April 08, 2016

Minnesota Weekly Legislative Update: 04/08/2016

The second of three Minnesota legislative committee deadlines arrives tonight at midnight. By this second deadline, committees must act favorably upon a bill that met the first deadline in the other house, or the bill does not move forward. On April 7, 2016, House Republicans released their budget targets for the session. Committee chairs will work within their targets to determine specific supplemental budget expenditures. No changes were made in budgets to education or health and human services. Cuts were made to budgets in public safety and agriculture. The largest increase was for broadband development.

Governor Mark Dayton criticized the House targets, saying they invest too little in early education and criticized Republicans for releasing a bonding target of $600 million, which is $200 million less than announced earlier this session. Governor Dayton also opposed the intent of the House Republicans to spend the full $900 million surplus on tax relief and one-time transportation funding. Dayton’s plan included spending $700 million of the surplus with an additional $1.4 billion bonding proposal. The Senate DFL intends to release its budget targets early next week.

Agriculture

A safety program aimed at farmers has been heard in both House and Senate committees. The tractor rollover grant program, HF2502, authored by Rep. Paul Anderson (R-Starbuck) was heard in the House Agriculture Committee this week. It made voluntary grants available to farmers to update tractors with rollover protection bars and seatbelts. The legislation was initiated by students who researched the increasing rate of farm deaths in Minnesota over the past decade. Additionally, the same House committee passed its Department of Agriculture Policy bill, HF3231, which included additional provisions pertaining to farm safety. An amendment was brought forward that would restrict the use of certain pesticides on golf courses, but it failed. The bill was sent the House floor for final debate.

Taxes

The Department of Revenue presented its bill, SF3255, authored by Senator Skoe (DFL-Clearbrook) before the Senate Tax Committee. The bill was discussed by the committee and laid on the table. The Senate Tax Committee also heard Senator Rest’s (DFL-New Hope) bill, SF2374, relating to sales and use tax collection requirements. The bill would require remittance for online marketplace sellers who currently are able to avoid collecting and remitting sales tax.

Education

The Senate Education Committee heard a bill this week stemming from the Governor’s early education proposal, which would create a voluntary four-year-old preschool program. School districts would apply to receive funds to implement a preschool program and priority would be given to districts with higher populations of students from low-income families, significant racial disparities and schools that have waiting lists for existing programs. Members debated at length the merits of public preschool versus traditional mixed delivery childcare and early education settings before laying the bill over.

Paid Family Leave

A bill that would create a paid family leave insurance program, SF2558, authored by Senator Katie Sieben (DFL-Newport), was heard Wednesday in the Senate Economic Development Committee. Senator Tom Saxhaug (DFL-Grand Rapids) introduced and passed an amendment which would establish the initial tax rates within the paid family leave program and require the Senate Tax Committee to reassign tax rates when the bill comes before them. The bill was passed as amended and sent to Finance. The bill was not heard in the House this week.

Upcoming Legislative Notes

With two major committee deadlines out of the way and the release of budget targets, next week at the Legislature will focus on finance committees meeting to work within their new targets and establish priorities. By April 21, 2016, the third deadline, committees must act favorably on major appropriation and finance bills.

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