For more information contact: Andrew Wagner 651-296-2809
The legislature returned on Tuesday from the week-long Easter/Passover break to finish up the final weeks of the 2014 legislative session. Here are some updates from St. Paul:
One of the last remaining big items for the legislature to tackle before we adjourn next month is the bonding bill. In even-numbered years, the legislature typically passes a bonding bill that lets the state borrow money to pay for various projects across the state. Typical examples include convention centers, transportation projects, and other projects of local importance that cities and counties would otherwise not be able to afford.
The bonding bill requires 60% support, which represents 81 votes. That means that the majority needs Republican votes in order to pass the bill. In order to prevent excess borrowing, Republicans have insisted on a $1 billion limit for 2013-2014. Since the House passed a small bonding bill last year to primarily fund restoration of the Capitol and the Minneapolis Veterans' Home, this year's bonding bill is expected to be about $846 million. I am hoping that the final bonding bill strikes a responsible fiscal balance with broad bipartisan support.
I have authored a provision that would give the Minnesota Zoo their full bonding request of $17 million, providing funding for critical infrastructure repairs and exhibit improvements. The final version of the bonding bill that the House will vote on has yet to be released, but I am hopeful that Capital Investment Chair Alice Hausman will include the full funding request for the Zoo. The Minnesota Zoo is a great treasure of our district and the state, and bonding funds are a big help to keep the Zoo in good condition for the animals and the more than 1 million visitors each year. I will keep you up to date on the status of the Zoo in the bonding bill in the coming weeks.
This week, the House passed the Commerce "Unsession" bill that repealed outdated or no-longer-relevant laws. I offered an amendment based on a bill that I authored that would remove the language requiring someone to notify their public adjuster by telegram if they are canceling a contract. The law still requires written notice, but this amendment cleans up our statutes since telegrams are no longer used. I was pleased that the amendment received unanimous support on a voice vote and was amended onto the bill.
Over the next week or so, members of the House and Senate will participate in conference committees to work out differences between House and Senate versions of two major bills passed before Easter/Passover break.
The first is HF 3172, the supplemental budget bill, which is the 446 page bill that provides additional funds for a variety of programs and agencies. As I've mentioned in previous updates, the bill includes good provisions like funding for the 5% Campaign. Unfortunately, the bill that passed off the House floor severely cuts our future budget surplus and puts Minnesota at risk for budget deficits in the coming years. It also includes a several hundred million dollar bailout for MinnesotaCare and Medical Assistance programs that face budget shortfalls due to lower-than-expected payments from the federal government due to the Affordable Care Act.
The second major bill in conference committee is the second tax cut bill, HF 3167. There are significant differences between the House and Senate versions of the bill, so it remains to be seen what the bill will look like when it comes back. The version that passed the House provides property tax relief, primarily to farmers and families in Greater Minnesota who have been dealing with skyrocketing property tax bills in recent years. The House version also included a tax credit for first-generation college students.
Once these bills come back from conference committee I will take time to carefully review the changes and merits of each bill. If you have any questions about these bills, or others that we will be taking up in the closing weeks, please don't hesitate to contact me.
On Tuesday, April 22nd, Miss Minnesota, Rebecca Yeh from Nisswa, came to visit the House of Representatives. My colleagues and I were treated to her moving violin performance of "God Bless America" in the House Chamber. She's an incredibly talented individual, and Minnesota is lucky to have such a great person representing our state in the Miss America competition.