Sen. Koran gives legislative update to County Board

District 32 State Sen. Mark Koran talks to the Chisago County Board of Commissioners May 3.

District 32 state Sen. Mark Koran was before the Chisago County Board of Commissioners May 3 to talk about the happenings at the Capitol this session.
He started off his conversation with the board by noting all of the legislative committee work has been wrapped up and the House and Senate budgets have been aligned early.
“We want to make sure there’s time to resolve any issues and get our budget passed,” he said.
Next, Koran detailed a topic that’s been at the forefront in the media recently: health care.
“I’m sure you’ve followed with the health care and the crisis we had at the beginning of the year,” he said. “We passed some good legislation attempting to put Minnesota back in the leadership position of our health care. We have done as much as we can without knowing where the federal government is going on the health care issue.”
He said the first part of the state health care reform is aimed at assistance for taxpayers.
“Phase 1 was short-term relief for 2017 individual payers,” he explained. “Phase 1 was seven additional reforms which are trying to get us back to those elements that were in place prior to the ACA (Affordable Care Act).”
He then detailed the second part of the proposed reform.
“Phase 2 was the reinsurance,” he said. “Most people had a little heartache over the price tag of it. It is a very expensive component of our insurance program, but it was a component that was in place prior to the ACA, as well.”
Reinsurance, at its most basic, is insurance for insurance companies, according to a Jan. 19 Pioneer Press article.
“Just like normal insurance distributes risk from individuals to a broader pool of people, reinsurance distributes risk away from a given insurance company,” the article notes. “More specifically, the kind of plan Minnesota is considering would shift the costs of some expensive patients away from the individual market.”
As far as further health care reforms go, Koran said the state is waiting to see what happens at the federal level.
“There have been some additional reforms, and we continue to work on those as Congress decides or defines what changes they’re going to make and how they’re going to impact us,” he said.
Koran also noted a transportation bill, likely somewhere in the amount of $370 million for roads and bridges, is on the horizon.
That announcement pleased Commissioner Mike Robinson, who said the counties have been promised state funding for roads and bridges in past legislative sessions, but that never came to fruition.
Koran said Social Security has been of high priority this session, as well.
“The other big piece was Social Security,” he said. “We were not able to bite off and allow for all Social Security to be removed from taxation, but a portion of it — about $130 million a year, $260 million per biennium. That means our seniors get to keep $260 million and put that back into the economy at their choice, not ours.”
Wrapping up his presentation, Koran called legislation aimed at farmers for school referendum relief a “pretty significant relief package.”
“I think it was somewhere around $80 million that will provide the relief for referendums, for the additional burdens that they carry,” he said.
Lastly, Koran touched on the need for expanded high-speed broadband in areas of the state that lack it.
“Broadband is going to be necessary to retain and attract residents,” he said. “It’s critical to our success, and I don’t think we can wait for the federal government CAF (Connect America Fund) money to provide us with service. When they’re done, to me, it’s still going to be insufficient because the standards are set way too low.”

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