The 2015 session of the state legislature came to chaotic end at 11:59 Monday a minute before its required midnight adjournment. Legislators scurried to pass several appropriations bills to fund state government for the next two years. These bills were devoid of any major changes to state government or shifts in state spending priorities. There were referred to as "lights on bills" since they basically approved budgets that keep state government running. Governor Dayton has indicated he will veto the $17 billion K-12 school funding bill and call the legislature back into a special session to re-work this bill. The Governor has not indicated whether he will veto other bills, but it would be quite possible now that a special session will be needed.
Our continued experiment in divided legislative bodies proved to be mediocre at best. Neither party was able to advance their top legislative priorities. House Republicans were unable to return any of the state budget surplus to voters, enact a major transportation project, repeal MNsure or change MinnesotaCare into a private insurance program. Senate Democrats were unable to enact a gasoline tax for road repair or enact cuts to property taxes. The session will be remembered more for the missed opportunities than the bare bones spending bills funding state government.
Major proposals for transportation spending, bonding projects and a tax bill failed to gain passage. It is possible that these issues could appear on the agenda for a special session. However, legislators remain much divided on these proposals. The failure to pass transportation funding and a tax bill results in a continued state surplus of nearly $1 billion which should be available for legislators to spend when they return for the 2016 legislative session on March 8.
For the MIIA, it was a fairly good session, primarily because most of our issues were not related to state spending. The legislature passed the following legislation.
Transportation Networks. The so-called "Uber bill" establishes insurance requirements for transportation network providers and their drivers. The new law clarifies that coverage does not exist for drivers under their private passenger auto polices unless insurers offer additional coverage or policy riders.
Minnesotans Right to Advice. This bill places in statute the definition of "agent of record" and "agent of record agreements" and allows policyholders to select their insurance agent. It also requires the state's health plans recognize valid AORs and award to the agent appropriate compensation. Another provision in the bill would allow policyholders who purchased insurance through MNsure, the state's health insurance exchange, to retroactively appoint an insurance agent or navigator for up to six months after enrollment.
Self-storage Rental Insurance. Legislation was passed that authorizes self-storage rental facilities to sell property insurance to their renters. The facility must notify renters that their homeowners and renters insurance will likely cover this property and they should check with their insurance agent prior to purchasing additional insurance.
Electronic Proof of Insurance. New law will allow proof of auto insurance to be maintained electronically upon a device, such as a cell phone. The use of such a device does not constitute consent for law enforcement to review other information contained on the device.
Insurance Auto Fraud. A jobs and economic development appropriation bill which was the last bill passed by the House, contained key provisions of the insurance industry's no-fault auto anti-fraud proposal. The bill authorizes the commissioner of commerce to assess administrative penalties against a person or persons who are found to have engaged in insurance fraud. The commissioner was also given the authority to bar payment from insurance companies to such a person for up to five years. Lastly, the legislation establishes a Task Force on No-fault Auto Insurance Issues that will look at the arbitration process, independent medical examinations, health care standards and provider oversight. The Task Force must report back to the legislature in 2016.
We await the governor's action on several bills. The governor is expected to issue a few more vetoes in the days ahead. I will provide a more extensive report once the dust has finally settled at the state capitol. And I mean dust both figuratively and literally. The capitol building is now closed for construction and will not reopen until 2017.