The House and Senate reached an agreement on a “reinsurance” bill to extend the program first authorized in 2017 for five additional years. At $789 million, the cost is about half as much as what Senate Republicans initially wanted to send insurance companies, and the final agreement includes two key health care reform policies that DFLers insisted upon adding.
The first requires plans offered on the market to cover postnatal visits at three weeks after delivery, 12 weeks after delivery, and any additional visits between those dates. The concept came from the House Select Committee on Racial Equity to improve maternal health outcomes in communities of color. The other addition requires plans to offer a pre-deductible, flat-dollar amount copay structure for prescription drugs to allow consumers to spread the costs over 12 months. This will be a particularly helpful tool for enrollees with high deductibles and prescription drug costs.
While these two policies are a step in the right direction, DFLers argued there is still much more to be done to stabilize health care costs, improve the quality of care, and drive better patient health outcomes. Senate DFLers offered an amendment to send tax credits directly to consumers whose premiums were high relative to their income, but Republicans did not allow a vote. (SF 3472)
Omnibus Liquor Bill
The governor signed the first bill making broad changes to Minnesota’s liquor laws in six years. Some of the provisions included in SF 3008 are:
Cocktail rooms & distilleries. Allows distilled spirits manufacturers to sell cocktails to the public and will enable micro-distilleries to sell up to 750 milliliters per customer per day in any size container or combination of containers approved by the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau.
- Increases the cap to sell growlers from 20,000 barrels to 150,000 barrels, allowing some of the state’s larger craft brewers to sell the product.
Small breweries. Provides off-sale packaging requirements for small brewers (7,500 barrels or less of malt liquor annually), allowing them to sell six-packs.
This section also provides an exception for 2021 production, allowing small brewers (annual production between 5,500 and 13,500 barrels) to make the additional sales until their annual production increases by 2,000 barrels over their 2021 production.
- Allows a winery producing apple-based cider to self-distribute that cider as long as no more than 2,500 barrels are produced and sold in a calendar year.
Sections 7-9 – Open wholesaling. This eliminates the difference between out-of-state vs. in-state spirits and says that any spirits sold in the state, regardless of where produced, must sell their product to all wholesalers in Minnesota – called “open wholesaling.” Under the changes in this bill, no spirit producer or manufacturer would be allowed to pursue exclusive contracts with wholesalers. Beer and wine are not currently subject to the Coleman Act and are permitted to have exclusive contracts. That would not change under this bill. The policy only applies to spirits.
Resorts, Town Ball, auto racing. Allows cities and counties to issue an on-sale intoxicating liquor license to resorts; a municipality to issue on-sale malt liquor and wine licenses to town ball games.; and a municipality to issue an on-sale intoxicating liquor license to an auto racing facility located in the municipality.
County fairs. Allows a municipality to issue one seven-day temporary on-sale license per year to a county agricultural society. It also increases the municipality population threshold for the exception to the 30-day waiting period for temporary on-sale licenses.
World Cup. Allows a licensing jurisdiction to issue an on-sale license to operate during extended hours during a live broadcast of a men’s or women’s World Cup match. Sales would be authorized 30 minutes before, during, and 30 minutes after a live match.
- $250,000 in FY ’23 is appropriated from the General Fund to DPS to hire two additional full-time employees in the Division of Alcohol and Gambling Enforcement.
Anoka Social District: The bill allows the city of Anoka to designate a ‘social district’ where the consumption of alcoholic beverages would be allowed. There are specific requirements for the district, and the city is required to report to the Legislature within 24 months of the first issuance of a social district license explaining the community response, problems and challenges encountered, public safety concerns arising due to the operation of the district, and other information. (SF 3008)
Commerce and Consumer Protection budget
The Commerce supplemental budget was amended into SF 3243 on the last day of session. Many of the bills were not heard in the Senate. Overall, the budget is focused on consumer protection. It expands the Commerce Fraud Bureau to investigate financial crimes, provides law enforcement with more tools to address auto theft prevention, and allows the Department of Commerce to hire about a dozen people to make things run more smoothly and investigate financial crime.
Auto theft prevention
To combat the rise in auto thefts, this provision requires the Dept. of Commerce to establish a library of equipment to combat auto theft and reimburse local law enforcement for investigating auto thefts. Upon request, the equipment must be made available to all law enforcement agencies to combat automobile theft. The bill appropriates just over $522K in FY23 from the general fund.
Expanding the Commerce Fraud Bureau (CFB)
To help investigate the growing number of financial crimes, this bill appropriates $870,000 in FY23 and $1.6 million in FY24-25 from the general fund to hire five additional peace officers for the CFB. The bill also expands the jurisdiction of the CFB to investigate financial crimes.
Insurance Division Staffing
The bill increased staffing capacity in two insurance-related divisions within the Department. Two investigators and a new analyst position will be added to the Department of Commerce’s Market Conduct team to allow the Department to conduct more examinations in-house and lessen the Department’s reliance on external contractors.
Financial Institutions Assessment Equity
The bill contains statutory changes to extend the assessment authority of the Financial Institutions Division to include all regulated financial institutions. This will result in a reduction in general fund revenue of $783K in the next three years.
Financial Institution Securities staffing
This bill includes an additional $300K per year for additional securities staffing. (HF 3255)
DID NOT PASS
Senate Republicans once again blocked all attempts to pass legislation to help prevent catalytic converter thefts that continue to occur at alarming rates. DFLers tried to add language to the Omnibus Jobs bill that would prohibit anyone other than a licensed scrap metal dealer from buying used converters and making it unlawful to possess a used converter, not attached to a car, unless the owner has documentation of legitimate removal and ownership. DFLers also tried to force the Senate to finally vote on the bill by moving it from the committee where it has been stuck for two years without a hearing, but that motion also failed. The bill is supported by law enforcement, auto theft investigators, and the insurance industry, yet Senate Republicans refuse to consider the legislation. (SF 2491)
A common-sense measure to allow Minnesota to join 37 states that have anti-price gouging laws was blocked for a second year in a row. DFLers tried to move the bill out of the Commerce Committee, where it has been stuck without a hearing for two years, but Senate Republicans blocked the motion. The baby formula shortage of Spring 2022 drew new attention to the need for this important consumer protection measure. The Attorney General supports the idea to prevent companies from charging excessive prices for necessary goods, and last year, Governor Walz sent a letter to lawmakers urging them to pass a law to protect consumers once pandemic-era emergency orders that included such safeguards expired. (SF 965)
Paid Family Leave insurance policies
For the past six years, the Senate DFL has been pushing for a statewide Paid Family and Medical Leave policy that would be available to all workers, regardless of where they work, or when they or a family member need care. The bipartisan, DFL-led plan would create a statewide program to provide wage replacement for up to 12 weeks of employment leave to care for a new child or attend to a personal or family-member medical need – something too many Minnesotans have encountered during the pandemic.
This year, Republican Senators blocked efforts to move that bill (SF 1205) and, instead, presented two bills that fall far short of meeting that goal. The first bill would ask insurance companies to offer yet another insurance product people could purchase if they anticipated adding a child to their family. If they could afford another insurance policy and if the insurance company approved their coverage request, they could use it only for parental leave or caretaking – not their personal medical needs. The bill’s author admitted the bill, “provides no assurances or guarantee it goes to everybody,” unlike the DFL plan. The bill’s only supportive testimony came from the insurance industry and business groups. That bill passed the Senate but was never heard in the House.
The second bill would offer a tax credit to employers – but not employees – if they offered even one day of paid family leave to employees (more information in the Tax section). That was included in the Senate’s second tax bill but not the final agreement. (SF 1205)