The remaining omnibus budget bills passed off the floor in both legislative bodies this week. Differences between the House and Senate bills will be reconciled in conference committees before a single version is sent to the governor. This week, the Senate passed the Transportation and Tax Omnibus bills, while the House approved the Jobs and Economic Development, State Government, and Health and Human Services omnibus bills.
- Once conferees from the House and Senate are appointed for each budget bill, the joint committees can begin meeting. Republican leadership has said they would like negotiations with the governor to begin immediately during these conference committees, while Governor Dayton has said he would look at bills once a full budget plan is negotiated and passed by the conference committees. Along with conference committee work beginning next week, policy bills will continue to be heard. Committee chairs will begin to form omnibus policy bills over the next few weeks and expect the pace to pick up as the deadline of Friday, April 29 nears. The deadline is when policy proposals must be passed to either the House Ways and Means committee or Finance Committee in the Senate.
- One hot-button issue this session has been the voter identification card bill. The bill requires voters to present an approved ID card prior to voting and also prohibits voters from vouching for others on Election Day. In the Senate this week, SF509, sponsored by Sen. Warren Limmer (R-Maple Grove),cleared the Committee on Transportation. The House companion, HF210, authored by Rep. Kiffmeyer (R-Big Lake), was laid over in the State Government Finance Committee on Thursday because the fiscal note was not completed. Republicans argue that the provision would reduce voter fraud, while the DFL minority says it will restrict people from voting and add cost.
Governor Dayton and Health and Human Services (HHS) Commissioner Lucinda Jesson announced additional health care cost savings, by reaching an agreement with the four major health plans – BlueCross BlueShield, HealthPartners, Medica, and UCare. The four health plans have voluntarily agreed to a one-time cap on 2011 earnings of 1% of their revenue. Any amount over this level would be sent to the state's General Fund and Health Care Access Fund in April 2012. To read a press release from Governor Dayton's office, click here.