The urgent need for major health care reform was reinforced today by the news that three working-age Minnesotans die per week because they don't have health insurance according to a recently released Families USA study.
The study, Dying for Coverage in Minnesota, details that working-age people without health insurance have shorter life expectancies than working-age people with health insurance. Those without life insurance are diagnosed with serious medical condition when the problem has severely advanced. For example, uninsured women are far more likely to be diagnosed with advanced stage breast cancer than women with insurance.
A link to the study can be found here: http://familiesusa.org
Right now, over 450,000 Minnesotans still do not have health insurance. And cost is at the root of the problem. We must address health care costs for everyone-- for those with coverage and for those without. We must do this for our individual financial well being and for Minnesota's economic future. Many important health care reforms are being discussed at the Capitol this session, and I am hopeful we can pass legislation that moves us toward our goal of quality health care for every Minnesotan.
Posted on Sunday, March 30, 2008 by Erin Murphy,
Minnesota's foreclosure crisis continues to profoundly affect families and neighborhoods across the state. We have had record drops in home sales, steep declines in home values, and the highest level of foreclosures since the Great Depression. Last week, Federal Reserve Chair Ben Bernanke called for increased action at the federal level to respond to the crisis. We hope to address the crisis responsively at the Minnesota legislature this year as well.
The Minnesota Subprime Foreclosure Deferment Act of 2008 and other proposals before the Legislature take strong and immediate action to prevent foreclosures by encouraging lenders and borrowers to work together to restructure subprime loans.
Most homeowners want to pay their monthly mortgage, but skyrocketing payments caused by upward adjustments to interest rates have made it impossible for them to do so. Legislation has been introduced this year that would defer these huge rate increases to allow people avoid foreclosure. Homeowners who qualify will continue making payments and are required to live in their homes during the deferment period. .
Several other bills have been offered aimed at addressing our foreclosure crisis:
- HF3428 (Gunther) Modifying right of tenant to pay utility bills
- HF3474 (Hilstrom) Relating to mortgages; redemption period; providing for notice of sale
- HF3475 (Mullery) Amending provisions relating to foreclosure
- HF3477 (Gardner) Relating to manufactured housing; providing for regulation of lending practices and default; providing notices and remedies
- HF3480 (Mullery) Relating to human rights; modifying filing of claim provision
- HF3516 (Davnie) Providing for certain data practices relating to foreclosure; requiring a report
- HF3517 (Davnie) Modifying expungement and withholding of rent under certain circumstances.
If you would like know more information about these proposals, visit the House of Representatives Bill Search website to read summaries of each bill.
Our home foreclosure crisis isn’t going away anytime soon. We need sensible solutions in order to provide breathing room to homeowners, relief to lenders and stability to financial markets that are in disarray.
As these proposals move through the legislative process, please call or e-mail with any questions.
Posted on Wednesday, March 19, 2008 by Erin Murphy,
It's been a busy week at the Minnesota Legislature. March 14, the first of the 3 deadlines imposed to focus the policymaking process, has passed. By next Wednesday the 19th of March, bills must have been heard in all relevant policy committees in both the House and Senate. To meet the deadline, policy committees have been meeting into the evenings for the past couple of weeks. After the 19th, the scope of what will proceed narrows considerably. Many of the bills I am carrying have made the deadline and many will require more work before they will become law.
This week our committees started holding hearings on the Governor's supplemental budgetary recommendations. On February 28th, the Department of Finance released updated budgetary projections. As a consequence of recession in the first half of 2008 and further weakening of the U.S. economy, experts believe Minnesota will collect less tax revenue than previously anticipated in the coming fiscal year. Consequently, the Department is projecting a $935 million deficit for the current biennium and a growing deficit thereafter.
We are giving thorough and deliberate consideration to each of the Governor's proposals. Paring back spending is always difficult. I am very concerned that the Governor again proposes use of Health Care Access Funds to balance the budget. I am concerned that such a substantial proportion (56%) of the proposed cuts come from health and human services and that higer education funding is a target. I am going to work diligently to ensure cuts are made responsibly and with the least possible harm to the most vulnerable among us. Thanks to the many who have already made contact with me about the proposed budget cuts.
There are some components of the Governor's proposal that give me hope of progress. Funding for K-12 and local government aid are sheltered. Cuts to these budgets would likely result in more pressure on property taxes locally. I'm pleased to see the Governor will join the legislature in pursuing tax fairness and closing the loopholes for foreign operating corporations (FOCs). Additionally, it appears his budget would preserve some of the strides made for veterans over the past few years. We face a difficult challenge and I hope that we can build upon this common ground to restore balance to our state's finances with an eye on our shared future.
Posted on Saturday, March 15, 2008 by Erin Murphy,
Earlier in the session, we sent a constituent survey (if you did not get a copy, contact me and we will send you one). Question number five asked:
"Last year the legislature enacted a nation-leading Global Warming Mitigation Act aimed at significantly reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 15% by 2015, 30% by 2025and 80% by 2050. Given the ambitious goal, do you support using a Carbon cap-and-trade system to reduce greenhouse gasses in Minnesota?"
Constituents overwhelmingly said that they did not know enough about what cap-and-trade was in order to make a confident and educated decision. So, it seemed wise to share basic information on what a cap-and-trade system is, and where Minnesota is going in terms of this idea.
Paraphrased from Wikipedia, a cap-and-trade system, or emissions trading, is an approach used to control pollution by providing economic incentives for reducing the emissions of pollutants. The government sets a limit or cap on the amount of Carbon that can be emitted. Companies or other groups are issued emission permits and are required to hold an equivalent number of allowances (or credits), which represent the right to emit a specific amount. The total amount of allowances and credits cannot exceed the cap, limiting total emissions to that level.
Companies that need to increase their emissions must buy credits from those who pollute less. The transfer of allowances is referred to as a trade. In effect, the buyer is paying a charge for polluting, while the seller is being rewarded for having reduced emissions by more than was needed. Thus, in theory, those that can easily reduce emissions most cheaply will do so, achieving the pollution reduction at the lowest possible cost to society. The full article can be viewed here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cap_and_trade
In regard to this issue, Minnesota is making progress. As the survey question implied, Minnesota's Global Warming Mitigation Act was passed in last year's session. This set impressive goals for Minnesota in reducing greenhouse emissions. Then in November, Governor Pawlenty signed the Midwestern Regional Greenhouse Gas Reduction Accord with Governors from Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Kansas, Ohio, South Dakota, and Manitoba's Premier. According to the Governor's press release, the Accord will:
• Establish greenhouse gas reduction targets and timeframes
• Develop cap-and-trade mechanism
• Establish a system to enable tracking, management and crediting for entities that reduce greenhouse gas emissions; and
• Develop and implement additional steps, such as a low-carbon fuel standards and regional incentives and funding mechanisms.
The Governor's press release can be viewed here in full: http://www.governor.state.mn.us/mediacenter/pressreleases/2007/PROD008417.html
The legislature supports the governor's work toward a regional cap and trade program and Rep. Knuth has introduced a bill this session (HF 3195) to establish design principles of a cap and trade system that will benefit the public. The bill is currently in committee. The house's research on the bill can be viewed here:
I hope this information is useful. I am a co-author on Representative Knuth's bill. I hope that Minnesota will participate in the continued development of environmental policy for the nation. This legislation is an example of Minnesota's strong environmental leadership. Please feel free to contact me regarding your opinion and suggestions. As always, I look forward to hearing from you!
Posted on Friday, March 7, 2008 by Erin Murphy,