The Minnesota Legislature convened at noon on Tuesday, February 25. It hit the ground running with a minimum wage increase and tax cuts at the forefront. It has already passed a $20 million heating assistance bill. The House passed the bill on the first day of session and the Senate on Thursday. The $20 million heating assistance bill is expected to be signed by Gov. Dayton today. The House is also holding hearings on the rising cost and shortage of propane in Minnesota.
The House is also moving quickly on a tax bill, HF1777, which repeals the business-to-business expanded sales taxes on warehousing services, telecommunications purchase, and business equipment repair. The committee also addressed the federal conformity issue and revised the gift and estate taxes.
In addition, the House repealed the telecommunications sales tax, but rather than returning the money to the telecom companies, the state used the money to create a grant program to expand broadband service in rural areas. The proposal came as an amendment to HF1777. Since July 1, 2013, the telecommunications tax has been imposed and is expected to generate approximately $33 million by June 30, 2014. The bill, as amended, would have the tax end March 31, 2014. The bill is scheduled to go to the House Ways & Means committee Monday, March 3. The House plans to pass the bill next week. The Senate held hearing on repealing the business-to-business taxes, but has not yet advanced a bill.
The minimum wage conference committee met for the first time Thursday to hear testimony on legislation (HF92/SF3) to raise the state’s minimum wage from the current $6.15 per hour. The House bill would incrementally increase the wage to $9.50 for large employers and $8.50 for small employers by 2015. The Senate bill would allow an increase to $7.75 by 2015. The committee heard testimony for more than three hours, but did not vote. Legislators will work to craft a compromise that will be submitted to each chamber for an up-or-down vote. The conference committee will reconvene this afternoon.
Following concerns about one in three robberies nationwide involving cell phones and the recent incident involving Minneapolis mayoral candidate Mark Andrews, Rep. Joe Atkins (DFL-Inver Grove Heights) introduced legislation, HF1952, to require all smartphones sold in MN to carry “kill switch” technology that would disable them if stolen, allowing owners to wipe the data remotely and leaving the phone unfit for resale. Thursday's House Labor, Workplace, and Regulated Industries hearing was the first in the nation on kill switch technology.