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Column: Lawmakers diving into REAL ID and more

Legislature has accomplished a lot within the first five weeks of this session.

The most important item we addressed was being able to provide premium relief to those struggling to pay their health insurance costs by passing Senate File 1. This was done on a bipartisan basis in both the Republican-controlled House and Senate. Many DFL legislators joined with Republicans to get this passed, so that it could be signed by the governor.

I am pleased with the precedent that we set within this first part of the session showing Minnesotans that their state government can work effectively and efficiently for them. With the level of polarizing national discourse, I want you to know that there are a lot of good, smart and dedicated people working very hard on your behalf in the Minnesota House of Representatives.

First, a quick recap on the health care bill.

Senate File 1 provides a 25 percent premium reduction to Minnesotans who purchase health insurance on the individual market and do not receive a tax credit. The bill also includes key reforms that preserve care for those receiving life-saving treatments, and increase competition and consumer choice moving forward.

This is just a first step, and we will continue to work on more long-term reforms to ensure market stability and increase affordable options and access for consumers.

In addition to health care, I have heard from many of you on issues ranging from taxes, energy, transportation, education and a variety of governmental policies.

Today I'd like to comment on the REAL ID issue and give you a short summary of some educational bills that are being considered.

In case you are unfamiliar with REAL ID, this act was passed by the U.S. Congress in 2005. The intention of the bill was to make it more difficult for potential terrorists to falsify an identification card. According to the law, all 50 states need to be in compliance before Jan. 22, 2018.

It is imperative that we get this done before the deadline, so that Minnesotans are able to travel and board airplanes, as well as visit military bases and federal facilities with the appropriate identification.

The differences between the new REAL ID and your current driver's license are minor. The REAL ID verifies the license holder's legal status in the United States and ensures they are not licensed in more than one state. In order to address some people's concerns about privacy, the current House proposal allows for a dual-track system. A resident would be able to either apply to get a REAL ID, or use their current state driver's license and a passport as a form of identification.

One of the top priorities in the House this session is to reform teacher licensing. The current system is cumbersome and costs teachers unnecessary time and money. The state of Minnesota is also facing a teacher shortage, particularly in subject areas such as math, science, CTE and special education. We need to streamline the licensing process so that out-of-state teachers and community experts wanting to teach in Minnesota can get licensed efficiently.

We are also looking at ways to provide tax credits for teachers pursuing master's degrees, families paying for preschool, and students dealing with the rising cost of college and subsequent student debt.

I have either authored or co-authored four education related bills addressing college student debt, support for schools to help students with dyslexia, funding for innovative education partnerships like Every Hand Joined, support for afterschool programs, and creating opportunities for schools to partner with industry in creating job skills and apprenticeship experiences for students.

I'd like to highlight three area teachers who have received special recognition. Neil Lahammer and Sheena Tisland, from Red Wing Public Schools, have been nominated for the 2017 Minnesota Teacher of the Year. My children had the good fortune of having both of these individuals, so I know first-hand of their high-caliber impact on students. Also, congratulations to Cannon Falls High School teacher Heather Loeschke on being named this year's Outstanding Social Studies Teacher by the Minnesota Council for Social Studies.

Also, congratulations to the city of Red Wing on being a top-five finalist for best "Main Street" in the country by Deluxe (Small Business Revolution). The winning city will receive $500,000 for revitalization efforts. Good luck, Red Wing!

If you ever have any questions, comments or concerns regarding any issue related to state government, please do not hesitate to contact me at, or send me an email.

Barb Haley is the Minnesota House District 21A representative.