A weekly message from your Senator

Dear Constituents and Friends,

Many of you have reached out to me expressing your perspective on the REAL ID legislation that failed on the Senate floor. REAL ID compliance is needed so that Minnesotans can continue to board airplanes and visit their family members on military bases with ease. Unfortunately, I could not support a bill that brought Minnesota in compliance with the requirements of REAL ID, but inserted immigration issues unnecessary to implement the law. 

I have always been supportive of a REAL ID bill. I voted to pass a clean bill in 2016 that unfortunately got bogged down in conference committee with the House requiring divisive immigration language to be in the bill. I believe that we need to separate the issues of REAL ID and immigration policy. 

I voted YES to support an amendment to strip the unnecessary immigration policy from the REAL ID bill. Unfortunately, a clean bill, without unneeded immigration language, ended up failing on a party line vote. Like you, I want a clean REAL ID bill that does not continue to jeopardize Minnesotans' access to airplanes, military bases, and federal buildings in perpetuity.

I assure you that I am committed to work for a bipartisan solution to clean up the bill and repass it this session to ensure Minnesotans can board airplanes and visit their loved ones on military bases. Thank you for your continued engagement and rest assured I will work hard to get this issue resolved before we adjourn.



REAL ID stalled by controversial language

The REAL ID bill (SF 166) failed to pass in the Senate this past week due to controversial language. This topic has been a point of discussion for many years in Minnesota’s previous attempts to align with federal REAL ID standards.

An amendment was proposed by the Senate DFL to attempt to remove this disputed language failed and the bill did not progress any further. We expect to revisit the topic of Real ID later this session. 

History is made as MN allows liquor sales on Sundays

Governor Mark Dayton signed the Sunday sales bill into law on Tuesday after its passage in the House and Senate.  The law removes the ban on alcohol sales on Sundays which first passed before Minnesota received its statehood.  

Polls demonstrate two-thirds of Minnesotans support the act to allow liquor stores to open on Sundays.  The law is expected to stimulate the economies of border towns as citizens will not be travelling across state lines to buy liquor.

Cities do still retain some control, however, in whether or not to pass ordinances to keep local liquor stores closed on Sundays.  Family and municipal-owned liquor stores were the strongest critics of the bill as they projected increases in overhead and operation costs.  However, many saw the ban on Sunday sales as outdated and depriving liquor stores of opportunities.

The law will go into effect Sunday, July 2nd.

Tobacco tax cuts proposed

The Senate Tax Committee heard several bills regarding reducing taxes on a variety of tobacco products.  The first bill (SF 1051), proposes a frozen tax rate on cigarettes and another is aimed at reducing the tax on premium cigars (849).  

Additionally, the third bill heard is directed at the growing e-cigarette industry.  The language of the bill would tax the nicotine used in e-cigarettes rather than tax all e-cigarette products at 95% of the wholesale price.

Supporters of these bills argue that the current taxes on tobacco products are regressive and disproportionately affect lower-income users.  Furthermore, they believe this bill will help set a precedent in order to move Minnesota towards a more progressive tax system.

Opposers used statistics to counter the positive aspects by pointing out the reduction in teen smoking after a bill passed in 2013 raised the tax on tobacco.  Data further demonstrates high prices are the best obstruction to youth smoking and the most effective in encouraging smokers to quit smoking.  

All three bills were laid aside and will be considered for inclusion in the omnibus tax bill.

Light rail and transportation funding discussed

Two bills opposing light rail transit (LRT) were heard in the Senate this week along with the introduction of a Senate transportation resolution.  

The first bill would create criteria for new LRT lines in order to receive operations funding.  The state currently funds 50 percent of LRT operations and light rail use has increased steadily every year since its inception.  The bill aims to make it more difficult for LRT lines to qualify to receive state funding for operations (SF 150).

The second bill limits the use of public money, local and state alike, for construction of new light rail lines.  The language requires the state legislature to approve funding for construction and removes Hennepin, Anoka, Ramsey, and any other county’s ability to utilize their own resources to build LRT projects (SF 1769).

The introduced Senate resolution requests President Trump to redirect the $900 million of federal funding for the Southwest Corridor project into a block grant to improve Minnesota’s roads and bridges.  This proposed redirection would counter laws regulating the use of the funds.  The current regulations state the federal funds are specifically meant to be used for rail projects and cannot be used by states for other projects.

Omnibus elections bill moves forward

An omnibus elections bill has been moved to the Senate Finance Committee after being passed through four other committees (SF 514).  The bill is controversial as one of its main components includes the creation of a provisional ballot system.  

Minnesota is among the minority regarding provisional ballots as several other states have such systems.  Provisional ballots are votes cast by anyone with a challenged status.  While the meaning of “challenged status” is broad, it typically encompasses issues with voter misinformation, voter mistaken identity, and vote challenges.  

Currently, Minnesota resolves cases such as these with a procedure of questioning and allowing a voter to testify their eligibility under oath in the presence of a election judge.  Local law enforcement and county officials then follow up on the voter to reassure of their honesty.  

The bill attempts to change this method by simply requiring a challenged voter to cast a ballot and then its credibility is either accepted or denied by a public official.  Another provision of the bill will attempt to curb unexpected challenged voter status by requiring the informing of all those with challenged status of their current position.  Challenged voters will then be allowed time to dispute their status before election day.

Increased funding proposed for low-income students to participate in AP & IB programs

A bill aiming to encourage low-income and disadvantaged  high-school students to enroll in Advanced Placement (AP) and International Baccalaureate (IB) was proposed this week.  Funding would be increased for AP and IB STEM courses and the expanded use of grants would seek to lower barriers for low-income students to register in upper-level classes.  

The bill intends to grow the number of low-income and disadvantaged students in AP and IB STEM college programs and drive them towards future careers in STEM fields (SF 1056).