by Rep Steve Drazkowski (R - Mazeppa) introduced a billin the legislature to eliminate the state's portion of the Child Care Assistance Program (CCAP). This program is under public scrutiny for massive fraud that could amount to almost half of the state's $250 Million portion of funding. A whistleblower from the DHS alleges that money from this program is going to Somali daycare centers then wired overseas to potentially fund terrorism.

UPDATE. Sen Mark Koran (R - Chisago) introduced the companion billin the Minnesota Senate. Republicans hold the majority in the chamber and have yet to release their budget proposal, which could include defunding CCAP.

The Legislative Auditor completed his investigation last week and presented the findings to the legislature. Although the Auditor could not substantiate the claim of over $100 Millions in fraud, he did find that massive fraud existed and might be difficult to determine the actual amount. On top of that, the report states that the average beneficiary of the program receives $27,000.

Action 4 Liberty believes we need to eliminate CCAP. Half of the program is going to fraud and the other half is a massive welfare program. All the generations that came before us did not rely on government to pay for childcare. We are solving nothing by making Minnesotans depend on a government program. Meanwhile, we are taxing people to death. Kiplinger ranks us as the least taxpayer friendly state in the country.

 


Dayton Admin Won't Pay for MNLARS Catastrophe

The Minnesota House and Senate passed the MNLARS fix bill (SF 3133) today without the language from the GOP House bill that would have made the Dayton Administration take $10 Million from it's budget to pay for the fix. Instead the bill adopted the Senate location that gets the money from a reserve account from the Department of Driver and Vehicle Services.

We encouraged that Republicans stand strong with the House language, but the conference committee took it out this morning.

The bill that passed did have provisions that required auditing and accountability of the money and process of the MNLARS fix.

Roll call vote


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.