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Legislative Update: April 27

Posted By EDAM Staff, Monday, April 27, 2020

The Legislature is scheduled to adjourn on May 18 – leaving just three weeks for the House and Senate to complete their business.  The focus on the state response to the COVID-19 pandemic has derailed a significant majority of legislative proposals that were thought to be on track for action in the 2020 Session.


When the Session began, there was much discussion about a Supplement Appropriations Bill which might increase funding across the state budget – including at the Department of Employment and Economic Development.   Once the pandemic struck and the state response required closure of a significant number of businesses, the forecast of a state revenue surplus was suddenly and dramatically replaced by concern over the depth of a revenue shortfall. 


Some areas where there is still expected to be action include the following:


BORDER-TO-BORDER BROADBAND

The disparity in broadband service across the state has had a bright light focused on it as schools have closed and school districts were left to implement learn-at-home practices. All across the state, school districts have struggled to provide and parents have struggled to access their daily lessons.  There have been a significant number of stories about families who have had to drive into their community to find a “hot spot” in order for their children to do their homework.  


Both the House and Senate are working on legislation which would provide some additional funding to build-out our broadband capacity in unserved areas.  As the Legislative committees were considering the issue going into this week, the funding level which is being discussed for the Border-to-Border Broadband Program is $20 million of additional funding.  

ANGEL INVESTMENT TAX CREDIT

The Senate Tax Committee is considering legislation which would provide some tax relief to mitigate the financial problems that businesses across the state are experiencing as a result of the “Stay at Home” Order.   One response that has been of interest to the economic development community is funding for the Angel Investment Tax Credit.   The Senate Bill specifically extends this tax credit for new, technology-driven businesses as a counter-cyclical mechanism – creating additional jobs in a struggling economy. 


EXTENSION OF STAY AT HOME ORDER

Key for the Governor and Legislature in dealing with the pandemic is the decision whether to extend the “Stay at Home” Order which is now scheduled to terminate at midnight on May 3.   Governor Walz has already opened the door to additional businesses reopening once they have prepared and submitted plans for social distancing and other considerations to help ensure the safety of their workers. It is estimated that between 80,000 and 100,000 Minnesotans will be back to work in the next few days as result of Governor Walz’s decision.  

The businesses that remain to be reopened are those that require face-to-face contact with customers – such as bars and restaurants.  

While there is considerable sympathy for these businesses, a question which remains is, even if the Governor would authorize these businesses to reopen, how long will it be before the general public is confident in their safety so that they would frequent these establishments?

We will continue monitoring House and Senate Committees and the Governor’s Executive Orders for those that would be of interest or concern to EDAM members.   We will provide a further update as issues develop at the State Capitol. 



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