The Minnesota Legislature had a full schedule of committee hearings and floor sessions this week. Some hearings were already scheduled into the evening. Governor Mark Dayton released his supplemental budget recommendation, and legislators were inundated with visits from constituents this week. Despite the Capitol being closed, several large organizations hosted “lobby days” this week, which filled the remaining legislative buildings and hallways in a cramped 2016 session.
Governor’s Supplemental Budget
Governor Dayton released his supplemental budget proposal this week, which would spend $698 million of the $900 million projected surplus — and leave $202 million unspent. Within Dayton’s proposal, $117 million would be for tax cuts and $581 million would be allocated to new spending. The Governor’s initiatives cover multiple areas of the state budget, including education, transportation, technology, taxes and the environment.
Iron Range Unemployment
The contentious matter of passing unemployment extension benefits to support Iron Range miners made progress this week. Despite disagreement between Democrats and Republicans regarding a tax relief provision for businesses that have paid into the fund, the Governor announced he would sign whatever bill the two bodies agree to. The House and Senate are expected to name conference committee members in the next week to reconcile the bills.
Paid Family Leave
The Senate Judiciary Committee heard a bill which provides for paid family and medical leave benefits (SF 2558). The committee heard testimony from the proponents and opponents, and the bill was passed to the Senate Jobs, Agriculture and Rural Development. There are no hearings scheduled in the House for this bill.
A more extensive update regarding the paid leave issue, including an update regarding the activity on the local level, is available from our labor and employment group in “The Push for Paid Sick, Family and Medical Leave in Minnesota.”
The Senate’s new committee and budget division of Environment and Energy, chaired by Senator John Marty (DFL-Roseville), heard several controversial bills this week. In 2015, a new law was passed prohibiting four flame retardant chemicals in textiles and children’s products. It also required the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) to conduct a review of flame retardants. These new requirements passed by the 2015 legislature became nation leading reform.
The required MDH review did not recommend further action but concluded additional studies were needed to determine the impact of flame retardants on consumer health. This session, Senator Marty has authored a bill, SF 2330, that would ban an additional six flame retardants. The bill was debated for several hours this week and received scrutiny from legislators on both sides of the aisle given its broad impact. The bill passed and was sent to the Senate Commerce Committee.
The committee also held a hearing on a new proposal, SF 2525, from Senator Vicki Jensen (DFL-Owatonna) on the disposal of nonwoven personal care disposable products, or non- flushable wipes. Wastewater treatment facilities across the state are citing costly damages and repairs due to clogs from flushed wipes. The bill would require a “do not flush” label on the packaging, but some legislators say an education campaign is needed instead to teach consumers that only 7 percent of wipes are flush-friendly. The proposal passed and was sent to the Senate Commerce Committee.
In order to implement RealID, the Legislature will pass two separate legislative proposals. The first will repeal the law that prohibits the Department of Public Safety from taking any action related to Real ID. The second will provide the framework to make Minnesota compliant with Real ID. The first bill, repealing the prohibitions, is expected to be on floor late next week.
Transportation Conference Committee
The Transportation Policy and Finance Conference Committee, chaired by Senator Scott Dibble (DFL-Minneapolis) and Representative Tim Kelly (R-Red Wing), met this week to begin working through the Omnibus Transportation Policy and Finance Bill (HF4).
Upcoming Legislative Notes
Next week, the Legislature will be out for Easter holiday break on Friday and Monday. This should result in a lighter schedule overall at the Capitol.
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