Committee Summary: House Judiciary Finance and Civil Law Committee, Feb. 22

Reporting by Lolla Nur, Freelance Community Journalist and UpTake Fellow

The House Judiciary Finance and Civil Law Committee met on the morning of Feb. 22 to discuss and vote on HF1156 (digital fair repair provided and penalties provided). The bill is authored by Rep. Peter Fischer (DFL 43A). 

After discussion and testimony from about a dozen people, the committee voted to move HF1156 to the general register. 

The purpose of the bill is to demonopolize manufacturer control of technology repair parts and repair manuals. This bill would make sure technology parts and manuals for repairs are more accessible and available, for customers and local/independent repair shops. The bill could positively impact Minnesota farmers, schools, students, educators and regular clients with laptops, tablets and other tech that need quick repairs, according to Rep. Fischer. 

Testifiers in opposition to the bill included: Matthew Larsgaard with the Pioneer Equipment Dealers Association, Tyler Diers from TechNet, and Dustin Brighton with the Repair Done Right Coalition. 

Arguments against the bill included concerns that it may create liability exposure for dealerships or allow access to unavailable machine software or illegal/dangerous equipment modifications. They also asked about potential contract law issues that could interfere with existing contracts and protections for manufacturer intellectual property.

Attorney General Keith Ellison kicked off testimony via a pre-recorded video. He is in support of HF1156 and stated that if passed, his office would help enforce it.

“Manufacturers restrict access to manuals, supply chains, tools, parts and limit consumer choice to exclusive authorized repair outlets who control when and where repairs are made,” Attorney General Ellison said. “This hurts Minnesotans everywhere.” He added that the bill would not expose trade secrets. 

Other testifiers in support of the bill included: Emily Barker from ReUSE Minnesota, Amanda LaGrange of Tech Dump and Tech Discounts, Gay Gordon-Byrne of the Repair Association and John Helmers of the Solid Waste Administrators Association of Minnesota.

Only about 10% of the millions of pounds of used technology processed by Tech Dump Minnesota can be refurbished. This is because of “how difficult and expensive it is to access repair manuals,” according to LaGrange. 

Helmers said he supports HF1156 because it helps reduce electronic waste and costs associated with cleaning up electronic waste. Corey Donovan of Alta Technologies also said the bill will reduce landfill waste. Stuart Lourey with the MN Farmers Union said the bill will ensure farmers and union members can fix equipment they purchased and own. Laura Horner with the Association of Recycling Managers said repairing electronics would allow consumers with more options, rather than buying new.

The meeting ended with a presentation, and Q & A, on the “Fourth Amendment and Search Warrant information” by legislative analyst Ben Johnson with the Minnesota House Research Department.

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