Both the House and the Senate held floor sessions on Monday and Thursday, while committees continued hearings on bills and on the Governor's budget proposal. The state's updated economic forecast comes out next Monday, and the new figures will be used to set the targets for balancing the state's budget this session.
- This week, committees heard various provisions from the Governor's budget proposal released last week. The tax portion of Gov. Dayton's proposal drew the most attention as both the House and Senate Tax committees had significant turnouts for supporters and opponents of the bill. Proponents praised the proposal as "fair" and "effective" plan, with no further reductions to local government aid. Concerned testifiers said the proposal was anti-business and unfairly targeted high-income earners. Opponents of Dayton's proposals also worry about wealthy Minnesotans and businesses leaving the state. Read last week's report, which highlights the Governor's proposal.
- The updated budget forecast will be released Monday. The Governor will adjust his budget proposal to reflect any changes, while the Legislature will begin to put together its budget plans. March 26 is the deadline by which bills with financial implications must have gone through all appropriate committees, or divisions, and be reported to either the Ways and Means Committee in the House or Finance Committee in the Senate.
- Two bills sponsored by Sen. David Hann (R-Eden Prairie), chair of the Health and Human Services Committee, were heard in the Senate Finance Committee. The first bill, SF32, establishes a defined contribution plan for MinnesotaCare enrollees from which they would purchase health care insurance. The second bill, SF 33, coined the "Freedom of Choice in Health Care Act," excuses Minnesotans from the forthcoming national mandate to purchase health insurance. It states that Minnesotans have the right to freely choose or decline to choose any mode of securing health care services. Both bills passed out of the committee and will be heard next on the Senate floor.
- The bill to streamline the environmental permit process – HF1 (Fabian) - was approved 82-42 by the House on Thursday night. There was some bipartisan support for the bill that seeks to improve permitting done by the Department of Natural Resources and the Pollution Control Agency. Some members of the DFL opposed the bill because of a provision that would allow the proposer of a project to prepare the environmental impact statement (EIS), which typically would have been the local government unit's responsibility. The other controversial provision says the EIS must be reviewed in the Court of Appeals rather than a district court. Both of these provisions were excluded from Governor Dayton's executive order on environmental permitting. On the Senate side, Sen. Bill Ingebrigtsen (R-Alexandria) is carrying SF42, which is still working its way through committees.
- On Monday, the House and Senate held a joint floor session to elect four members to the Board of Regents at the University of Minnesota. Steve Sviggum, a former House speaker, and business executive David McMillan were chosen to represent the 2nd and 8th Congressional Districts, respectively. David Larson, a retired Cargill executive and an incumbent board member, kept the Board's 3rd Congressional District seat. One of the more controversial races was for the at-large seat between former state representative Laura Brod (R-New Prague), who was selected for the seat over sitting regent Steven Hunter, the secretary/treasurer of the AFL-CIO. Brod and Sviggum were two of the three finalists recommended by the Regent Candidate Advisory Council for the 2nd District seat.
- Rep. Dean Urdahl (R-Grove City) has sponsored HF264, known as the "cheeseburger bill," which had its first hearing this week in the House Civil Law Committee. The bill basically offers immunity for restaurants and providers from being sued by customers because of weight gain, obesity, or related heath conditions due to the long-term purchase and consumption of such products. The bill was referred to the House Agriculture Policy and Finance Committee but has yet to be scheduled for a specific hearing.
- Some elected officials want to make sure the sales tax increase that helped pay for the Minnesota Twins' new ballpark doesn't go on forever. When the Legislature signed off on public funding for the new Target Field, the ballpark was funded primarily through a 30-year, 0.15% sales tax increase in Hennepin County. Rep. Ann Lenczewski (DFL-Bloomington) said some little-known provisions in the law could lead to that tax increase continuing on in perpetuity, unless the Legislature takes action. HF502, authored by Rep. Lenczewski, aims to do that.
- For biographies on all of Governor Dayton's commissioner appointees, click here.