May 01, 2015

Minnesota Weekly Legislative Update: 05/01/2015

With committee deadlines out of the way and the last day of the session approaching, the Minnesota House and Senate went to work this week passing omnibus bills on the floor and appointing conference committee members.

Taxes

The House passed its $2 billion tax cut omnibus bill on Wednesday by a vote of 74-58. Provisions in the bill include a reduction and phase-out of the statewide general property tax paid by commercial industrial property and cabins, a phase-in to the federal exclusion of the estate tax and improvements to credits aimed at business development such as the new markets tax credit, the research and development credit, and the angel investor credit. The bill also included reductions for individual income taxpayers. The Senate is set to hear its tax omnibus bill on the floor Monday. With $200 million in proposed tax relief and increases in local government aid, the Senate bill is quite different from the House bill as it heads into conference committee.

Liquor

Both bodies have now heard their omnibus liquor bills. Both bodies rejected changes regarding Sunday liquor sales in Minnesota. The bills include a ban on powdered alcohol to allow for further research before making it publicly available and allowing distillers to now sell 375 ml bottles of liquor on site in their distilleries. The House amended and passed the Senate’s bill this week and returned it to the Senate, which passed it a second time, 56-8, and sent it to the Governor.

Health and Human Services

The Senate’s HHS omnibus bill that passed at the beginning of the week included an amendment to require MNSure “broker” training. Several members on both sides of the aisle touted what the bill achieved or expressed some concerns on issues including non-emergency medical transportation, eliminating prior authorization to child protection and advances in mental health supports.

The House version passed on a party line vote after several amendments were adopted relating to abortion facilities, child protection and closed captioning on TVs in hospital rooms. The strongest opposition from the DFL on the bill was the $300 million booked in savings from potential efficiencies in public program eligibility. Ultimately, the bill passed the House with proposed HHS spending reduced almost $1 billion from the February forecast.

Education

In the Senate, the education finance omnibus bill passed after being amended to include grant funding for school robotics programs. The bill that passed includes funding for school readiness, early learning scholarships, school facilities and a 1 percent increase on the per-pupil formula each year of the biennium. It does not include funding for universal preschool, one of Governor Dayton’s priorities. Several Republican members voted for the bill, and an equal number of Democrats did not. The Senate also took up a policy omnibus bill that limited MCA testing to 2 percent of instructional time in an academic year. 

In the House, members had a similar, but scaled back proposal that included a 0.6 percent increase on the per-pupil formula each year as well as money for early learning scholarships and school facilities. As the bills head to conference committee, increased spending stands at $157 million in the House and $250 million in the Senate.

Upcoming Legislative Notes

As conference committees are appointed and begin meeting Monday, negotiators will work toward the constitutional adjournment date of May 18. Governor Dayton has expressed concerns about the significant disparities between his proposals and the proposals from the legislature. He has said he will wait for the right budget bill and is willing to toss out budget bills laden with policy changes.

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