2017 Session Recap

Session is over and a budget has been created for the next biennium. Here’s how key MCC legislation fared:

  • Opportunity Scholarships left out.

For the second year in a row, the Opportunity Scholarship Tax Credit program was cut from the final tax bill during negotiations between the Legislature and the Governor. If passed, these tax credits would’ve helped create scholarships for low and middle income students to attend non-public schools, and would’ve given parents more freedom and flexibility in choosing the education for their children.

Although this set-back is disappointing, Opportunity Scholarships made it further than they ever have before in Minnesota, and the importance of parental choice in education was a constant theme of discussion at the Capitol. We look forward to building off this momentum as we work to help more kids have access to a quality education that is consistent with their faith and values.

  • MFIP marriage disincentive removed, but no cash increase.

The tens of thousands of Minnesota families who look to the Minnesota Family Investment Program (MFIP) for temporary help during tough stretches will need to wait another year for an increase in the rate of monthly assistance. The rate hasn’t increased in over 30 years, failing to keep up with inflation and increases in the cost of living, but a modest increase was left out of the final HHS bill when supporters of abortion rights protested that it would cut into a fund that also funds Planned Parenthood.

Despite this setback, MFIP was made more family-friendly in another respect, as the marriage penalty was removed. Those accessing MFIP and looking to get married will now have a 12-month grace period if their new combined household income is above the MFIP maximum threshold. This is an important step to incentivize marriage, a key to family formation and stability.

  • Palliative Care Advisory Council included in HHS bill.

Part of a consistent ethic of life means not just opposing dangerous practices like assisted suicide, but also taking pro-active steps to advance real care. This provision establishes a dedicated council–made up of doctors, health care system managers, and other experts in the field–to look into how palliative care can be expanded to more Minnesotans who are at the end of life or going through a difficult health challenge.

  • Tax credit will encourage new farming.

Beginning farmers face many difficulties in getting started, none bigger than the prohibitive cost of equipment and land. This new tax credit will incentivize established farmers to rent or sell their land and equipment to newcomers at an affordable price, creating new opportunities for families to live on the land and live out the agricultural vocation.

  • Unhelpful language shutting down conversation on immigrant driver’s licenses included in omnibus bill.

This provision will unnecessarily shutdown discussion about how to make the lives of undocumented immigrants living in our communities more bearable while we work toward a comprehensive solution to our broken immigration system. There is a chance that it will be removed in a possible special session.

  • Healthy boost to non-public pupil aid.

Non-public schools educate the Minnesota public. A new measure will increase non-public pupil aid, helping more Minnesota kids in non-public schools access quality textbooks and other important educational resources.

  • No urban agriculture initiative.

A creative effort to promote healthy eating, land stewardship, and employment opportunities in cities through grants for urban agriculture initiatives was left out of the final Ag bill.

  • Ban on taxpayer funding for abortion gets vetoed.

Governor Dayton vetoed a measure that aimed to stop state taxpayer money from funding abortion.

  • Efforts to keep water clean passed.

Funds have been set aside for clean water initiatives, and a commonsense measure that requires buffer strips to reduce agricultural runoff was passed into law.

Check out The Catholic Spirit’s full recap: School choice legislation fails to pass, but MCC sees ‘marriage-friendly’ welfare win at session’s end

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