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Internet privacy provisions removed from Minnesota bill

ST. PAUL — Both the Minnesota House and Senate voted this year to limit what internet service providers can do with their customers' data. But those provisions have been dropped from a compromise bill unveiled Monday, May 1.

Lawmakers say the language could still be added back into the bill in the three weeks remaining before this year's legislative session ends

"It is a work in progress," said Sen. David Osmek, the Mound Republican who co-chairs the committee negotiating a final language.

The internet provider privacy language was included as part of a much larger bill: the $378 million budget for jobs, commerce and energy programs. A bill combining the different House and Senate versions of the budget was unveiled Monday, but has not yet been finalized.

State Sen. Ron Latz, DFL-St. Louis Park, authored the Senate version of the privacy language, and said he was "shocked" that it had been removed from the bill.

"Every place I go... the first thing someone tells me is, 'Thanks for protecting my privacy on the Internet,' " Latz said. "This really touched a nerve with the public. I think the Legislature ought to respect that."

In the final months of President Barack Obama's administration, the Federal Communications Commission passed rules that would have limited what ISPs could do with their customers' data. But Congress voted to prevent this rule from taking effect early this year. That spurred Minnesota lawmakers to vote near-unanimously to pass state versions of the protections.

Osmek was the lone vote against the privacy provision on the Senate floor, but later introduced a similar stand-alone bill. On Monday, he argued for patience.

"Every Minnesotan's privacy rights are the same today as they were on January 1 (and) as they were in 2016," Osmek said.

State Rep. Paul Thissen, the Minneapolis Democrat who introduced the House language, said he's told there's still a chance the privacy language could be put back in.

"From what I hear it's still a subject of conversations," Thissen said. "I still think we're going to be able to get work done on it."

The St. Paul Pioneer Press is a media partner with Forum News Service.