May 12, 2017

Minnesota Weekly Legislative Update: Bills Move Through Legislature, But Budget Agreement Proves Elusive

The week started the way it began, with no global budget agreement and no omnibus budget bills signed into law. Leaders began meeting early in the week, exchanging offers in an attempt to compromise, but budget talks imploded on Tuesday, leaving it up to the Legislature as to how to proceed. The Legislature has until midnight May 22 to pass a budget for the upcoming biennium. If they fail to do so, a special session will be needed. Government agencies begin shutting down if bills are not passed by July 1.

Budget Talks at Impasse

With the deadline looming and budget talks at an impasse, the Republican majority in the House and Senate moved forward with their strategy to move omnibus finance bills and the tax bill out of conference committees on Monday and Tuesday, sending them to the corresponding floors for passage. Legislative leadership felt that the counter offers from Governor Mark Dayton were not moving sufficiently towards their position, and that he was focusing on one or two smaller omnibus bills while they wanted to focus on a global budget agreement. The Democrats argued that passing these budget bills is a waste of time because Governor Dayton already said he would veto them. They stated how offers being exchanged between leadership now had increased targets that weren’t included in the conference reports being voted on, so they were leaving money on the table. The minority also complained that the process was not transparent and the public was not informed, nor had it been given a chance to comment on the proposed budgets.

Governor Dayton urged House and Senate leadership not to send him their budget bills, as the parties had been negotiating in good faith and progress was being made. He reiterated that there is still way too much policy in the bills, but that budget target talks were moving in the right direction. On Wednesday, Governor Dayton stated that since Republican leadership decided to send him bills instead of continuing to negotiate, he would not negotiate with them until Monday.

The Senate is in a precarious situation, having a 34-33 majority/minority split. With one member absent from the majority party because of a family emergency, controversial bills cannot be addressed as final passage requires a minimum of 34 votes. The Senate ran into this situation midweek and was unable to finish their work on the remaining budget bills. By late in the week the Legislature passed the agriculture, K12, HHS, environment and state government omnibus bills. They still need to act on taxes, transportation, higher education, judiciary/public safety and jobs omnibus bills. The bills taken up passed primarily on party line votes.

Governor Vetoes Bills

Governor Dayton followed through on his promise and vetoed the first five budget bills on Friday. This week, he also vetoed two bills that would limit abortions in Minnesota and publicly stated this week that he would veto HF600, the “Preemption Bill.” The bill would retroactively rescind any local laws that require private employers to meet certain labor policies. The bill is currently in conference committee.

While the negotiations between House Speaker Kurt Daudt (R, Crown), Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka (R, Nisswa) and the Governor’s Office stalled on budget bills, numerous non-controversial bills were passed off of the House and Senate Floors this week. Some of these bills include:

  • SF1353: Bill authors Rep. Matt Dean (R, Dellwood) and Sen. Julie Rosen (R, Vernon Center) successfully passed a bill that would hold health care providers working with patients remotely to be held to the same professional standards as those providers working with patients in person. Telemedicine is seen to be a possible solution for areas with few health care providers. The bill passed the Senate with a 63-0 vote on May 4, and passed the House with a 127-0 vote on May 11. The bill now heads to Governor Dayton’s desk.
  • HF330: Rep. Jim Nash (R, Waconia) and Sen. Dan Hall (R, Burnsville) successfully passed their bill, which would put restrictions on cities seeking to put a moratorium on residential development projects through their respective bodies. After being amended in conference committee, both bodies repassed the bill and it is now headed to Governor Dayton’s desk. The bill, if signed by Governor Dayton, would require cities to hold a public hearing and give ten-days’ notice when proposing a moratorium.
  • SF997: A bill that would require health plans covering prescription eye drops to also cover the refills for those eye drops passed off the House Floor on May 10 with a vote of 112-18. The bill is now headed to Governor Dayton’s desk. The Senate passed the bill on April 27 with a vote of 65-0.

Governor Dayton and House and Senate leadership will be in St. Cloud on Saturday to kick off the fishing opener. The Senate and House plan to take up the remaining budget bills on Monday, which will receive vetoes immediately according to Governor Dayton.

Upcoming Important Dates

  • Adjournment. The legislative session has a constitutional adjournment date of May 22 this year.

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