Legislative activity is picking up in St. Paul as the 2016 Minnesota legislative session draws near. The Governor and legislative leaders created several working groups, each with members from the House and Senate, to consider several policy issues for a possible special session. Governor Mark Dayton and Senator Majority Leader Tom Bakk believe a special session is necessary the first week of February, but Speaker Kurt Daudt prefers to wait, though no final decision has been made. Several legislative commissions and committees are meeting in January and February to take testimony and begin conversations in preparation for session.
Special Session Working Groups
Three bi-partisan working groups were established by the House and Senate to discuss issues under consideration for a potential special session, and the groups have been meeting regularly. The first working group is addressing a requirement to become compliant with the Federal Real ID Act, of which Minnesota is partially compliant, except for changes that will support Minnesotan’s using driver’s licenses for commercial flights. The deadline was pushed back to 2020 by the federal government. The second working group regarding economic disparities in Minnesota concluded the issue was too complex to address in a brief special session. The final working group, formed to address Iron Range unemployment, has found the miners have benefited from assistance through other programs to help cover living expenses. These benefits may allow legislators to wait until the regular session to address the issue, but both Representatives and Senators agree unemployment benefits need to be extended to Iron Rangers in or out of a special session.
The regular session will begin on March 8, 2016, and must end on or before May 23, 2016. In advance of the session, the newly opened Minnesota Senate Building has already played host to several of the working group meetings and is the new home for Senators’ offices. DFL Senators have begun to settle in to the new office building, while GOP Senators have refrained from moving in and are retaining office spaces in the State Office Building. One of the three large hearing rooms in the new Senate Building will serve as a temporary Senate chamber while the Capitol continues to undergo renovations. House floor sessions will be held in the Capitol, with extremely limited access to the public. This session will be the last year the State Capitol is under significant construction.
Governor’s Bonding Proposal
On January 15, 2016, Governor Dayton released his bonding bill proposal, which calls for $1.4 billion in projects spread across geographic regions of the state. Citing a large budget surplus and low interest rates, the Governor proposed a large bill and urged legislators to consider spending more on bonding projects. Republican leadership has called for the cost of the proposal to be cut in half. Of the $1.4 billion price tag, Dayton’s proposal includes investing in transportation, including two major bridge projects costing $74 million, in addition to $125 million on rail and pipeline safety. The Governor also included $167 million for water quality improvements. Legislative leaders have agreed to a $1 billion biennial spending limit on bonding in the past, which will likely be debated throughout the session.
Health Care Financing Task Force
Established by the Governor and the legislature in 2015, the 29-member Health Care Financing Task Force — made up of legislators, agency representatives and other health care stakeholders — met frequently over the past five months. Within the task force, three smaller working groups considered how to address barriers to accessing health care, providing seamless care and coverage, and delivery design and sustainability. On January 15, 2016, the full task force voted and approved 33 recommendations to the Governor and the Legislature. A bill outlining these recommendations will be introduced, and may affect policy during the brief legislative session. A final draft of the recommendations will be released on January 29, 2016.
2016 Minnesota Legislative Dates of Importance
|Friday, January 15||Governor releases Bonding Proposal
Agency reports due to the Legislature
|Thursday, January 28||House Bill pre-filing deadline for members at noon|
|End of February||New economic forecast is released|
|Tuesday, March 8||Session convenes|
|Friday, March 25||Easter Legislative Recess until Tuesday, March 29, at noon|
|Friday, April 1||First committee deadline at midnight|
|Friday, April 8||Second committee deadline at midnight|
|Thursday, April 21||Third committee deadline at midnight|
|Friday, April 22||Passover Legislative Recess until Monday, April 25, at 8a.m.|
|Sunday, May 22||Deadline to pass bills|
|Monday, May 23||Session adjourns Sine Die|
Legislative Retirements at End of Session
- Sen. Dave Brown (R-Becker)
- Sen. Barb Goodwin (DFL-Columbia Heights)
- Sen. Julianne Ortman (R-Chanhassen)
- Sen. John Pederson (R-St. Cloud)
- Sen. Roger Reinert (DFL-Duluth)
- Sen. Bev Scalze (DFL-Little Canada)
- Sen. Kathy Sheran (DFL-Mankato)
- Sen. Dave Thompson (R-Lakeville)
- Rep. Carly Melin (DFL-Hibbing)
- Rep. Kim Norton (DFL-Rochester)
Legislators No Longer Serving
- Sen. Branden Petersen (R-Andover) — Resigned on October 2015 (Special election February 9, 2016)
- Rep. David Dill (DFL-Crane Lake) — Passed away in August 2015 (Replaced by Rob Ecklund, DFL)
- Rep. Ann Lenczewski (DFL-Bloomington) — Resigned November 2015 (Special election February 9)
- Rep. Ryan Winkler (DFL-Golden Valley) — Resigned June 2015 (Replaced by Peggy Flanagan, DFL)
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