Legislature Meets First Committee Deadline

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The Minnesota Legislature had a busy week at the Capitol, working to meet their first deadline. The deadline for committees to act favorably on bills in the house of origin is midnight on Friday. Committees must act favorably on bills that met the first deadline by next Friday, March 23. Major tax, appropriation and finance bills must be acted on favorably by Friday, March 30. If committees in either body approve legislation that does not meet these deadlines, the bill must then be approved by the House or Senate Rules Committee.

Weekly Highlights

  • SF 2391, the Vikings Stadium bill, was heard in the Senate Local Government and Elections Committee Wednesday and was eventually laid over without a vote after two hours of discussion and testimony. Ted Mondale, Chair of the Metropolitan Sports Facilities Commission, appeared before the Committee to outline the proposal agreed upon by the State, the City of Minneapolis, and the Vikings. Mondale, who has been working closely with Governor Dayton and legislators, said he believes the plan is financially viable and does not include any new taxes or use of the State’s general fund.  The State would pay about 35% of the billion dollar cost by introducing electronic pull tabs. Opponents of the bill question whether the pull tabs would raise the $350 million that is needed.
  • Sen. Roger Chamberlain (R-Lino Lakes) introduced an alternative bill in February that would fund construction of a football stadium with user fees. The bill was heard Friday morning in the Senate Commerce and Consumer Protection Committee. The bill was recommended to pass after a party-line vote and sent Senate Taxes Committee.
  • The “Right to Work” constitutional amendment had its first hearing in the Senate on Monday. If passed, Minnesota voters will be determining whether the State Constitution should be amended to allow workers the freedom to choose whether or not to join and pay dues to a union. After passage on a party line vote, the bill was sent to the Senate Rules Committee although a hearing has yet to be scheduled. Senate Majority Leader David Senjem (R-Rochester) has said he doesn’t think the amendment has enough support to pass. The bill has not had a hearing in the House.
  • House and Senate transportation committees approved omnibus bills this week without a Metro Transit fare increase as originally proposed by Republicans. DFLers said the plan for fare increases would unfairly burden urban transit riders.
  • The House voted 74-59 Thursday evening to pay back a portion of the $770 million that was borrowed from State payments to local school districts.  The shift was part of the agreement to end last summer’s state government shutdown. Rep. Pat Garofalo (R-Farmington) said that tapping into the budget reserves is possible with the new surplus announced with the February budget forecast. DFLers opposed the move and advocated for the elimination of tax breaks for businesses to pay back the schools.