With only three weeks until the first legislative deadline, higher profile legislative initiatives have started moving through committees and, in some cases, been voted on by the full House or Senate. Next Friday, February 26, the long-awaited February forecast will be released at 2:00 p.m. The legislature must base the budget on the February forecast.
Adult Use Cannabis
The House committee on Commerce Finance and Policy advanced H.F. 600 (Rep. Ryan Winkler, DFL-Golden Valley) on a party-line vote to the next committee. The bill seeks to legalize recreational marijuana use for adults aged 21 and older. While similar bills have been introduced in the past, this is the first time a recreational cannabis bill has cleared a committee in Minnesota. The Senate is unlikely to take up the legislation.
Since the death of George Floyd last summer, and the civil unrest that followed, Minnesota elected officials have debated how best to respond to future situations. With the upcoming trial of Derek Chauvin scheduled to start in a few weeks, such discussions have an urgency behind them. On Monday, the Senate passed a bill that would reduce Local Government Aid payments from the state to jurisdictions that have unpaid mutual aid obligations. Also on Monday, the House was expected to take up a bill that would have provided $35 million for anticipated public safety funding needs leading up to, during and after the trial. The bill was pulled from consideration at the last minute due to lack of support. The bill was considered on Thursday, and failed after several D.F.L. representatives from Minneapolis and St. Paul joined the Republicans in opposing the measure.
Court Deadline Update
Last spring, due to the pandemic, Minnesota passed a law extending certain court deadlines and statutes of limitation. That provision was set to expire on February 15. H.F. 114 (Rep. Kelly Moller, DFL-Shoreview) extends that date to April 15, 2021, and was signed into law on February 12.
Paycheck Protection Tax Conformity
House Tax Chair Paul Marquart, DFL-Dilworth, presented a bill in his committee earlier this week that would provide tax relief to businesses that participated in the federal Paycheck Protection Program by conforming Minnesota to federal law. Following adoption of a delete-all amendment, the bill, H.F. 501, was laid over for possible inclusion in the omnibus bill.
This week, Governor Tim Walz’s administration made news with two announcements. On Wednesday, they announced that all middle schools and high schools could resume at least part-time in-person learning within the next month. On Thursday, the administration announced the launch of the Minnesota COVID-19 Vaccine Connector, where any Minnesotan aged 18 and older can sign up for vaccine information. After submitting their data, individuals are to be notified when they are eligible to receive the vaccine, and provided with possible options for where to obtain the vaccine.