Before departing for their planned Easter/Passover break, the House and Senate pushed through a number of bills in a flurry of activity. Unusually short committee deadlines drove this process. These deadlines were: March 21 for policy bills in the house of origin; March 28 for all policy committee bills or companions; and April 4 for Senate Finance and House Ways and Means to pass major appropriation and finance bills.
Omnibus Supplemental Appropriations
The Senate (37-27) and House (70-59) passed versions of an Omnibus Supplemental Appropriations bill over the last two weeks. The bills appropriate funding for transportation, jobs and economic development, health and human services, energy, higher education/K-12 education, public safety, environment, natural resources, and agriculture. A conference committee will reconcile the difference after the break.
Part two of the tax bills, which included tax relief for businesses, veterans, emergency responders, and transit users, passed both chambers, unanimously in the House and 57-6 in the Senate. The Senate bill directs a larger portion towards property tax relief. A conference committee will meet after the break.
On Wednesday the Senate approved a long fought measure to hike Minnesota’s minimum wage from one of the nation’s lowest to one of its highest. The measure, slated to be ready for Gov. Mark Dayton’s signature on Monday, would increase state wages from $6.15 to $9.50 an hour for large businesses and $5.25 to $7.75 for small businesses by 2016. It provides an annual inflation adjustment to start in 2018, and authorizes the Commissioner of the Department of Labor and Industry to suspend the increase due to a recession, GPD, or elevated unemployment rate. It passed on a 35-31 vote in the Senate and 71-60 in the House. Governor Dayton said he would sign the bill on Monday, April 22.
The Women’s Economic Security Act passed the House on a broadly bipartisan vote of 106-24 and is expected to be taken up on the Senate floor after the break. The House passed bill aims to narrow the pay gap between men and women, expand access to affordable child care, and increase unpaid parental leave from six weeks to 12 weeks.
After nearly 12 hours of debate, the House passed an anti-bullying bill on a 69-63 vote that fell mostly along party lines. The Senate passed the bill last week. Governor Dayton signed the bill at a ceremony on Wednesday. The bill requires school districts to track and investigate cases of bullying and directs schools to better train staff and teachers on how to prevent it. Current law requires school districts to have a bullying policy, but doesn’t include details on what the policy should contain.
Still on the table – omnibus policy bills, bonding bills, medical marijuana, pay equity (Senate), and the contentious $77 million Senate office building proposal.
Governor Dayton’s State of the State address, originally slated to be delivered on April 23 has been delayed until April 30.