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Legislative Update: April 25, 2017

Posted By Administration, Tuesday, April 25, 2017
Updated: Monday, April 24, 2017

With Four Weeks Left, Focus Is on Conference Committees

The legislature has returned from its one-week break and resumed work to complete a two-year state budget by the constitutional deadline of Monday, May 22. This week, legislative leaders appointed their members to serve on conference committees to negotiate individual portions of the state budget, which must be in place by July 1, 2017 to avoid a government shutdown.

In a letter to legislative leaders, Gov. Mark Dayton stated that he will not accept cuts to state agencies from the legislature unless they stipulate exactly what programs they would defund. State commissioners and conference committee chairs will meet throughout the process in an effort to ensure an acceptable outcome is reached for all three sides of the negotiations.

You can view a spreadsheet that outlines the positions of the governor, House and Senate as they go into budget negotiations.

What Is a Conference Committee?

When the legislature passes a bill it must be passed with identical language by both the House and Senate before it can go to the governor for signature or veto. If differences exist in the language between the House and Senate versions, a conference committee is created where each chamber receives equal membership, comprised of three to five members from each. For omnibus finance bills, membership is always five members per body. The conference committee will meet until the differences in position have been resolved and they return a conference committee report to their respective chambers.

Conference Committee Process

After a conference committee is established, House and Senate leaders each appoint a conference committee co-chair. The House and Senate co-chairs alternate holding the gavel for the committee meetings. The first meeting usually includes a walk-through of side-by-side bill comparisons by non-partisan research staff; they will highlight the differences between the House and Senate positions. Public testimony may be heard from interest groups as well as relevant provisions within the bills that may not have been included by the other body. Work then begins on resolving the two chambers’ positions.

When the committee reaches an agreement, members vote on a conference committee report that is then passed to the House and Senate for a vote by the full body, where it must receive a simple majority to be adopted. After both chambers pass identical conference committee reports (they cannot be amended once they are on the floor), the conference committee report is sent to the governor’s desk to be signed into law or vetoed, and in some cases, line-item vetoed

Role of the Governor

While the governor is not required to be involved in the conference committee process, they are usually involved in the negotiations taking place. Members of the governor’s administration are typically present at committee meetings to share insight into the governor’s position, information requested by legislators, and to provide expertise. State commissioners are often present as well to meet with the conference committee co-chairs and other legislators. Approval from the governor isn’t necessary on conference committee report, but they may decide to veto the bill once sent to their desk, so the position of the governor does influence the negotiations.

Jobs and Energy Affordability Conference Committee

The Jobs and Energy Affordability Conference Committee held its first meeting on Monday. Because it was the first meeting of the committee, they went through committee introduction, a walk-through of the side-by-side and spreadsheets.  Following the walk-through the committee took agency testimony on provisions in their jurisdiction.

Copies of the committee documents can be found here. Next the committee will adopt all same and similar language between the two versions of the bill. Following that, the hard work will start as the committee will have to work out their differences between the two positions. That list includes funding of MIF, JCF, Redevelopment Grants and Broadband.

Here is recap of the House and Senate positions:

Senate Position

  • Minnesota Investment Fund (MIF) would receive $12.5 million in both FY 2018 and FY 2019.
  • Job Creation Fund (JCF) would receive $8 million in both FY 2018 and FY 2019.
  • Redevelopment Grant Program (RGF) would receive $1.5 million in both FY 2018 and FY 2019.
  • Broadband Development Office would receive $250,000 each year (FY 18 and FY 19).
  • Border-to-Border Broadband Program would receive $10,000,000 each year (FY 18 and FY19).

House Position

  • Minnesota Investment Fund (MIF) would receive $12 million in FY 2018 and $11 million in FY 2019.
  • Job Creation Fund (JCF) would receive $5 million in both FY 2018 and FY 2019.
  • Redevelopment Grant Program (RDG) in not funded in the House bill.
  • Border-to-Border Broadband Program would receive $7,000,000 for FY 18.

The House also includes a number of policy provisions that would place a cap on the on the Broadband Development Office. This cap would limit the number of staff and their ability to administer the grant awards and would cut the mapping program.

As indicated over the last few weeks, there is still time for you to make your voices heard on these programs. Please take a few minutes to call the conference committee members. Their contact information can be found here. Here is a list of the members:
Co-Chair Rep. Pat Garofalo (R-Farmington)
Rep. Jim Newberger (R-Becker)
Rep. Joe Hoppe (R-Chaska)
Rep. Marian O’Neill (R-Maple Lake)
Rep. Tim Mahoney (DFL-St. Paul)

Co-Chair Sen. Jeremy Miller (R-Winona)
Sen. Gary Dahms (R-Redwood Falls)
Sen. David Osmek (R-Mound)
Sen. Paul Anderson (R-Plymouth)
Sen. Bobby Jo Champion (DFL-Minneapolis)

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