The Legislature entered its fifth week of the session focused on some of the major pieces of legislation under consideration this year. The House Capital Investment Committee passed a general obligation bonding bill and a cash bill for capital investments. The House passed a supplemental budget bill and the Senate was making its final committee changes to a similar omnibus package. The women's economic security bill passed a key hurdle in the House and the Senate passed an anti-bullying bill off of the Senate floor.
On Wednesday, the House Capital Investment Committee passed HF2490, authored by Representative Alice Hausman (DFL- Saint Paul). The bill allocates a total of $850 million in general obligation bonds to fund public works projects across the state. The Committee also passed HF1068, authored by Representative Hausman, which would spend an additional $125 million for bonding projects using cash from the budget surplus. HF2490 will need a supermajority of 81 votes to pass on the House floor while HF1068 requires a simple majority. Governor Dayton's bonding recommendations consisted of $986 million in general obligation bonds. The Senate has yet to release their bonding bill.
House Supplemental Budget Bill
After nine hours of debate on Thursday evening, the House passed HF3172, authored by Representative Lyndon Carlson (DFL-Crystal), a $322 million supplemental budget bill on a vote of 70-59. The package included provisions from all of the finance committees including Jobs and Economic Development, Health and Human Services, Transportation, Public Safety, Environment and K-12 Education. The bill will add spending in the current two year budget. The funds were made available from the remaining balance from the February economic forecast that projected a $1.2 billion budget surplus.
Senate Supplemental Budget Bill
This week the Senate Finance Committee took action on SF2785, the supplemental budget omnibus bill. The Finance Committee Chair and bill author Senator Richard Cohen (DFL-St. Paul) stated that the final bill will reflect an agreement between Majority Leader Tom Bakk (DFL-Cook) and Speaker of the House Paul Thissen (DFL-Richfield) to keep $750 million in the Minnesota's budget reserves. However, during the hearing the various changes were made to division reports as members adopted amendments that increased the total spending and reduced the amount of funding available to the state reserve. The bill was still being worked on at the time of publication.
Women's Economic Security Act
HF2536, known as the Women's Economic Security Act, passed out of the Ways and Means Committee this week. The proposal, authored by Representative Carly Melin (DFL-Hibbing), includes ten separate pieces of legislation aimed at changing employment law and giving more incentives to businesses and women. The Senate has mirrored the House action and the bill awaits its final committee hearing next week.
While the majority of the proposal is relatively non-controversial, the discussion at the capitol has mostly centered on the issue of pay equity. The house bill, as proposed, would impact state contracts for companies with more than 50 employees and contracts worth more than $500,000. Contractors would need to receive an equal pay certificate from the Department of Human Rights certifying they are in compliance. Opposition to the language has centered on the cost the proposal would have on businesses and the state for a human resources operation for a small sub-set of employees that work on each contract. The Senate proposal is significantly different on this issue and has support from both the advocates and the business community. Health plans have been exempted from this requirement in both the House and the Senate.
Senate Anti-Bullying Bill
On Thursday, the Senate passed the Safe and Supportive Schools Act, HF826, authored by Senator Scott Dibble (DFL- Minneapolis). After more than five hours of debate and fifteen proposed amendments, the final vote on the bill was 36-31.