Capitol notebook: House will be taking up insurance-exchange bill

by T.W. Budig
ECM Capitol reporter

The House on Monday (March 4) afternoon is expected to debate Rep. Joe Atkins’ health care insurance exchange legislation, an exercise likely to last into the night.

House Majority Leader Erin Murphy, DFL-St. Paul, said the legislation, the state’s alternative to a federally-imposed exchange, had gone through nine House committees, 43-hours of hearings, been amended 63 times — a dozen by Republicans — on its journey to the House floor.

She characterized the high-profile bill as an example of good work coming from the House.

 House Minority Leader Kurt Daudt, R-Crown, listens to Sen. Dave Thompson, R-Lakeville, in the commentary following the release of the February state budget forecast. Republicans insist the growing economic vitality of the state reflects their handling of the state budget. (Photo by T.W. Budig)


House Minority Leader Kurt Daudt, R-Crown, listens to Sen. Dave Thompson, R-Lakeville, in the commentary following the release of the February state budget forecast. Republicans insist the growing economic vitality of the state reflects their handling of the state budget. (Photo by T.W. Budig)

House Minority Leader Kurt Daudt, R-Crown, dismissed the idea that the legislation is bipartisan.

Democrats haven’t accepted any substantial Republican amendments, Daudt explained at a leaders’ briefing on Friday (March 1).

“I don’t think we’ll have a lot of amendments,” Daudt said of the floor debate.

But the amendments they do offer will be meaningful, he said.

The Senate is expected to take its insurance exchange bill to the floor on Thursday.

Senate Minority Leader David Hann, R-Eden Prairie, said the exchange isn’t a good idea and questioned whether it would have any Republicans support.

Republicans have criticized the bill for what they say is a poorly-crafted oversight board, saying existing conflict of interest rules in the bill essentially bar health care experts from serving on it.

Former House Health and Human Services Finance Committee Chairman Jim Abeler, R-Anoka, will likely be at the forefront of debate.

The Legislature has been in speed-up mode on the exchange legislation because of looming federal deadlines.

On another issue, guns, Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk, DFL-Cook, indicated that universal background check provisions, if they go beyond gun- show background checks to include the private transfer of guns, would receive a cool reception on the Senate floor, particularly among Greater Minnesota lawmakers.

“It’s going to be tough to get the votes to pass that,” said Bakk, depicting background checks om private gun transfers as unleashing the bureaucracy.

House Speaker Paul Thissen, DFL-Minneapolis, said the House wants a gun bill that actually does something, but also one that can get votes.

“What all the pieces will be, I don’t know,” he said.

Bakk, speaking the day after the release of the upbeat February budget forecast that showed the projected budget deficit lightened by $463 million, an additional $295 million going to repay the school shift, said the press missed a “big story” on Thursday.

That is, a Gallup well-being poll that placed Minnesota behind Hawaii and Colorado in terms of resident well being — a distinction drawn from more than 50 well-being items, according to poll makers.

The states of West Virginia, Kentucky, and Mississippi rounded out the bottom of the roster of states.

“I think that’s a pretty big story,” Bakk said of the state’s third-place ranking.

“And a I think that is jeopardized,” he said of a perceived lack of investment.

Department of Employment and Economic Development Commissioner Katie Clark Sieben and an assemblage of Greater Minnesota lawmakers were at the Capitol on Friday (March 1) hawking Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton’s proposed $30 million funding for the Minnesota Investment Fund (MIF), which provides loans, some forgivable, to businesses that create and expand jobs and operations in Minnesota.

While endorsing the governor’s MIF funding proposal, Sen. David Tomassoni, DFL-Chisholm, Senate Environment, Economic Development, and Agriculture Committee chairman, acknowledged the governor’s overall budget proposal will be rejiggered by the Legislature.

“‘Plan A’ isn’t the one that we’re going to do,” Tomassoni said.

“Plan C” will be put together in upcoming weeks.

Although somewhat lost amid the rush of the week, a number of area lawmakers and mediators gathered for a press conference to present legislation to reactivate the Office of Collaboration and Dispute Resolution within the Bureau of Mediation Services to facilitate the peaceful resolution of disputes thorough community-based mediation services.

Rep. Carolyn Laine, DFL-Columbia Heights, House bill author, believes the message from voters last election  was quit bickering, get things done.

She is seeking $750,000 for the initiative.

“I authored this bill because I believe that individuals of all ages and backgrounds can resolve their own disputes—effectively, inexpensively, and peacefully,” Rep. Laine said in a statement.

Also appearing at the press conference was Sen. Alice Johnson, DFL-Spring Lake Park, who has been a volunteer meditator in Anoka County for 20 years.

“I have been honored to see first-hand the transformative power of mediation and how it strengthens and helps families, neighborhoods, students in trouble, juvenile offenders and so many others,” Johnson said in a statement.

Tim Budig can be reached at tim.budig@ecm-inc.com.

 

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