With the third deadline looming, the legislature spent the week focused on rolling out omnibus bills and moving the bills through the committee process. The third and final deadline for legislation requires that legislation pass through the Senate Finance Committee or the House Ways and Means Committee by April 19. The House and Senate will begin dedicating floor sessions to omnibus bills next week.

Education Omnibus Bills

The House and Senate Education Finance Committee worked on the Omnibus E-12 Education Finance and Policy Bills throughout the week. SF453, sponsored by Sen. Wiger (DFL-Maplewood), appropriates $44 million to early learning scholarships; provides funding for voluntary all-day, every-day kindergarten; and provides funding to implement the teacher evaluation program. The Senate E-12 Finance Division spent the entire day on Thursday working through the bill, before passing it and referring it to Senate Finance.

The House Education Finance Committee spent three days working through HF630, the companion to SF453. Sponsored by Rep. Marquart (DFL-Dilworth), the House version of the bill dedicates $56 million to early learning scholarships; provides funding for voluntary all-day, every-day kindergarten; includes a provision for the development of the World's Best Workforce; and provides some flexibility for school districts to start the school year before Labor Day. On Friday, the bill passed and was referred to the Taxes Committee.

Environment Omnibus Bills

The House Omnibus Environment and Natural Resources Bill weaved through the committee process throughout the week. HF976, sponsored by Rep. Wagenius (DFL-Minneapolis), requires the development of model criteria and standards pertaining to silica sand mining, the creation of the silica sand technical assistance team, and the establishment of a library with approved local ordinances and permits. The bill passed through the House Environment, Natural Resources and Agriculture Committee on Thursday and through the House Ways and Means Committee on Friday.

On Thursday, the Senate Environment, Economic Development and Agriculture Division held an informational hearing for SF1170, the companion to HF976. Sponsored by Sen. Tomassoni (DFL-Chisholm), the silica sand mining portions of the bill are currently aligned with those set forth by the House. The Committee will take action on the bill next week.

Senate Tax Reform Division Report

The Senate Tax Reform Division released its report on Thursday that included provisions to expand the state sales tax to clothing and personal services while lowering the overall sales tax rate from 6.875 percent to 6 percent. The report includes the elimination of the tax deduction for foreign operating corporation income and the exemption of city and county government purchases from sales taxes. The Division also included taxes on sports memorabilia and stadium suites as potential financing mechanisms for the new Minnesota Vikings stadium. The report will be reviewed again and amended on Tuesday, April 16, and then sent to the Senate Tax Committee where it will be included in the omnibus tax bill. Senate Tax Committee Chair Rod Skoe (DFL-Clearbrook) mentioned in the weekly leadership press conference that the remainder of its tax plan will be released in two weeks and will include an income tax increase on top earners.

House Legacy Omnibus Bill

The House Legacy Committee decided on Thursday to pass its omnibus appropriations bill known as the Legacy bill. The appropriations total $538 million, which is divided by set percentages into four funds that were created by the Legacy Amendment that was passed by the voters in 2008. The fund totals include $191.3 million for the Clean Water Fund, $147.1 million for the Outdoor Heritage Fund, $114.69 million for the Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund and $85.19 million for the Parks and Trails Fund. The bill cleared the House Ways and Means Committee on Friday. It was placed on the general register and is set for debate on the House Floor in the coming days.

Bonding Bill

This week, the House Capital Investment Committee approved the omnibus capital investment bill, also known as the Bonding Bill, out of committee on a mixed voice vote. HF270, authored by Representative Alice Hausman (DFL-St Paul), is a package of appropriations funded by general obligation bonds to finance capital projects such as new construction projects, as well as the maintenance and repair of state assets.

This year's bonding bill calls for $858.38 million, and among the largest appropriations are $109 million for continued restoration of the 108-year-old State Capitol building; $80 million in asset preservation split between the University of Minnesota and the MnSCU system; $59.6 million for convention center expansions in Rochester, Mankato and St. Cloud; and $50 million for a transit capital improvement program. The bill was sent to the House Ways and Means Committee where it will be heard on April 16.