February 17, 2015

Legislative Update of February 16th

The Minnesota legislature has experienced increased activity in the two weeks since Gov. Mark Dayton released his proposed FY 16-17 budget. Committees are hearing presentations from a broad variety of commissioners and agency staff regarding proposed changes, reforms, or new spending.

More comprehensive activity on the budget will increase once the February forecast is released by Minnesota Management and Budget on February 27, 2015. Once this is released, legislative leaders will be able to set the “budget targets” for the respective finance committees.

Those budget targets are the framework in which each chairperson must work when putting together his or her budget bill. A “plus target” allows for the policy area to authorize new spending or investment while a “cut target” requires a committee to find ways to trim spending from the forecasted base budget.

Committees consider policy bills

While committee chairs wait for the forecast and budget targets, they have begun to hear a variety of pieces of legislation. Some small, inexpensive policy bills have begun to move through the committee process while other legislation — including spending initiatives that will need to be part of the budget — are discussed in committee and then “laid over” for possible inclusion.

Though no formal action is taken on bills that are laid over, the bills heard and the topics discussed provide substantial insight into the priorities and focus of the respective committee chairs.

Other hearings and discussions

Because most committee hearings still focus on agency overviews and presentations of Dayton’s budget, it remains difficult to glean too much insight into committee chairs’ agendas.

However, the House Job Creation and Energy Affordability Committee has spent numerous hearings discussing advances in wind and solar energy technology while the House Mining and Outdoor Recreation Committee spent nearly two weeks discussing a variety of mining activities in Minnesota.

In the Senate, the Commerce committee has held multiple hearings to discuss the state’s health insurance exchange and the Senate Environment, Energy and Agriculture Policy Committee has focused on water and air quality issues in recent days.

Update Summary from Larkin Hoffman

Pearson Commentary: The one item that I would highlight is that there does seem to be a lot of energy around the Older Adults committee in the house where a number of proposals from the Long Term Care Imperative have made it through their first stop and they continue to get a lot of attention from the House.