The Minnesota Legislature’s first committee deadline came and went yesterday, with policy bills needing to clear all policy committees in either the House or Senate by midnight to remain viable. Most committees met in regular and evening sessions to accommodate legislators’ request to have their bills heard. Bills that met the first deadline include:
HF3369, authored by Rep. Linda Runbeck (R-Circle Pines). This omnibus transportation policy bill proposes major governance changes to the Met Council. These changes include replacing Board members currently appointed by Governor Dayton with elected county and city officials and eliminating the Transportation Advisory Board. HF 3369 also prohibits the co-location of freight rail and light rail passenger trains in the same corridor, prevents the Met Council from using its operating budget reserves and general fund appropriations for capital costs of transit, and directing the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) to revise its highway investment plan to prioritize a reduction in metro area congestion. The Senate companion is SF3418, authored by Sen. Roger Chamberlain (R-Lino Lakes).
HF 3315, the omnibus education policy bill, authored by Rep. Sondra Erickson (R-Princeton). Among other things, this bill would require the Department of Education to develop an academic achievement rating system that ranks school districts and schools based on standardized test performance. The Senate companion is SF 3086, authored by Sen. Eric Pratt (R-Prior Lake).
HF3796, authored by Rep. Jennifer Loon (R-Eden Prairie), which proposes to help school districts address school violence by providing state grant funding for schools districts for safety upgrades. Grants would be awarded by the Minnesota Department of Education, with input from the Department of Public Safety’s Minnesota School Safety Center and be funded by the sale of state obligation bonds. The bill requires half of the grants to be awarded to Greater Minnesota. The Senate companion bill, SF3607 authored by Sen. Carla Nelson (R-Rochester), is awaiting action.
HF2940, authored by Rep. Matt Bliss (R-Pennington), prohibits the MPCA from raising water fees without legislative authority and requires the MPCA to submit a report to the Legislature regarding water quality permit fee revenues. The MPCA has been attempting to raise fees on water quality permits for the first time since 1992, in part to adjust a structural budget imbalance resulting from decreasing fee income. The Senate companion, SF2637 authored by Sen. Bill Ingebrigtsen (R-Alexandria), is awaiting action.
After weeks of debate, the Legislature approved and Governor Dayton signed legislation providing emergency funding for MNLARS, the state’s vehicle license and registration system. On Monday, the Senate took up SF3133, chief authored by Sen. Scott Newman (R-Hutchinson), appropriating $7.3 million from the vehicle services and driver services operating accounts and establishing a panel of six legislators to oversee future funding. Proponents argued that $93 million has already been invested in a system that doesn’t work and needs tighter oversight. The full amount requested from Governor Dayton’s budget is $43M.
The House rejected the Senate version and inserted their language to the unofficial engrossment. Authored by Rep. Paul Torkelson (R-Hanska). The House’s version provides $10 million for MNLARS backfilled by a reduction of the same amount from previously appropriated executive branch funds. It also requires Governor Dayton to seek an extension for RealID. Opponents argued layoff notices had already gone out so they should accept the Senate position rather than delaying the process with a conference committee, since Governor Dayton previously stated the House position to be a nonstarter.
The House and Senate versions were quickly reconciled in conference committee and overwhelmingly repassed by the House and Senate. The compromise approves $9.65M to be transferred to the Department of Public Safety to continue developing MNLARS and does not require the funds to come from previously appropriated executive branch funds. The compromise prevents job layoffs at the end of the month, creates an oversight committee of six lawmakers to review spending quarterly, and requires the appointment of a technology monitor to audit the development and implementation of MNLARS. It also requires Dayton to seek an extension for RealID. Governor Dayton signed the bill late Thursday evening.
Salt Applicator Liability Protection
On Tuesday the House Civil Law Committee heard HF3577, authored by Rep. Dario Anselmo (R-Edina), requiring the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency to support a voluntary certified salt applicator program. Applicators completing the program would receive liability protections. Proponents argued that 50 percent of chloride found in Minnesota water is attributed to deicing chemicals and better application methods could help reduce these amounts. Opponents contested that the amount of salt done by private businesses won't do much for clean water in the state and give significant liability protection to salt applicators that isn’t granted in other professions. The bill passed as amended and was referred to Ways and Means. The Senate companion, SF3199 authored by Sen. Carrie Ruud (R-Breezy Point) is awaiting a hearing in Senate Judiciary.
Ridesharing Legislation Continues to Move
Legislation regulating ridesharing companies like Lyft and Uber continued to move through the committee process. The Senate Local Government heard SF2704, the Senate’s ridesharing legislation authored by Sen. John Jasinski (R-Faribault) this week. Proponents stated these companies now operate statewide, and state regulation would provide uniformity. Opponents advocated for local control, allowing each city to set their own standards for safety and regulation. They also argued that the state lacks the resources to regulate the industry. The bill passed as amended and was referred to Senate Judiciary Committee. The House companion, HF3032 authored by Rep. Sandy Layman (R-Grand Rapids), has passed through all policy committees and is awaiting a hearing in House Transportation Finance.
With the second deadline looming, committees will continue hearing policy bills in both regular and evening meetings. Legislation assisting the state’s three statewide pension plans and ratifying employee contracts is also expected to be considered.
March 29, 2018 - Second Committee Deadline
March 30, 2018 - Legislative Recess Begins
April 8, 2018 - Legislative Recess Ends
April 20, 2018 – Third Committee Deadline
May 21, 2018 - Last Day of Session