Several bills with local impact pass in 2012

The 2012 legislative session will be winding down in the coming days. Much of the statewide news has focused on things that have yet to be accomplished; namely, a Vikings Stadium bill and a bonding bill. There has been less focus on some of the smaller victories this year, including a few bills I am proud to have passed to help our local communities.

Last week, I passed a bill off the Senate Floor that will bring regulatory relief for a few small electric energy providers. This is a significant issue for Freeborn-Mower Electric Cooperative and Dairyland Electric Cooperative, as they should see significant financial and staff-time savings through a new alternative filing process.

The state of Minnesota, through the Division of Energy Resources uses an Integrated Resource Planning (IRP) model, which helps plan for future electric resource needs. Current law exempts some small operators from this filing requirement, and while the providers covered by this bill are above that current “small” threshold, they each represent less than two percent of statewide electric energy sales.

They came to me because they were finding requirements of the IRP to be excessively burdensome and costly. When any business encounters increased costs or regulations, there’s always risk those costs will be passed onto customers – in this case, ratepayers. My bill provides relief to these co-ops and protects ratepayers from potential increased rates.

Specifically, the bill I passed last week preserves the important IRP process to plan for future energy needs, but it also provides an alternative, streamlined regulatory filing process to electric co-ops that have at least 80 percent of their member distribution cooperatives located outside Minnesota and provide less than four percent of electricity annual sold at retail in the state. Instead, those co-ops now will be able to annually submit a report to the Public Utilities Commission that will include projected demand levels for the next 15 years and generation resources that can help meet projected generation deficiencies.

The other bill I am very proud to have authored will significantly increase penalties for those who harm vulnerable adults and children through abuse and neglect. I mentioned this legislation after it was signed by Governor Mark Dayton last week. The tragic incident that happened in Dexter last year should never happen again, and if it does, the violators should be rightfully punished. I am grateful that we were able to work together to get that bill passed.

I also carried the Banking Bill for the Department of Commerce again this year. It’s one of those pieces of legislation that may not sound particularly exciting, but which includes very important provisions that help keep our state’s banks functioning and serving consumers properly.

All told, I am proud to have passed more bills this year than any other DFL Senator. I hope this speaks to my ability to work with both sides of the political aisle, a quality I deem highly important in this job. Cooperation is a necessary tool to accomplish what Minnesotans expect us to get done, and I’m especially grateful when it results in policies that can benefity our local communities.

We are nearing the end of session and there remains a number of high profile issues left to be dealt with before adjournment. I am committed to continue working with all of my colleagues to reach a successful conclusion. If you have any questions or concerns, please contact me any time at: sen.dan.sparks@senate.mn; 651-296-9248; Room 19 State Office Building, St. Paul, MN 55155.
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Senator Dan Sparks
Dan Sparks represents District 27, which includes all or portions of Dodge, Faribault, Freeborn, Mower, and Steele counties in the southeastern part of the state.

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