April 29, 2016

Minnesota Weekly Legislative Update: 4/29/2016

The House and Senate focused on their funding bills this week, with each body considering their respective set of supplemental budget recommendations. Legislators spent late nights working through the bills and abundant amendments. The Senate also began hearings on their bonding bill, and the House held hearings regarding Real ID.

House Supplemental Budget

Education and Higher Education
The House debated their Omnibus Education and Higher Education bill (HF2749) on Monday, which spent $56 million, but repurposed and reorganized existing funds to generate the $56 million. Student loan forgiveness was a top priority, in addition to addressing the teacher shortage and protecting student data. With regard to top funding priorities, the bill spends $6 million on training programs for teachers, and $7 million in school-based broadband grants. The bill was passed on a vote of 84-46.

Agriculture, Jobs and Environment
On Wednesday, the House passed their second omnibus budget bill (HF3931) that increased spending by $12 million. Provisions included funding for the tractor rollover protection program, which was also included in the Senate’s budget bill, and $15 million for broadband. Of 22 amendments offered, six were adopted allowing volunteers to conduct grooming and maintenance at Minnesota’s State Parks, increasing rental assistance for exploited families, and requiring watershed district approval for water control permits. The bill passed with a vote of 72-54.

Health and Human Services, Public Safety and State Government
On Thursday, the House passed their final omnibus budget bill, which included Health and Human Services, Public Safety and State Government (HF3467). The GOP had a spending target of $0 from both the general fund and healthcare fund for this bill. The bill includes funding to lease a private prison to expand prison capacity, repeals MNsure to move Minnesota to a federal healthcare exchange and updates language for residential hospice facilities. The bill reallocates existing appropriations to approve some new spending, including $500,000 for a study to enhance cybersecurity across the state. DFL members offered amendments that would increase funding for mental health facilities and MNsure as well as amendments that would ban the state from leasing a private prison, but most were not adopted. The bill passed on a vote of 72-57 and now heads to the Senate with the other two bills.

Senate Supplemental Budget Bill

In the Senate, the DFL majority combined all budget request articles from their respective budget committees into a single omnibus budget bill (SF2356) totaling nearly $500 million. The bill was debated in a day-long floor session Thursday, where it was open for amendment. Within the bill, big-ticket items include $91 million to address racial and economic disparities, $85 million for broadband expansion across the state, and $96 million toward E-12 and Higher Education. Seventeen amendments were adopted, ranging from adjusting allocations within the school trust lands program, allocating funds to combat invasive aquatic species, and a requirement for approval from the four ethnic councils for funding under the racial and economic equity program allocations. Republican members of the Senate attempted several amendments that would delete the appropriations in the bill and put the money into transportation, but none were adopted. In the end, the supplemental budget bill passed on a divided vote of 39-24.

Paid Family Leave

The Paid Family Leave bill (SF2558) authored by Sen. Katie Sieben (DFL - Newport) was heard in the Senate Tax committee this week, where it was amended to include various tax rates. The tax rate to employers and employees would be 0.045% through 2019, but would increase for 2020 and beyond. This version of the bill also removed subtractions from federal taxable income section. A new fiscal note, that shows the costs of implementation of the bill, needed to be created for committee members in light of the tax rates and other amendments. As a result, the bill was laid over until a future hearing. The committee can review the amended bill and its fiscal note together next week.

Upcoming Legislative Notes

Next week, the Senate Capital Investment Committee will work to finalize their bonding bill. The House has yet to release a bonding proposal. Legislators will begin to meet in Conference Committees to resolve the differences between major bills, including the supplemental budget bills, transportation funding bill and tax bill.

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