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Legislative Update: April 6

Posted By Administration, Monday, April 6, 2020

Another unprecedented week of action at the Minnesota Legislature as social distancing requirements forced legislators to adapt to new working realities. The House Rules and Legislative Administration Committee had the Legislature’s first ever remote hearing last week to learn more about remote hearings and how to utilize them while meeting in person remains problematic. The House has now scheduled several remote hearings for Committees to address COVID-19 related legislation. The Senate has also started working remotely having established a COVID-19 Response Working Group that had its first meeting on Friday.


The Legislature was scheduled to be on recess until April 14th, but over the weekend announced House and Senate Floor Sessions on Tuesday in order to pass a bill related to workers compensation for first responders. The bill will establish a presumption that if a first responder contracts COVID-19 that it was contracted on the job and will be covered by workers comp. This is an issue the Governor had requested the Legislature tackle to avoid having it addressed via executive order. After the Legislature acts on the workers compensation for first responders we expect them to once again adjourn until April 14th, although remote hearings will continue as scheduled.


As state and federal leaders continue to respond to slow the spread of Coronavirus, the economic impact preventative measure have had are coming into sharper focus. Minnesota Management and Budget Commissioner Myron Frans appeared (remotely) in front of the Senate COVID-19 Response Working Group on Monday to discuss the dramatic impact the virus response has had on Minnesota’s economic outlook. While hard numbers are still premature, the steep drop off in sales tax receipts will sharply alter the state’s financial footing. Commissioner Frans indicated the MMB will undertake preparing a full economic forecast earlier than normal in order to provide some clarity as to just how bad things will get. Preliminary modeling indicates the state could be looking at a sizable deficit when we get to fiscal year 2021, a far cry from the projected $1.5 billion surplus we had after the last forecast in February.


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Legislative Update: March 30

Posted By Administration, Monday, March 30, 2020
Another strange and unsettling week in Minnesota as Governor Walz’s two week “Stay at Home” order officially took effect on Friday, March 27th. We are all adjusting our work and personal lives, and the same is true for the Minnesota Legislature.

On Thursday both the House and Senate held floor sessions to take action on a new COVID-19 response bill. The Legislature took great pains to adhere to social distancing recommendations with the Senate allowing members to vote by proxy and the House spreading members all throughout the House gallery and the Capitol hallways. After fairly limited debate both bodies passed the $330 million package with overwhelming bipartisan support. The bill establishes a temporary $200 million COVID-19 Minnesota fund and appropriates additional money to issue drivers’ license and identification cards, award child care grants, provide financial assistance to military veterans or their surviving spouses, distribute additional funding to food banks and food shelves, increase housing support payment rates, and provide services and shelter to the homeless.

After passing the COVID response bill, both the House and Senate adjourned until April 14th, although not before adopting new rules that would allow the Legislature to meet remotely to take up any other emergency measures that may be needed before their scheduled return. At this time it remains the stated goal of the Legislature to remain in recess until April 14th and then come back and finish the session by taking up a bonding bill and potential supplemental budget matters along with whatever additional COVID-19 response measures are needed.

We will continue to track the Legislature during this fluid and uncertain time.

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Legislative Update: March 23

Posted By Administration, Monday, March 23, 2020

Life in Minnesota has changed dramatically over the past week as the coronavirus continues to spread across the country and the world. The Legislature has remained on recess, but Executive Orders from Governor Walz have been coming on a near daily basis.

Over the weekend Governor Walz signed executive order 20-13 that activates the Minnesota National Guard for assistance with the coronavirus pandemic during the peacetime emergency. The National Guard's first mission is to move personal protective equipment from Camp Ripley in Little Falls to the Minnesota Department of Health warehouse in St. Paul where they can then be moved to the health care workers in need. Governor Walz also suggested that the National Guard could eventually be used to help deliver food if that service becomes necessary in Minnesota.


On Monday Governor Walz issued another 4 executive orders. The orders suspend evictions during the peacetime emergency, establish Peacetime Emergency loans for small businesses, direct non-hospital entities to conduct an inventory of personal protective equipment, and clarify that the previous Executive Order on elective surgeries does apply to veterinarians. There has been a lot of talk about the potential for a “shelter in place” order as similar announcements have been made in neighboring states, but that announcement has not yet been made as of this writing (Monday).


There have also been rumors of the Legislature coming back into Session before the end of the scheduled recess, currently targeted for April 14th. Nothing has yet been scheduled, but we will continue to monitor the Legislature and report on any changes to the schedule.


Stay safe, stay sane.



