May 26, 2016

End of Session Flurry

Every session I hear someone say “this year is just so crazy” and while they may be right, the truth is that every session is unique and, in its own way, crazy. Especially the final few days of session, which are always filled with some level of drama, urgency, speculation and meltdown. It is just the nature of the beast and this year was no different.

As a midnight Sunday deadline passed, lawmakers failed to wrap up major deals and loose ends as they handled the state’s projected $900 million budget surplus, and the name calling and finger pointing started almost immediately.

Among the marquee items still unfinished as the Legislature wrapped up early Monday morning was a major transportation funding package and a borrowing bill for construction projects. Lawmakers did finalize a bill with $260 million in tax relief and some other spending.

Here is the quick recap of where things were left.

Tax Bill: passed

Budget Bill: passed

Transportation: Did Not Pass

Bonding Bill: Did Not Pass

Real ID: Did Not Pass

Here’s a closer look at some of the work legislators have finished:

TAX CUTS

The Legislature passed the compromise package of tax cuts Sunday, a mix of property tax relief to farmers and businesses, a new tax credit for college graduates with loan debt and expanded aid to Minnesota parents with childcare costs.

A smaller item that triggered Democratic criticism would remove the automatic, annual tax hikes to cigarettes and other tobacco products that lawmakers approved as part of a major tax increase in 2013.

Gov. Mark Dayton has said his support will hinge on whether the Legislature funds some of his priorities. He has 14 days to decide whether to sign the bill.

Tax Spreadsheet: http://www.senate.leg.state.mn.us/departments/fiscalpol/tracking/2016/tax_may22_4p_joint_OTB_ADOPTED%20BY%20CC.pdf

Tax Bill: https://www.revisor.mn.gov/bills/text.php?number=HF848&version=0&session=ls89&session_year=2015&session_number=0&type=ccr

Tax Bill Summary: http://www.house.leg.state.mn.us/hrd/bs/89/HF0848.pdf

Supplemental Spending:

The House and Senate came into this conference committee with significantly different bills in hand. The Senate used the budget surplus on a number of funding areas including education, economic development and a significant portion of money aimed at reducing the economic gap among minorities in Minnesota. The House planned to use most of the surplus on transportation and taxes, so less spending in supplemental finance bill.

 

Supplemental Budget Bill:

https://www.revisor.mn.gov/bills/text.php?number=hf2749&type=ccr&session=ls89&version=0

Supplemental Budget Spreadsheet: http://www.senate.mn/departments/fiscalpol/tracking/2016/HHS_2016%20HHS%20Tracking%20HF%202749-CC3.pdf

 

In the Department of Health Policy Bill:

There was an electronic monitoring work group that was a result of the Senate passing authorizing language to use cameras in HCBS settings.

 

There were changes to the basic and comprehensive home care licensing that facilitate a temporary license for up to one year, change notice requirements, allows for expedited hearing changes, and create the ability for an immediate temporary suspension.

 

Finally, there was the inclusion of an extension of the all payer claims database.

 

MDH Policy Bill: https://www.revisor.mn.gov/bills/text.php?number=HF3142&version=3&session=ls89&session_year=2016&session_number=0

 

PRESCHOOL

Governor Dayton is finally poised to get one of his top prizes. The supplemental spending bill would provide $25 million for a phased-in preschool program, targeting impoverished school districts without early education options. It’s expected to allow about 3,700 more 4-year-olds to attend preschool.

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BROADBAND AND RACIAL EQUITY

Lawmakers checked some other boxes on Dayton’s wish list — sort of. The $35 million in extra grants for broadband Internet development fell well short of the $100 million request Dayton made. So did the $35 million lined up for programs meant to tackle longstanding racial disparities.

Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk and House Speaker Kurt Daudt both hoped they had come close enough to satisfying the governor and gaining his approval.

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TRANSPORTATION

A last-ditch effort to provide some one-time funding for roads and bridges fell apart in a blur Sunday night.

Legislative leaders spent the week tussling over how to fund a decade’s worth of transportation fixes, with a gas tax increase, license tab fee hikes, borrowing and surplus money all in the mix. As the deadline approached, some lawmakers were floating a last-ditch option to provide some one-time funding for road and bridge repairs.

In the end, House Republicans’ attempt to add some road and bridge repair funding into a bonding bill — a package of more than $1 billion in public works projects — failed amid a dispute with Senate Democrats over funding mass transit projects. Both legislative leaders suggested they could revisit a bonding bill in a special session, if Dayton would agree to call one.

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PRESIDENTIAL PRIMARY

Goodbye, caucuses.

The Legislature passed a bill scrapping the presidential caucus voting system for 2020, opting for a presidential primary format after long lines at polling locations frustrated voters and party officials alike. Dayton signed the bill Sunday evening.

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REAL ID

The Legislature ran out of time to upgrade Minnesota’s driver’s licenses.

Federal officials say they’ll start requiring Real ID-compliant licenses at domestic flight gates in 2018. Lawmakers were largely in agreement to start issuing new licenses in 2018, but other, smaller details held up a final deal.

- Toby Pearson, CHA-MN Executive Director