February 13, 2015

Minnesota Weekly Legislative Update: 02/13/2015

This past week, commissioner salary raises were amended into deficiency funding legislation, tax committees heard a host of potential omnibus bill legislation, and additional testimony was heard on teacher tenure policy, as well as testimony on body cameras and license plate reader usage.

Deficiency Funding: "Family Feud" Erupts Between DFL Governor and Senate DFL

Periodically, the legislature will quickly take up and pass spending bills to address immediate shortfalls in state programs — so-called “deficiency funding” bills. This relatively uncontroversial bill has turned into an awkward public spat among DFL leaders. This week, the Senate heard SF174 on the floor regarding emergency funding for the Department of Health and Human Services, food assistance, DNR enforcement, and the Minnesota Zoo. It was amended to include language that would suspend Governor Mark Dayton’s ability to issue commissioner salary increases until July. The Governor expressed his anger at Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk and threatened to veto the bill if it comes to his desk with the Senate’s compensation delay intact.

Taxes

The Senate Tax Reform Committee heard testimony for three bills related to the Research & Development (R&D) tax credit and two bills related to sales tax remittance. SF351 and SF38 propose that the R&D tax credit be extended to sole proprietors. SF305 restores the refundability aspect of the R&D credit that existed from 2010-12, raises the second tier R&D credit rate from 2.5 percent to 4 percent, and allows for the entirety of the first tier ($200,000) to be refundable. The last sales tax remittance bills compensate retailers for their role in administering collection of the state’s sales tax on retail purchases. SF324 would compensate retailers for up to 1 percent of the state sales taxes collected, while SF160 caps retailer compensation for collecting state sales tax at $90 per reporting period.

House Taxes held a joint committee hearing with the House Property Tax Division to hear Legislative Auditor recommendations to improve the Sustainable Forest Incentive Act (SFIA) and also a Department of Revenue overview of taxation on various energy producing systems. Additionally, the House Tax Committee heard two bills related to estate taxes. HF442 would increase the exemption amount to $5 million (federal amount is currently $5.42 million), and HF493 would repeal the estate tax entirely.

All tax-related legislation heard in committee was laid over for possible inclusion in the omnibus tax bill of its respective chamber.

Body Cameras/Licence Plate Readers

House Civil Law & Data Practices met to discuss and hear testimony on the use of license plate readers (LPRs) and body cameras by law enforcement. Testimony was heard by the police chiefs of Bloomington and Burnsville representing the Mn Chiefs of Police Association and also from the Minnesota Coalition of Government Information.

Highlights of the license plate reader testimony included the process in which LPRs are used as well as the benefits of LPR data over time in criminal investigation. Discussion consisted of the policies currently in place to control this usage and the ways in which LPRs relate to privacy rights and data practices legislation.

Body camera testimony consisted of the evolution of police camera usage and current policy for the situations where body cameras are and are not used. Discussion centered around what types of footage should be public as to create accountability, and what should be kept private based on the idea of what is "offensive to common sensibility,” such as certain captured situations like nudeness, footage in hospitals and bystanding children in domestic abuse cases.

Education

Eliminating teacher tenure has emerged as a priority issue for House Republicans, who want districts to end the “last in, first out” policies, which uphold teacher seniority policies. In a hearing this week, Education Minnesota opposed HF2, introduced by Education Policy Chair, Rep. Jenifer Loon, saying districts are already able to eliminate ineffective teachers. The conversations about the K-12 formula and early education versus universal preschool are expected to be the other primary issues taken up by education committees.

Upcoming Legislative Notes

Next week, the Legislative Auditor’s office will release a report on MNSure to the legislature regarding its planning and implementation, metrics and progress to goals. Additionally, a group of legislators and data privacy advocates will introduce a constitutional amendment on data privacy.

Social Media Updates

Stay connected with further updates by following us on Twitter @FaegreBD_MNGov.

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