March 10, 2017

Minnesota Weekly Legislative Update: Legislation Continues to Move as First Committee Deadline Nears

Today marks the first committee deadline in the legislative session. By midnight tonight, bills must be approved by policy committees in the House or the Senate. Next Friday is the second committee deadline, by which all bills that met the first deadline must be approved by the policy committees in the other body. In the upcoming week, the House and Senate will release their budget targets. These targets will be used to form the appropriation bills, which must be reported out of House and Senate finance committees by March 31, the final committee deadline.

Sunday Alcohol Sales

On Tuesday, March 7, Governor Mark Dayton signed the bipartisan bill to give liquor stores the option to be open on Sundays. The bill was passed by both bodies of the legislature last week. The new law will go into effect July 2 of this year, replacing the current law, which dates back to Prohibition.

Opponents of the new law worry that independently owned liquor stores will be put out of business as they won’t be able to compete with a likely flood of new big-box retailers. This argument, however, wasn’t enough, and lawmakers from 45 districts switched from a ‘no’ to a ‘yes’ vote on Sunday sales.

Tax Credits and Deductions for Contributions to College Savings Plans Debated

Minnesota ranks in the top ten in the nation for student loan debt after graduation, and the Legislature has discussed a number of proposals designed to make college more affordable. One such proposal, HF 1869, authored by Rep. Randy Jessup (R-Shoreview), was heard in the House Tax Committee on Wednesday. HF 1869 provides a tax deduction or tax credit for contributions to any state’s 529 college savings plan. HF 1869’s provisions are substantially similar to provisions contained in the 2016 Omnibus Tax bill. An individual must choose either the credit or the deduction. The maximum deduction for individuals is $1,500 ($3,000 for married filers) and the maximum credit is $500. The vast majority of other states already provide some sort of incentive. Opponents expressed concerns that the deduction only helps those with higher incomes that are already saving for their children’s colleges and will not do much to help lower income individuals save for college. Also, individuals choosing the tax credit would wait a year to receive it. There was a little discussion about taking the $30 million for this program and putting it in the state grant program as well because that really reaches students in need better. There was mutual agreement from both sides about the need to make college more affordable. The bill was laid over for possible consideration in the 2017 House Omnibus Tax bill. The Senate companion, SF 1634, authored by Sen. Roger Chamberlain (R-Lino Lakes), is awaiting action by the Senate Tax Committee.

House Passes Reforms to Stadium Authority

In response to recent newspaper reports and a report by the legislative auditor detailing inappropriate use of stadium suites, tickets, and food and beverages by Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority (MSFA) Board members and staff, the House passed legislation this week implementing a number of reforms to the MSFA. Sponsored by Rep. Sarah Anderson (R-Plymouth), HF 778, as amended, modifies the governance structure of the MSFA by, among other things, expanding the MSFA Board’s size to add new legislative appointees and implementing a series of restrictions on suite use by MSFA Board members and staff. It also requires the MSFA to negotiate a return of its stadium suites to the Minnesota Vikings, while still allowing limited use of the suites for legitimate marketing purposes. HF 778 also requires the MSFA to recover the fair market value of food, parking, tickets, and use of stadium suites that were provided prior to January 1, 2017, and which were not in the public interest.

Additionally, it would order the legislative auditor to review the management structure of Target Field, Target Center, TCF Bank Stadium, Xcel Energy Center and CHS Field.

The bill passed the House 122-7 and now heads to the Senate, where Sen. Julie Rosen (R-Vernon Center) is the sponsor.

Legislation Correcting ADA Lawsuit Abuses Advances

Correcting the current abuse of lawsuits regarding compliance with Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) regulations is the intent of HF1542, authored by Rep. Dennis Smith (R-Maple Grove) and its Senate Companion SF1407, authored by Sen. Jerry Relph (R-St Cloud). Recent media reports have highlighted multiple lawsuits filed by a small number of attorneys alleging minor ADA violations and often proposing settlement amounts in the demand. Many small businesses have been affected by these “drive-by” law suits, as the House Civil Law and Data Practice Policy Committee and the Senate Judiciary and Public Safety Committee heard this week. This legislation provides that a notice of the architectural barrier is required when civil actions are filed and allows the business owner the opportunity to remedy these problems. This legislation is supported by the Minnesota Chamber and other small business advocates. Disability advocates worry this legislation will create incentives for businesses not to make needed ADA changes and provide enough protection for the disability community. Advocates also expressed concern that this legislation would make it difficult for those with disabilities to obtain attorneys. HF1542 and SF1407 were both passed to the House and Senate floor.

Upcoming Important Dates

Committee Deadlines have been announced by legislative leadership. They are:

  • First Deadline - Friday, March 10, 2017 (today): ◦All policy committees must act favorably on a bill in the House of origin.
  • Second Deadline - Friday, March 17, 2017: ◦All policy committees must act favorably on bills or companions of bills that met the first deadline in the other chamber.
  • Third Deadline - Friday, March 31, 2017: ◦Committees to act favorably on major appropriation and finance bills.

The deadlines do not apply to the House Committees on Capital Investment, Ways and Means, Taxes, or Rules and Legislative Administration, nor to the Senate committees on Capital Investment, Finance, Taxes, or Rules and Administration.

Legislative Break

The House and Senate will be in recess starting Saturday, April 8 through Monday, April 17. No committee, floor or other action will take place in either body that week.

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