Commerce & Energy Bill Focused On Proven Solutions Clears Senate

St. Paul, MN – Today the Minnesota Senate passed the Senate’s Energy & Commerce Budget. The biennial bill provides funding for critical programs in the Department of Commerce, maintains Minnesota’s reliable energy network, and continues the state’s successful reinsurance program.

“This budget funds our health insurance market, provides protection to consumers, and helps keep down the cost of doing business,” Senator Gary Dahms (R-Redwood Falls) said. “Making sure we continue funding our successful reinsurance program is imperative to help make health insurance affordable to Minnesota families. Reinsurance is a crucial tool in keeping our individual healthcare market stable, so Minnesotans don’t see premiums spike. Overall, this is a good budget that responds to the needs of Minnesota families, businesses, and consumers.”  

Funding the state’s successful reinsurance program through 2023 provides a proven program that has already saved Minnesotans money on the costs of health care. The bill funds the Department of Commerce at current levels, shores up an operating deficit in the Department’s Insurance Division, and funds a grant to the Minnesota Council on Economic Education (MCEE). This grant provides financial literacy education to children, so they can successfully manage their personal budgets as adults. 

In 2016 insurance premiums for the individual market increased by double digits due to changes from the Affordable Care Act. This led to the reinsurance program, and as a result Minnesota now has some of the lowest rates in the country. The Senate already voted in bipartisan fashion earlier this year to continue the reinsurance program through 2022.

The energy portion of Senate File 972 focuses on measured, thoughtful changes to Minnesota’s energy and telecom policy. It contains comprehensive funding for the two-year energy budget and renewable energy development.

“Polls confirm that Minnesota strongly favors moving towards a clean energy future, provided it’s affordable and reliable,” Senator David Senjem (R-Rochester), Chair of the Energy and Utilities Finance and Policy Committee, said. “This past year alone has shown how vital it is to facilitate innovation in our state energy production. It is imperative that we make improvements consistent with the opinions of our citizens and the direction being taken to combat climate change.”

This bipartisan legislation allocates $8 million for the Solar Rewards Program which incentivizes utilities which use solar systems, as well as modifying utility reporting to achieve the new solar standard by July 1, 2021. This bill establishes a Solar for Schools Program to provide grants to aid in the installation of solar energy systems on or adjacent to school buildings. This would allow schools to use the solar energy system as a teaching tool that can be integrated into the school’s curriculum.

This bill maintains Minnesota’s strong and reliable energy system while still encouraging innovation in emerging technologies for cleaner energy sources. The bill abolishes the current nuclear moratorium that would then allow for consideration of new nuclear-powered plants. Notably, this legislation also creates a state building energy conservation improvement account to implement energy conservation and energy efficiency improvements in state buildings. 

The bill will also aid in expanding Minnesota’s broadband market to provide robust broadband to all corners of the state and modernize the crucial telecom market.