ST. PAUL, Minn. (WCCO) — Time is beginning to run out in the 2018 legislative session with less than a month remaining, and several bills still in limbo.
A state tax bill is on its way to the House floor. It was a major priority this year — aligning the state tax code with the federal one. Now, the GOP-sponsered bill will get a vote.
The measure includes some slight income tax rate cuts and a small increase to the standard deduction. It would also result in some tax increases for around 180,000 taxpayers.
The chair of the House Tax Committee argues that’s a small price to pay compared to the tax hikes and confusion that Minnesotans will face if the legislature doesn’t act now. There could be a potential $60 million increase in those state income taxes if the state doesn’t align with the federal changes included in President Trump’s Tax Cut and Jobs Act of 2017.
Democrats have said they worry this plan does away with several deductions that could help people lower their bill in the future.
The Department of Revenue is currently reviewing the bill, which is expected to make its way to the House floor next week. The Senate has yet to officially debut its proposal.
This all comes after one Democratic lawmaker sat on the house floor for a full 24 hours to fight for gun control legislation. With less than a month to go in the 2018 session, Rep. Erin Maye Quade of Apple Valley wants to see a vote on some proposals, including universal background checks.
Another priority for local advocates: new laws that crack down on distracted driving.
State lawmakers plan to recognize the families of two Minnesotans who died in service of the state and country. Highway 52 in Rosemount is being renamed in honor of Warrant Officer Dennis Groth, who was killed in a helicopter crash in the Vietnam War.
A stretch of Highway 12 in Wayzata is also being renamed as “Officer Bill Mathews Memorial Highway.” Mathews was killed by a distracted driver last year while clearing debris from the road.
Families of distracted driving victims hope legislation can prevent more tragedies. Similar legislation has been introduced in the past, but it has never made it past the finish line. Advoctes hope this year will be different.
It’s been two years since Megan Geltz and her unborn baby were killed near Stillwater by a driver who was allegedly on his phone. Now, her parents are pushing for this law to pass, while taking care of Megan’s daughter, Paisley.
“She knows I fly for work to different destinations, and she says, ‘Papa, when you’re up in the clouds can you bring Mama home for me?'” Megan’s father Tom Geltz said. “How do you respond to a 4-year-old, a 5-year-old like that?”
There is already a texting and driving law in Minnesota, but there is one major discrepancy — if an officer pulls a person over and it is not clear if they were texting or if they were making a phone call, they could be let off.
The Hands-Free bill would allow law enforcement to pull over anyone seen using their phone. The measure doesn’y have bi-partisan support, but it is tied up in committee right now. It has not gone up for a vote, and there are only a few weeks left to go.