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Legislative Update: March 16

Posted By Administration, Monday, March 16, 2020
The spread of the Coronavirus and the call for “social distancing” to slow the spread is resulting in dramatic changes to our governmental institutions.  State Legislative leaders from both political parties are meeting together to establish the framework for their work going forward.  The Legislature is scheduled to continue its work though Monday, May 18th.  However, as of today, Legislative leaders announced that they will be operating with a limited calendar for at least the next month.  

From March 16th to April 14th, there will not be a Standing Calendar of Floor and Committee Meetings. Action by the full House and Senate and by Committees will be on an “as needed” basis.  

“Social distancing” will be provided for both during Floor Action and in any Committee hearing that may be scheduled.  For example, if the House schedules a Floor Debate, the Membership will be spread across the House Floor and in the House Gallery.  Additional Members will be remote from the Floor in the Caucus gathering rooms for the Democrats and Republicans which are one floor below the House Chambers.  If a Member from a remote location is a leading spokesperson on a particular issue, they would replace a Member who is seated on the Floor in order to participate in the debate.  

Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka and House Speaker Melissa Hortman have indicated that they expect the Legislature will deal with a very limited number of issues between now and when the Legislature is scheduled to adjourn in May. They have agreed to respond to proposals which would relate directly to the state response to the Coronavirus. There is strong interest in passing a Bonding Bill so that there are infrastructure projects which will provide employment opportunities in the months ahead. There may also be a Tax Bill that would include provisions which may stimulate local economies. Beyond those items, we expect there will be little that the Legislature will attempt to take on in the face of the response to the coronavirus.  

Governor Walz released his supplemental budget last week and elected to keep the vast majority of the state’s surplus unspent so it may be utilized as needed to continue to respond to the ongoing situation. This decision will likely result in little to no supplemental spending this year on anything outside of addressing the Coronavirus response.

We will continue to monitor the Legislature as we all work through these uncertain times together.




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Legislative Update: March 9

Posted By Administration, Monday, March 9, 2020

The fourth week of the 2020 Session is in the books and legislative priorities are starting to emerge as committee deadlines loom to help narrow the focus of lawmakers. House and Senate leaders agreed to extend the first policy committee deadline from March 13th to March 20th, but second and third deadlines remain unchanged (March 27th and April 3rd, respectively).  Both chambers are on pace to set new records for the number of bills introduced this biennium, so deadlines will cull the list of active bills, which is welcome news for lobbyists and staff. On the other hand, deadlines usually equate to long committee agendas and evening hearings.  


A number of legislative priorities we anticipated to be in play during 2020 have indeed been moving through the committee process, such as paid family leave and a large bonding bill in the House, and tax and regulation cuts in the Senate, but an unanticipated priority has also emerged: the state’s preparedness to address potential fallout from the spread of coronavirus. Governor Walz welcomed Vice President Pence to 3M last week to meet with executives and discuss the company’s efforts in producing facemasks utilized by health workers and others in slowing the spread of the virus. At the state level, health officials have requested an additional $21 million to help tackle the spread of the virus here in Minnesota. That bill (S.F. 3813) has been moving quickly through the Senate, with a vote expected on the Senate floor early this week. As if to highlight the need, state officials announced the first two confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Minnesota over the weekend.


The coming week will provide insight into what kind of supplemental appropriations might be in play for the 2020 Session as Governor Walz is set to release his recommendations on Wednesday March 11th. These recommendations will provide the framework for committee action on potential supplemental spending, the best possible chance for funding to the DEED Redevelopment account until the next budget year in 2021. EDAM lobbyists met last week with House Jobs and Economic Development Finance Division Chair Representative Tim Mahoney to reinforce our request that supplemental budget funds be directed to the Redevelopment Grant Program. We informed Representative Mahoney that funding for the DEED Redevelopment Grant Program was identified as the top economic development priority in the EDAM survey conducted early this year. Chair Mahoney was receptive to our request, but informed us that he needs to wait and see what kind of budget target his Division receives, a decision which will be shaped by House Leadership and Governor Walz’s recommendations.


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Legislative Update: March 2

Posted By Administration, Monday, March 2, 2020

As the calendar flips to March, things are finally starting to happen at the Minnesota State Capitol! Twice a year, in November and in February, state budget officials provide an economic forecast as a guidepost to lawmakers as they make taxation and spending decisions. The November forecast helps shape expectations before the legislative session begins, and the February forecast finalizes the financial position of the state showing either a surplus or deficit. The November forecast had shown a $1.3 billion surplus, but slower than expected sales tax receipts in January raised fears that a slow down may be on the horizon.  


The February forecast was released on Thursday, February 27 and shows the projected surplus has actually grown slightly – up $181 million – for an official 2020 surplus of $1.5 billion. Now that lawmakers know the true total on the bottom line, the supplemental budget process can begin in earnest.


