The legislature’s second week was busy with committee hearings and press conferences where legislators announced and debated their priorities for the session. Legislators agreed to extend policy deadlines to help address the demand for committee time to debate policy priorities. The new deadlines are:
The third committee deadline (by which finance bills must clear finance committees) remains April 3.
Next week, the legislature will break early on Tuesday afternoon and Wednesday morning to allow legislators to attend precinct caucuses. On Thursday, February 27, Minnesota Management & Budget will release the state’s budget forecast, setting the stage for legislators to discuss the need for and size of a supplemental budget.
This week, the House Commerce Committee heard HF3180, authored by Rep. Anne Claflin (DFL- South Saint Paul). The bill would ban the manufacturing, distribution and sale of food packaging containing perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS). Representative Claflin testified that PFAS chemicals in packaging can be transferred into food and beverage consumed. Opponents expressed concerns that the chemical classifications are overly broad resulting in a ban of a number of commonly used chemicals. The bill passed and was referred to the House Environment and Natural Resources Policy Committee.
The Senate companion, SF3225, authored by Sen. Karla Bigham (DFL-Cottage Grove), is awaiting a hearing in the Senate Commerce and Consumer Protection Finance and Policy Committee.
This week, the House Water Division also heard testimony from the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) and the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) regarding the status of PFAS monitoring and removal. The presentation from MDH and MPCA staff discussed ways that PFAS can enter the environment, which include consumer products and packaging containing the chemicals. Representatives from MDH testified that due to better scientific understanding they have lowered the level of PFAS they consider safe for the human body.
The House Commerce committee heard HF3181, authored by Rep. Claflin (DFL-South Saint Paul), which creates new labeling requirements for disposable wipes sold in Minnesota. The bill requires wipes to meet industry standards to be labeled as flushable wipes. It also subjects retailers and manufacturers selling improperly labeled wipes to penalties of up to $100 per packaged unit sold. Proponents testified that wipes not meeting industry standards frequently clog drains and end up costing Minnesota cities significant time and money. Industry advocates testified that they have already begun to implement these changes. The bill was passed and re-referred to the Environment and Natural Resources Policy Committee
The Senate companion, SF3139 authored by Sen. Mark Koran (R- North Branch), is awaiting a hearing in the Senate Environment and Natural Resources Policy Committee.
This week, the Senate reviewed last session’s wage theft law while the House revived both the paid family and medical leave bill and the earned sick and safe time bill.
The Senate Jobs and Economic Growth Finance and Policy Committee held an informational hearing on the implementation of last year’s wage theft law. Commissioner Nancy Leppink, Department of Labor and Industry (DOLI), testified they have been actively working with employers by answering technical questions and offering different education seminars. Opponents testified that the administrative requirements of the wage theft law as drafted are overburdensome and have led to confusion about how best to implement the law.
Paid Family and Medical Leave
HF5, authored by Rep. Laurie Halverson (DFL-Eagan), would create a family and medical benefit insurance program administered by the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED) that would partially reimburse the wages lost when workers take leave to address family or medical issues. This remains a top priority for House DFLers. The bill passed the House Ways and Means Committee Monday and was referred to the House Floor. The bill language was included in last year’s House Jobs Omnibus bill.
The Senate companion, SF1060, authored by Sen. Susan Kent (DFL-Woodbury), is awaiting a hearing in the Jobs and Economic Growth and Development Finance and Policy Committee.
Earned Sick and Safe Time
HF11, authored by Rep. John Lesch (DFL-St. Paul), would require employers to provide each employee with one hour of paid earned sick and safe time for every 30 hours worked. HF11 passed in the House Ways and Means Committee and was rereferred to the House Floor. This bill language was included in last year’s House Jobs Omnibus bill.
The Senate companion, SF1597, authored by Sen. Sandy Pappas (DFL- St. Paul), is awaiting a hearing in the Jobs and Economic Growth and Development Finance and Policy Committee.
Senate Republicans released their 2020 tax proposal this week. Sen. Paul Gazelka (R-Nisswa) believes that with the government fully funded and a $1.3 billion surplus, Minnesotans should get some tax relief.
The Republican plan includes reducing the lowest state income tax rate from 5.35% to 4.9%, eliminating the tax on social security income, and fully conforming to Section 179 of the federal tax code. Other proposals include expanding the K-12 education tax credit, reforming school equalization aid, reallocating more mortgage and deed tax revenue to affordable housing programs, and reforms and reductions to charitable gaming rules.
In statements released by House Speaker Melissa Hortman (DFL-Brooklyn Park) and Majority Leader Ryan Winkler (DFL-Golden Valley), the Senate Republican proposal was dismissed as fiscally irresponsible, and they called for the surplus to be used to invest in Minnesotans instead.
Sen. Paul Anderson (R- Plymouth) joined the growing list of legislators not seeking reelection in November. Senator Anderson’s district is considered a swing seat, and he narrowly won his election in 2016.
Here is the full list of legislators who have announced they will not seek reelection:
Rep. Mary Kunesh-Podein (DFL-Columbia Heights) has said she will retire from the House and seek Senator Laine’s seat in the fall.