Abortion, Appleton prison, MNsure all part of House's latest big bill


Late into the night, and after 12 hours of discussion, the Minnesota House passed a large bill that touches on MNsure, private prisons, state spending and more.

The omnibus bill (meaning it's a collection of a bunch of smaller proposals, and very long) was approved 72-57.

It'll now go to the DFL-controlled Senate, which is unlikely to give the thumbs up to an identical bill, as the House is controlled by Republicans. (Note: The House and Senate have to pass the exact same bill before it can head to the governor for a signature, which then makes it law.)

It was the third large omnibus bill passed by the House this week – an agriculture, environment and jobs bill as approved Wednesday, and an education bill passed Monday.

Session Daily runs through Friday morning's bill in detail, but here's a quick rundown of what's included:

MNsure repealed

MNsure would be fully repealed, and the money shifted to the broader health and human services spending. Minnesota would then use the federal health care exchange.

The use of Appleton prison ... maybe

The bill tells the Department of Corrections to work on securing a lease for, or buying and operating, the prison in Appleton, as a way to ease crowding (as the state is about 560 inmates over capacity, and leasing beds). A few lawmakers, all Democrats, tried at add amendments that would ban or deter the state from working with private prisons. But all were rejected.

However, some new drug sentencing guidelines expected to be announced Friday may solve the overcrowding issue.

Regulations for clinics that perform abortions

New abortion regulations, including licensing requirements for facilities that perform more than 10 abortions each year, the removal of some Title X funds for health clinics that perform abortions (the money, about $10 million, would go to clinics that help minority and low-income women), and the requirement that state sponsored health programs don't be used for abortion services.

No police body cam regulations

An amendment that would have outlined regulations for how to handle police body camera footage was not added to the omnibus bill.

How much money the state should spend

There are a host of government spending suggestions, including:

  • Salary reductions of 5 percent for commissioners, deputy commissioners, and assistant commissioners, a 10 percent reduction in travel expenses, and a hiring freeze – resulting in $6.25 imllion less in spending.
  • Nixing that "Donate $5 to help state candidates run for office" option on your tax returns – it would bring in $2.67 million.
  • An additional $1.8 million for security improvements at National Guard facilities.
  • $500,000 to look at cyber security across the state.

Then there's a Senate bill

The Senate meanwhile is controlled by the DFL, and Thursday passed its own version of a spending bill.

The supplemental budget bill, totaling $498 million, was approved on a 39-24 vote, the state Senate website says.

Included, according to the Senate DFL:

MNsure gets money

MNsure would be treated the opposite here, actually getting money to "enact needed changes to the system" as part of a $43.3 million health and human services bill.

Business grants, community programs for disparities

$91 million would go to address racial disparities, using business grants, workforce development programs, and "youth and community resilience programs."

Rural broadband

Rural broadband (a frequent topic this session) would get $85 million to try to improve access across the state.

Boost in education spending

The DFL's bill would add $100.5 million to E-12 education spending, on top of what's currently being spent. Then there's another $47.5 million for higher education institutions, including grants for MnSCU schools and an undergraduate tuition decrease at the University of Minnesota.

More spending

In addition:

  • $31.5 million would be spent on transportation and public safety, including rail safety.
  • $45 million would go toward offender treatment and support, as well as mental illness.
  • $30 million would help expand programs for veterans, and provide cyber security funding.
  • $7.5 million for the environment and energy, including cleanup of portions of the St. Louis River, and help for Minnesota River basin goals.
  • And $60 million in agriculture such as farm safety, industrial hemp programs – as well as parks and trails and outdoors programs.

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