The pace is beginning to pick up at the Capitol, and this week both the House and Senate added floor sessions to hear bills and confirmed commissioner appointments. Committees are starting to take on more controversial topics, creating some standing-room-only hearings.
The Senate DFL & Governor Dayton held a joint transportation press conference to begin to clarify the plan they are supporting, followed by more detailed project breakdowns on Friday. The anticipated total cost is approximately $6 billion over 10 years. That cost would include a massive project to renovate the I-35W/I-494 interchange and reconstruction of I-94 through the metro in addition to nearly 600 other projects. Governor Dayton said it will only be possible through a higher gas tax, tab fees, and the metro area sales tax he proposed in January. Republicans have not yet outlined their plan, but say it will cost $750 million.
Several Senate GOP members announced a revised education plan in a press conference this week that includes several bills that work to add rigor to college-level high school courses, double the Education Tax Credit, and split the Minneapolis Public School district into six smaller districts in an attempt to close the achievement gap. Senator Eric Pratt (R, Prior Lake) is also championing the Senate companion to HF2 (SF473) regarding teacher quality and tenure.
The House had an extensive floor session to debate HF2 on Thursday. After several amendments were recommended and not heard due to House rules against an increase in spending or a lack of ‘germaneness’ in relation to the original bill, only two minor amendments were adopted relating to parent notification and principals on improvement plans. HF2 passed off the House floor Thursday night on a virtual party-line vote (70-63) with the exception of one Republican, Tony Cornish (R-Vernon Center), who voted against the bill with democrats. It is expected to be heard in the Senate next week.
Sunday Liquor Sales
A long list of liquor-related bills was heard this week in the House Commerce Committee. Proposals included changing on-sale times, malt liquor licensing for the State Fair, relaxing off-sale licensing, and permitting Sunday sales of growlers in breweries. All of the bills were laid over in the committee to be further discussed or included in the omnibus liquor bill.
House non-partisan research staff gave an overview in committee on their property tax simulation report. Property taxes are increasing 2.9 percent ($251 million) statewide, with $104 million of the increase coming as a result of new construction property appearing on tax rolls in 2015 for the first time. The overall tax increases are 4.2 percent in Greater Minnesota and 2.1 percent in the Metro. Statewide averages of changes on some specific property types include +6.7 percent on public utility property, +6.4 percent on agricultural property, +5 percent on seasonal-recreational property, +3.4 percent on residential homesteads, +2.1 percent on residential non-homesteads, +0.4 percent on apartments, and -2.4 percent on commercial-industrial property.
Upcoming Legislative Notes
Next week, the Governor is expected to release his supplemental budget since the surplus has been announced. Committee chairs are scaling down their agendas in anticipation of longer conversations.
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