The next major date for the legislative session is March 11th, when we expect Governor Walz to release his supplemental budget proposal, which will show how he would like to use the existing surplus. Democrats and Republicans held dueling press conferences to discuss the February forecast, with Democrats advising investments in one-time programs and cautious fiscal planning for future economic slowdowns while Republicans reiterated their top priority of returning the surplus to Minnesotans in the form of tax relief.


The committee schedule has been fairly quiet thus far, but now that the budget forecast has been finalized session can really start to ramp up. After Governor Walz’s supplemental budget recommendations are released, his Commissioners will make appearances in House and Senate Committees to advocate for those recommendations. This is where we will learn the budget priorities of House Democrats and Senate Republicans.


We will be bringing you weekly legislative updates from here on out, so watch this space to keep up to date on activity at the state Capitol between now and the end of May.


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Legislative Update: May 28

Posted By Administration, Tuesday, May 28, 2019
The Legislature convened Special Session at 10:00 am on Friday and used up pretty much every second of the time outlined by Governor Walz and adjourned just before 7:00 am on Saturday morning. The DEED budget was part of Special Session Senate File 2 (link here). The Minnesota Investment Fund is appropriated $11,970,000 for FY 2020 and 2021, with the base then set at $12,370,000. The Job Creation Fund is set at $8,000,000 per year. There is not money for the Redevelopment Grant Program, but the language providing DEED authority to transfer money from MIF to Redevelopment is included and can be found of page 7 of S.F. 2.

Additionally, the Angel Investment Tax Credit has been funded with $10,000,000 of one-time money. One-time funding was also provided for the Border to Border Broadband fund for a total of $40,000,000 with $20,000,000 in each FY 2020 and 2021. We expect Governor Walz to officially sign all of the budget bills this week, possibly as soon as today.

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Legislative Update: May 20

Posted By Administration, Tuesday, May 21, 2019
There was a late agreement over the weekend on a two-year state budget announced by the Governor, Speaker, and Majority Leader. They didn’t reach the deal with enough time to spare us from a special session, but they did get there before the clock completely ran out. The overall budget numbers are just a wrinkle, and now it is back to a scramble to determine what will be in and what will get cut out of these budget bills.

Speaker Hortman said that the details would be worked out in a transparent and public process via the conference committees, but none of the major committees have had any public hearings since the agreement was reached. There have been closed door meetings and backroom offers going back and forth, but the path to the end remains unclear at this point.

The budget agreement includes $10 million in new spending for the Jobs and Economic Development Conference Committee, but those resources only go so far for a jurisdiction as broad as this. Out of the Agriculture, Rural Development, and Housing jurisdiction there is $40 million in one-time funding for broadband in FY 20/21 only. Another key component of the budget announcement is that leadership has agreed to a $500 million bonding bill, split with $440 million for general obligation bonds and $60 million for housing infrastructure bonds. This part of the agreement will be interesting to track, as a bonding bill requires a supermajority to pass off either Chamber, meaning minority party votes will be needed in both bodies. House Minority Leader Kurt Daudt has stated that he was not included in the final negotiations and as such has not been asked to put up any votes to help pass a bonding bill.

We will keep track of it all and let you know how things shake out.

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Legislative Update: May 13

Posted By Administration, Monday, May 13, 2019
The Jobs & Energy Conference Committee and all the other Conference Committees working on Omnibus Finance Bills are in a holding pattern – waiting for the Governor, House Speaker and Senate Majority Leader to come to an agreement on spending targets for the Conference Committees. All of the leaders were together this weekend for the Governor’s Fishing Opener and a meeting of the leaders was held at 6:00 pm Sunday evening. Everyone was hoping that the logjam would be broken over weekend so that we could work starting early this week to finalize all of the Omnibus Bills in time for adjournment on Monday, May 20th. But no agreement was reached and negotiations over budget targets resumed Monday morning. We will keep you posted on developments at the Capitol.

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Legislative Update: May 6

Posted By Administration, Monday, May 6, 2019
The House had the gavel last Friday, May 3, and called a hearing to go over their three priorities: paid family leave, sick and safe time, and wage theft prevention. The Senate objected to having a hearing scheduled before their conferees were officially named, and as such only Senator Pratt attended the hearing. He started out with a critique of the process and the fact that the meeting was taking place, but after that they got into a flow and things seemed to have smoothed over. That didn’t last long, however, and after an hour and a half, Senator Pratt and Representative Mahoney got into heated exchange that resulted in Senator Pratt instructing the Senate staff to leave, as did he. The House members then finished a walk through of sick and safe time and wage theft with no Senators present.

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