With the 2013 Minnesota legislative session moving into the home stretch, virtually all of the “heavy lifting” of the session remains. While the calendar indicates the session is two-thirds complete, the numbers tell a different story.
The House has seen over 1700 bills introduced to date, the Senate over 1500. Ten bills have made it to the Governor’s desk. Of those ten, only the health insurance exchange (HF5/SF1, now codified as 2013 Session Laws, Chapter 9) was previously identified as a critical issue for this session. On all of the other key issues, huge and likely contentious debates lie ahead, with no consensus on the horizon for several, even between the DFL majorities and the Governor’s office.
So between now and the May 20 adjournment date, expect lively debates on:
Taxes: After meeting huge resistance, Governor Dayton dropped his proposal to significantly expand the sales tax base, including extending sales taxes to “business-to-business” transactions. However, other proposals continue to draw fierce opposition, including increasing the top tier of the State’s income tax and a House DFL proposal to add a surcharge on top of that increase, gasoline, alcohol and cigarette tax increase proposals and more. Property tax relief too continues to be debated, with consensus proving elusive.
Health and Human Services Budgets: The House DFL surprised everyone, including key DFL constituencies, in releasing a Health and Human Services target calling for a $150 million reduction in spending, as opposed to Governor Dayton’s $145 million increase.
Education: All the key issues remain, including Higher Education, K-12 and Early Childhood funding, proposals for all-day kindergarten, and paying back the school funding shift, a priority of the House DFL.
Jobs and Economic Development: This one broad topic can sweep in any number of “hot button” issues in addition to the Omnibus Jobs and Economic Development bill, including proposals to significantly raise the State’s minimum wage to unionization of child cared workers.
Energy Policy: After the Governor highlighted the issue in his State of the State address, both bodies have crafted legislation substantially increasing Minnesota’s already aggressive renewable energy standard, with particular focus on solar energy. The House and Senate bills reflect somewhat different visions and continue to draw strong opposition from both utilities and customers, concerned with the cost impact of such new requirements.
Bonding: Debate continues over bonding in this session, including for the Mayo Clinic’s Destination Medical Community proposal.
Same Sex Marriage: The debate took a new twist this week as Republicans introduced a “civil unions” alternative to DFL led proposals to legalize same sex marriage.
The bottom line: Expect some sleepless nights between now and adjournment on May 20.