April 17, 2015

Minnesota Weekly Legislative Update: 04/17/2015

This week, as the Minnesota Legislature worked on finance bills, Governor Mark Dayton took the opportunity to comment on the House and Senate budget proposals. He criticized both plans for being too low in most regards. Senate and House committees spent many hours working on their omnibus finance bills. Several will carry omnibus hearings into next week as they modify provisions and take up additional amendments.

Omnibus Finance Bills

Omnibus finance bills are constructed by each finance committee or budget division in both the House and Senate. They are comprised of various bills that have already been discussed by the committee. House and Senate Education, Higher Education and Environment Committees have already passed their omnibus bills, and they have been sent to the floor. Others, such as Senate Transportation, are spending lots of time discussing their bill and potential amendments.

Property Taxes

The House Property Tax Division met for the better part of three straight days to discuss and propose amendments to the division report (See bill spreadsheet or summary for overview). Most of the DFL-proposed amendments, which attempted to address issues such as local government aid reductions in the Twin Cities and Duluth and new reverse referendum provisions, were not adopted. The report is expected to pass by the end of the day Friday and be included in the Tax Committee’s omnibus tax bill, which is expected to be released early next week. The report proposes significant tax reductions, including a reduction and phase out of the State General Tax that would provide more than $450 million of reductions for commercial industrial properties and cabins.

Liquor Laws

The Senate took up the omnibus liquor bill on Thursday. The proposal would allow breweries to sell growlers on Sunday in addition to many other off-sale, micro-distillery, winery and brewery provisions. During the floor session, an amendment was offered to permit Sunday off-sale liquor sales. After much discussion on the amendment, it was defeated 35-28, but the original bill did pass. The House should take up its version of the bill soon.


Both the House and Senate Education Finance Committees passed their omnibus bills by Thursday night. The House bill was moved along on a party-line vote after three days of review, testimony and amendments. The Senate’s bill was heavily amended. Some of the amendments included requiring access to Department of Education data, funding swimming resources for schools and testing reductions. Neither of the bills fully funded the Governor’s proposal for statewide universal preschool, and Governor Dayton was expressively dissatisfied with the House proposal, quoting the amount of money devoted to schools in that proposal as “unacceptably low."

Upcoming Legislative Notes

Now that many omnibus bills are on their way to the House and Senate floor, both bodies will have longer floor sessions to process these bills. The Senate is expected to meet every day next week, and the House is likely to follow suit.

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