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Statewide View: We need Minnesota to stop importing bad ideas from California

We need the Minnesota Legislature to protect small businesses and consumers by making the Consumer Choice of Fuel Act law this year.

John Reynolds
John Reynolds
/Contributed photo
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What happens when lawmakers hand nearly unlimited regulatory powers to state bureaucrats? History shows that power is inevitably used in ways that were never intended.

In Minnesota, state regulators are increasingly using long dormant powers to reshape life and business in ways that were inconceivable when those powers were first granted.

The National Federation of Independent Businesses, made up of more than 10,000 small-business owners in Minnesota, believes it's time to rein in out-of-control regulators and dial back unlimited agency powers. That’s because our hard-working and job-creating entrepreneurs are already drowning in heavy-handed and often arbitrary regulations — and it’s killing mom and pop shops across the state.

More than two years after the pandemic began, small businesses are still struggling to recover — and will be for years to come. The latest NFIB data shows sales at nearly a third of small businesses remain well-below pandemic levels, fewer people are working or looking for work, and owners are putting in more hours than ever. Inflation is now the top concern of small-business owners, who are now being forced to increase prices for goods and services — something that will impact the pocketbook of every single consumer in Minnesota.

Now, a new threat to small-business survival comes in the form of a 1967 law that granted the then-newly created Minnesota Pollution Control Agency broad, ambiguous power to regulate air emissions.

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Fifty-four years later, this power is serving as the Walz administration’s basis for importing California’s Low Emission Vehicle and Zero Emission Vehicle standards. These rules are often referred to as “California Cars,” and they’re a costly attempt to remake Minnesota’s auto market.

Analysis prepared for the Colorado Auto Dealers Association found the California Cars rules would increase average vehicle sticker prices by $2,500, and that the net cost of LEV alone would be $2 billion in the first five years.

And California Cars may only be the beginning.

In March, Walz administration officials said the 1967 law gives them power to adopt more California-style emissions regulations, including California’s bans on gas-powered lawn mowers, leaf blowers, generators, and all passenger automobiles.

Also on the table is a California fuel standard that could increase gas prices by 25 cents per gallon. This policy won’t just impact small-business owners, but every single Minnesotan who pulls up to the pump to fill their gas tank.

Even scarier is there’s a California regulation for almost every aspect of life and business — boat emissions, cow belches, diesel truck bans — and Minnesota bureaucrats believe they have the power to bring all of them here.

It’s impossible to imagine this is what lawmakers had in mind back in 1967. Minnesota’s air quality has and will continue to exceed federal standards without these rules, but runaway regulation is what happens when sweeping power is given to regulators that abandon common sense.

Over 99% of our small-business owners here in Minnesota are clear on this issue: They want our state to stop importing bad ideas from California.

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The Consumer Choice of Fuel Act , which recently passed the Minnesota Senate, would repeal California Cars and stop overzealous regulators from importing more bad ideas from the Golden State.

The warning signs are clear. We need the Minnesota Legislature to protect small businesses and consumers by making the Consumer Choice of Fuel Act law this year.

John Reynolds is the Minnesota state director for the National Federation of Independent Businesses.

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