May 16, 2012

Legislature Adjourns Sine Die

The State Legislature finalized three major bills—the tax bill, bonding bill, and the stadium bill—this week after long floor debates and dozens of amendments. Lawmakers ultimately put their stamp of approval on the three major bills which still need to be signed by Governor Dayton.

Bonding Bill

House Members brought HF 1752, the 2012 Capital Investment bill, to the floor for a vote Monday. After a vote to suspend the rules, the House voted 97-33 to approve the borrowing bill. The legislation was sent over to the Senate where it was considered immediately, and two amendments were adopted,  increasing the size of the overall bill: $500,000 for a South Saint Paul Floodwall Extension and $2,000,000 for the Tubman Center in Maplewood, a facility for women and children escaping domestic violence. Senate members voted 45-22 on the borrowing bill. The House concurred with the Senate amendments, rather than appoint a conference committee to work out the differences. Projects included in the bill are:

  • $64 million to the University of Minnesota for asset preservation projects
  •  $132 million for Minnesota State Colleges and Universities asset preservation and replacement projects
  • $49.4 million for various Department of Transportation costs
  • $30 million for flood mitigation
  • $78.5 million to the Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED). $47.50 million is for projects of the agency’s choosing.

Tax Bill

Lawmakers moved quickly after Governor Dayton’s speedy veto of the Omnibus Tax Bill last week. Tax Chairs Rep. Greg Davids (R-Preston) and Sen. Julianne Ortman (R-Chanhassen) went to work on a compromised version, HF 247, after expressing their disappointment in the veto. Omnibus Tax Bill #2’s Conference Committee Report passed in the House by a 73-56 vote and in the Senate, 41-24. Omnibus Tax Bill #1, had the same number of votes in both chambers.

In his veto letter of HF 2337, Dayton reiterated his refusal to sign any legislation that increases the State’s deficit in future years, a message he has conveyed to the Legislature all year. The second Tax Bill, though scaled down, is projected to increase the deficit by $46 million in the 2012-2013 biennium and over $70 million for the 2014-2015 biennium. The bill’s authors are hopeful it will see Dayton’s

Stadium Bill

The issue that dominated the media this Legislative Session, a new stadium for the Minnesota Vikings, was finally put to a rest this week. HF 2958, authored by Rep. Morrie Lanning (R-Moorhead)
and Sen. Julie Rosen (R-Fairmount) was approved in the House and the Senate. Approval of the new stadium came after long floor debates and consideration of over six dozen amendments. Lawmakers voted 73-58 late Monday night in the House and 38-28 after midnight Tuesday night in the Senate.

The final plan is for a $975 million stadium with a seating capacity of 65,000, to be constructed downtown Minneapolis at the current Metrodome location. The new stadium will have a fixed-roof though the team’s owners may decide to put on a retractable roof—an expense they would have to cover. The Vikings will sign a 30-year lease, receive the revenue from the field’s naming rights, and is responsible for any cost over-runs. The Vikings will cover $477 million of construction costs, the City of Minneapolis will pay $150 million, and the State will spend $348 million. Vikings’ officials affirmed all along that $427 million would be the absolute most they are able to contribute. Negotiations in conference committee drove the number up and the team ultimately signed off on the cost. The State’s
contribution will come from a modernization of lawful, charitable gambling by implementing electronic pulltabs and bingo around the State. No General Fund money will be used and no new taxes will be implemented. A conference committee was appointed to settle the discrepancies between the House and Senate bills and the committee’s report was made available late Wednesday evening. Final approval of the stadium came after 4:00 a.m. Thursday morning in the House (71-60) and Thursday afternoon in the Senate (36-30). Immediately following the final votes on the Stadium the 87th Legislature adjourned sine die.

Legislator Retirements

Retirement speeches followed the  stadium vote and despite rumors, there were no surprise announcements. Rep. Ron Shimanski (R-Silver Lake) lost his endorsement bid to Rep. Glenn Gruenhagen (R-Glencoe) and, though he hadn’t said anything official, had indicated that he would abide by the endorsement. Rep. Tom Rukavina, a 26-year veteran of the Minnesota House of Representatives announced Friday he would not be seeking re-election. Rukavina said in his tenure, he has tried to make life better for the people of Minnesota, in particular on the Iron Range and Northeastern Minnesota. He cited a changing atmosphere at the Capitol as one reason for his retirement. “I recall a kinder and gentler time here,” he said in a letter addressed to his colleagues and friends. Rep. Rukavina’s announcement was the 37th this year.

Nine members of the House are running for seats in the Senate: Rep. Bruce Anderson (R-Buffalo Township), Rep. Bobby Joe Champion (DFL-Minneapolis), Rep. Connie Doepke (R-Orono), Rep. Keith
Downey (R-Edina), Rep. Kent Eken (DFL-Twin Valley), Rep. Mary Kiffmeyer (R-Big Lake), Rep. Branden Petersen (R-Andover), Rep. Bev Scalze (DFL-Little Canada), and Rep. Torrey Westrom (R-Elbow Lake). Twelve additional House members retiring are: Rep. Mark Buesgens (R-Savage), Rep. Denise Dittrich (DFL-Champlin), Rep. Marion Greene (DFL-Minneapolis), Rep. Mindy Greiling
(DFL-Roseville), Rep. Bill Hilty (DFL-Finlayson), Rep. Larry Hosch (DFL-St. Joseph), Rep. Kate Knuth (DFL-New Brighton), Rep. John Kriesel (R-Cottage Grove), Rep. Mike LeMieur (R-Little Falls), Rep. Pat Mazorol (R-Bloomington), Rep. Mark Murdock, (R-Ottertail), and Rep. Nora Slawik (DFL-Maplewood). Rep. Carol McFarlane (R-White Bear Lake) and Rep. Tom Tillberry, (DFL-Fridley) both lost their endorsement bids but haven’t officially announced their retirements. McFarlane was matched up with House Majority Leader Matt Dean (R-Dellwood) after redistricting. Tillberry’s constituents chose to endorse former House Representative Connie Bernardy at the district convention.

Thirteen retiring state senators
are: Sen. Chris Gerlach (R-Apple Valley), Sen. Linda Higgins (DFL-Minneapolis), Sen. Gretchen Hoffman (R-Vergas), Sen. Mike Jungbauer (R-East Bethel), Sen. Ken Kelash (DFL-Minneapolis), Sen. Amy Koch (R-Buffalo), Sen. Keith Langseth (DFL-Glyndon), and Sen. Doug Magnus (R-Slayton), Sen. Mary Jo McGuire (DFL-Falcon Heights) Sen. Geoff Michel (R-Edina), Sen. Gen Olson (R-Minnetrista), Sen. Claire Robling (R-Jordan), and Sen. Mike Parry (R-Waseca) who is running for U.S. Congress in Minnesota’s first Congressional District. After redistricting matched Sen. Al DeKruif (R-Madison Lake) and Sen. Julie Rosen, DeKruif said he would not seek re-election and he is now rumored to be reconsidering.