The activity at the Capitol this week focused on the bills that will determine the outcome of the 2014 legislative session. Governor Mark Dayton gave his State of the State address detailing legislative accomplishments from the 2013-14 biennium and previewed his priorities for the future should he win reelection.
It is beginning to feel like the end of the legislative session is near. The House and Senate are holding daily floor sessions to get through the 125 bills each has left to address. Conference committees are working on the second omnibus tax bill and the supplemental budget bill. The bonding bill is likely to make some progress next week and medical marijuana has two different proposals travelling through the committee process
State of the State
On Wednesday evening, lawmakers and special guests packed into the House chamber for a joint session to hear the annual State of the State speech by Governor Dayton. (It is customary for the governor to give the constitutionally required speech at the beginning of the legislative session but he was unable to do so as he has been recovering from hip surgery since early February.) In his remarks, the governor detailed key accomplishments from the biennium, including job creation, investments in education, an increase in the minimum wage and the legalization of same sex marriage.
Second Omnibus Tax Bill Conference Committee
The second omnibus tax bill, HF3167, authored by Representative Ann Lenczewski (DFL-Bloomington) and Senator Rod Skoe (DFL-Clearbrook), was heard in conference committee this week. Thus far, they have discussed and adopted some of the same and similar provisions between the House and Senate versions of the bill but there is much work to be done. The bill includes several property tax provisions and specific sales tax exemptions. It also adopts federal tax policies, various tax increment financing provisions for municipalities, and "unsession" provisions to eliminate redundant or unnecessary laws and regulations currently in law.
In addition to Lenczewski, the four other House conferees are Jim Davnie (DFL-Minneapolis), Greg Davids (R-Preston), Paul Torkelson (R-Hanska) and Linda Slocum (DFL-Richfield). The four other Senate conferees are Ann Rest (DFL-New Hope), Kari Dziedzic (DFL-Minneapolis), Lyle Koenen (DFL-Clara City) and Paul Gazelka (R-Baxter).
Supplemental Budget Conference Committee
The supplemental budget conference committee is continuing to work through the various differences between the House and Senate versions of HF3172, authored by Representative Lyndon Carlson (DFL-Crystal) and Senator Richard Cohen (DFL-St Paul). Yesterday, legislative leaders unveiled a general fund target of $293 million dedicated to the supplemental budget. Based on the $293 million target, the Senate will have to increase their spending while the House will decrease their spending. The committee is scheduled to continue work over the weekend and would like to complete its work by Sunday evening.
In addition to Carlson, the four other House conferees are Reps. Thomas Huntley (DFL-Duluth), Tim Mahoney (DFL-St. Paul), Paul Marquart (DFL-Dilworth) and Jean Wagenius (DFL-Minneapolis). The four other Senate conferees are Sens. David Tomassoni (DFL-Chisholm), Tony Lourey (DFL-Kerrick), Charles Wiger (DFL-North St. Paul) and Terri Bonoff (DFL-Minnetonka).
Capital Investment Committee Chair LeRoy Stumpf (DFL-Plummer) announced on Friday that the spreadsheet for the much-anticipated Senate bonding bill will be released on Monday and he scheduled a hearing on the bill for Tuesday. The House has two proposals that are authored by Capital Investment Chair Representative Alice Hausman (DFL- St. Paul). HF2490 totals $850 million in general obligation bonds and HF1068 spends $125 million in cash remaining from the budget surplus for other bonding projects. HF2490 will need a supermajority of 81 votes to pass on the House floor, while HF1068 requires a simple majority.
On Thursday, House Speaker Paul Thissen (DFL-Minneapolis) and Representative Carly Melin (DFL-Hibbing) held a press conference to announce a compromise between key stakeholders on a proposal that would create the Medical Cannabis Therapeutic Research Act. SF2470 will be amended to allow patients qualifying for clinical trials to be given the drug in pill or oil form. Some would be allowed to use a vaporizer, but only with a health care professional present. Melin's original bill HF1818 has been stalled in committee due to concerns from Governor Dayton, who publicly stated that he will not sign a medical marijuana bill unless the law enforcement community supports the language.
In the Senate a much different proposal has been travelling through the committee process. SF1641, authored by Senator Scott Dibble (DFL-Minneapolis), would allow qualifying patients to apply for an identification card from the State Health Department to obtain medical marijuana from a network of alternative treatment centers. The Senate bill also likely lacks support from the governor and it is unclear if and how a compromise could be reached in order to combine the two bills into one.