The new legislative session begins on Jan. 8. Though we are entering a new year, with a new governor and a new House majority, my goals remain the same: to do my best for the people of Senate District 21 and all of Minnesota.
With the recent observance of Veterans Day, I thought it would be a good time to share some of the legislation we worked on that cares for Minnesota's veterans.
By now you know that Republicans' reinsurance program has been a fantastic success for cleaning up the MNsure mess. The New York Times wrote about how successful it was, and recently the Minnesota Department of Commerce announced that every insurer will reduce individual market rates again in 2019. In fact, one health care researcher from Georgetown raved that she had "yet to see a state report across-the-board decreases as Minnesota has."
In my June column, I discussed Gov. Mark Dayton's end-of-session vetoes and how disappointing it was that he was unwilling to work with the legislature on tax cuts and the supplemental spending bill that funded critical issues facing the state, like elder abuse prevention, opioid addiction and school safety. One success I am quite proud of is this year's bipartisan bonding bill.
When the Senate re-convened at the end of February, we knew it was going to be a fast and furious session. We had a full agenda and barely more than three months to get it all done. Unfortunately, Gov. Mark Dayton vetoed two of the three biggest bills of the session — a tax cut bill and a bill providing budget adjustments thanks to positive revenue forecasts. I can't tell you how disappointed I am in the governor and his decision to veto these two bills that would have helped so many Minnesota families.
When the February forecast revealed a small budget surplus, I immediately began talking to as many constituents as I could to get feedback on what we should do with it. As you can imagine, there was a wide variety of ideas.
The Minnesota Legislature will return April 9 from Easter recess, which means we are approximately one-third of the way through the 2018 session. Here is a quick recap of what we have been working on so far, and what you can expect for the remainder of session. MNLARS The MNLARS fiasco has been among our top priorities. This is Minnesota's new system for licensing and registering vehicle titles that was unveiled last summer, but because it was developed in-house by the administration, legislators and the general public were blindsided by the disaster.
Most people accept that in order for our republic to function, some level of taxation is required of citizens to provide the core functions of government. But over the last several decades, government's approach to taxation has gotten out of hand. Rather than ask the public to fund only the most crucial programs, government's wish list has been getting longer and longer and longer. This has meant regular folks like you and me are working harder than ever only to watch more and more money come out of our paychecks.
In the past, getting a vehicle title or new license plates was a minor hassle, but customers could generally count on the process running smoothly. That is no longer the case, thanks to the new Minnesota License and Registration System. Now we can only count on delays and frustration. What is MNLARS? Simply, it's our new system rolled out this past July to handle things like vehicle licenses and title transfers. It had been in development — mostly by MNIT, the state's technology agency — for nearly a decade at a cost of more than $90 million.
When the 2017 session began, I was one of 12 freshmen who were part of the new Republican majority in Minnesota Senate. Each of us ran for office in large part due to frustration with the lack of results and the constant bickering that was a hallmark of the previous Legislature, so we were committed to getting things done. We had a long to-do list when session began, but we checked off every item. It was one of the most productive sessions in recent memory. There's far too much to summarize in only one column, but here is what we did on a few of the big issues.