April 15, 2016

Minnesota Weekly Legislative Update: 4/15/2016

This week, the Senate DFL majority released their budget targets, setting guidelines for committees to address the $900 million surplus. In their budget targets, $300 million will go toward tax relief. In addition, voluntary preschool, broadband, job training, and addressing racial and economic disparities are spending priorities. Around $100 million is expected to go toward some capital investments across the state, though the budget release did not include total spending for a bonding bill. Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk (DFL-Cook) said a bonding package from the Senate will be larger than the House GOP suggestion of $600 million and may come close to, or exceed, the $1.4 billing proposal released by Governor Mark Dayton.

Fireworks

On Monday, the House debated a bill that would permit the legalization of aerial and audible fireworks, HF1089, authored by Rep. Jason Rarick (R-Pine City). Opponents of the bill expressed concern that the bill would lead to increased fireworks-related injuries. Supporters argued legalization would bring more revenue to the state. The bill passed by a vote of 73 to 55.

Buffers

The Senate debated and passed a buffer clarification law, SF2503, on Thursday, that updates the buffer law passed by the Legislature and the Governor in 2015. The bill was authored by Senator Rod Skoe (DFL-Clearbrook) and provides new language regarding jurisdiction and local authority for enforcement and implementation of 16.5- and 50-foot buffers on ditches and public waterways. The bill also allows alternative practices approved by the Natural Resources Conservation Service or other conservation guidelines. The bill passed unanimously on the Senate floor.

Transportation

Despite speculation that the Transportation Conference Committee would meet this week, no meetings were scheduled. On Wednesday, the Senate Transportation and Public Safety Committee, chaired by Senator Scott Dibble (DFL-Minneapolis) walked through their supplemental budget bill. On Thursday, they held public testimony and debated amendments to the bill.

Education

Both the House and Senate Education Finance Committees finalized their omnibus budget bills this week. The $55 million House bill, of which $52 million is generated from expected savings in the bill, included policy language and finance provisions. Among those provisions were sections relating to student discipline, as well as programs and funds to attract more teachers of color and to decrease the teacher shortage. The bill goes to the House Tax Committee today for review of tax-related provisions. The Senate’s education budget bill of more than $100 million is moving separately from its policy bill. It includes the voluntary universal preschool program, supported by Governor Dayton, and increased funding to support school counselors across the state. The Senate education bill will go before the Senate Finance Committee before heading to the Tax Committee for review of property tax provisions affecting school buildings.

Upcoming Legislative Notes

Now that both the House and Senate have released their budget targets, the budget divisions, finance and tax committees will work to finalize budget bills before the April 21 deadline.

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