End of session legislative updates

State CapitolThe following legislative updates were written by Elaine Keefe, library lobbyist for the Minnesota Library Association (MLA) and Information Technology Educators of MN (ITEM). CMLE helps pay for lobbyist services in order to serve the best interests of academic, K-12, public, and special libraries in Central MN. (Latest information is at the top of this post)

Received Monday, May 23, 2016 at 3:30 p.m.

The 2016 legislative session has ended with very mixed results.  Last night the Legislature passed the omnibus tax bill and the omnibus supplemental budget bill.  However, as noted in my previous message, the Legislature failed to pass the bonding bill before the midnight deadline for passing bills.

Governor Dayton held a press conference a few minutes ago and indicated he has not yet decided whether to call a special session.  He said that he and legislative leaders need time to get some rest and assess the situation.

Bonding Bill:  The bonding conference committee reached agreement on a $1.135 billion bill on Sunday evening, just a few hours before the midnight deadline for passing bills.  The bill included $2 million for Library Construction Grants and $820,000 for the library at the Minnesota state Career and Technical College in Wadena. It did not include funding for the new East Central Regional Library headquarters/Cambridge Library, the Bagley Library or the Eastside Freedom Library.

The bill passed the House by a vote of 91-39.  It was amended in the Senate to raise the limit on how much the Metropolitan Council could contribute to a rail project (clearly aimed at the Southwest Light Rail Transit line) before passing by a vote of 53-12.  Because the bill had been amended on the Senate floor, it had to go back to the House for a final vote, but before that happened the House adjourned.  It was messy and chaotic and House and Senate leaders are blaming each other for the failure of the bonding bill to make it across the finish line.

Supplemental Budget Bill:  The budget bill spends a total of $182 million.  It includes $35 million for Border to Border Broadband Grants and  $500,000 for grants of up to $50,000 to K-12 schools for broadband Wi-Fi Hotspots.  It does not include an increase in total operating capital and does not provide any funding for after school programs.

Omnibus Tax Bill:  The tax bill increases aid to cities by $20 million per year and increases aid to counties by $10 million per year.

Legacy Bill:  The Legacy bill dealt mainly with appropriations for the Outdoor Heritage Fund, for which appropriations are made annually rather than for the biennium.  However, we were keeping an eye on one piece of language designed to reinforce the idea that Legacy funds are meant to supplement, not supplant, previous funding.  The original language in the House bill was rather awkward, as a couple of you pointed out to me.  The final version included in the bill is much more clear.  It states:

“Any state agency or organization requesting a direct appropriation from the arts and cultural heritage fund must inform the house of representatives and senate committees having jurisdiction over the arts and cultural heritage fund, at the time the request for funding is made, whether the request is supplanting or is a substitution for any previous funding that was not from a legacy fund and was used for the same purpose.”

Received Thursday, May 19, 2016 at 5:29 p.m.

End of Session Negotiations:  There is still no agreement between legislative leaders and Governor Dayton on targets for the supplemental budget, taxes and transportation.  It remains to be seen whether they will reach an agreement in time to get the bills passed before the end of the session.  Session must end by midnight on Monday, but the Legislature cannot pass bills on the day of adjournment.  This means that bills must be passed by midnight on Sunday night.

Bonding Bill:  Today the House bonding bill failed on the House floor.  A 3/5 supermajority is required to pass a bonding bill, which means 81 votes are required to pass the House.  The bill only received 69 votes.  All but two DFLers voted against the bill, while all but 5 Republicans voted for the bill.  DFLers complained that the bill was too small and that projects in DFL districts had been passed over in favor of projects in Republican districts.

However, a conference committee has been appointed for HF 748, a bill from last year that will be used as a vehicle for a bonding bill.  This is a highly unusual twist in the legislative process.

The Senate conferees are Senator LeRoy Stumpf (DFL – Plummer), Senator Katie Sieben (DFL – Cottage Grove), Senator Jeff Hayden (DFL – Minneapolis), Senator David Tomassoni (DFL – Chisholm) and Senator Carla Nelson (R – Rochester).

The House conferees are Rep. Paul Torkelson (R – Hanska), Rep. Tony Albright (R – Prior Lake), Rep. Chris Swedzinski (R – Ghent), Rep. Bob Vogel (R- Elko New Market) and Rep. Alice Hausman (DFL – St. Paul).

According to a press release issued by the Senate DFL Caucus this afternoon, the conference committee will consider portions of the House, Senate and Governor’s bonding proposals.  No meetings have been scheduled for the conference committee as of this writing.

Elaine Keefe
Capitol Hill Associates
525 Park Street, Suite 255
St. Paul, MN 55103
(cell) 612-590-1244

Image credit: http://tinyurl.com/oddkzbj, licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0