Here is the latest news from the Capitol!
The Governor called a special session last week with less than a day’s notice. While some of the committees had hearings on proposed budget bills before special session, several didn’t have hearings until after, and a few never had hearings at all. The complete disregard for legislative rules and procedure was appalling. The House GOP minority was left totally out of the conversation, with most bills being decided by a “tribunal” made up of the Governor, the Senate Majority Leader, and the Speaker of the House.
Because of the excessive spending and horrible process that preceded special session, I only voted for the Agriculture, Education, and Transportation bills.
The Agriculture and Housing bill ended up being a very bipartisan bill supporting Minnesota farmers and our agriculture community. The harmful housing policies suggested by the House DFL were left out, but there is more work to do to address housing regulations and codes. The bill also includes $40.5 million in broadband funding for Greater Minnesota.
The Environment bill that left the House floor during session included exorbitant fee increases on every kind of watercraft and funded lots of unnecessary programs. In the final bill, the Aquatic Invasive Species surcharge for watercraft was raised from $5 to $10.60, and the price of cross-country ski passes was increased, but the other watercraft increases were eliminated. There were some good new policy changes, such as funding for youth firearm safety training, and grants for youth outdoor and natural resources programs, but the bill also included unnecessary changes such as naming a new state bee (the Rusty Patched Bumblebee), and pointless projects from the LCCMR bill, such as spending almost a million dollars to plant private lawns with pollinator-friendly flowers, and another $900 million going to robot lawnmowers. In addition, the DNR was not willing to commit to maintaining cross-country ski trails or keeping up funding for our small parks, and this bill did nothing to address that.
The Health and Human Services bill ended up being 649 pages, and was only posted at 4:30pm after special session had already started. While the bill does include an extension of the reinsurance program, as well as restoring the 7% cut to the Disability Waiver Rate System, it also funds new DHS IT projects, raises fees on drinking water and on many health professional licensures, and increases funding for the Sex Offender Program, which will move more sex offenders to “less restrictive alternatives”. The funding in this bill is only made possible by bringing back the Sick Tax at 1.8% for nearly every doctor visit, medical procedure, and hospital stay.
The Public Safety and Judiciary bill that came back during special session looked very different from the one that left the House floor during session. Republicans were able to beat back all of the harmful DFL policies, including the two gun control bills which constituted an assault on every Minnesotan’s Second Amendment rights. Also removed were policies that would move Minnesota closer to becoming a sanctuary state. The bill funded key public safety and judiciary programs.
The Education bill increased the school funding formula by 2% in 2020 and another 2% in 2021. It maintained the current Voluntary Pre-K slots for 2 more years, and funded the special education cross-subsidy reduction. It also included one-time funding for Safe Schools, contingent on there being a budget surplus in November. The bill did not include the harmful policy provisions proposed by the House DFL, including the Planned Parenthood-designed sex-ed mandate, allowing convicted domestic abusers to teach in classrooms, and eliminating bipartisan teacher licensing reforms. Unfortunately, many of our rural schools do not get as large of an increase as Minneapolis-St. Paul schools, further widening the gap between Minneapolis-St. Paul and rural schools.
In the Jobs and Energy bill, Republicans defeated Democrat proposals that would have created a new tax on every worker’s paycheck and raised energy costs. The most controversial policies were eliminated, including net neutrality, paid family and medical leave, and earned sick and safe time. Most controversial energy provisions were eliminated from the final bill, and provisions on energy storage and commercial Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) were included once there was consensus from stakeholders. The bill also included grants for Greater MN business development, childcare economic development, and dairy assistance.
The best part of the Transportation bill is what it does NOT include – a $0.20 per gallon gas tax increase, an increase in the Vehicle Registration tax, and a New Vehicle Sales Tax. The Republican initiative from the last biennium of dedicating the Auto Parts Sales Tax to funding road and bridge infrastructure was maintained, defeating a Democrat proposal to use that money not for roads and bridges, but for other areas of government. The policy change to allow undocumented immigrants to get driver’s licenses was also eliminated from the bill. The bill also includes $13 million to reimburse Deputy Registrars who have been dealing with the failed MNLARS system, and includes money to pay for a new system to replace MNLARS.
Democrats spent the entire 2018 campaign promising to lower healthcare costs, but with the Tax bill, they raised them by over $2 billion over the next four years. The DFL brought back the Sick Tax that was meant to sunset this year, raising the cost of every healthcare procedure, doctor visit, and hospital stay. The Tax bill also carried Local Government Aid (LGA) funding. In District 1A, 26 cities receive LGA, but 23 of those cities got a smaller percentage increase than St. Paul. In addition, the bill relies on shifts and gimmicks to increase spending in other budget areas.
The final State Government Finance bill did not include any of the controversial elections provisions supported only by Democrats, which broke the 20-year precedent of only advancing elections bills that have broad bipartisan support. The bill ended up only including one elections provision pertaining to Presidential Primary ballot choice. It also increased the legislature’s funding, as well as increasing funding for many of the state’s largest agencies.
My door is always open to the needs and priorities of our area. Please feel free to let me know if I can be of assistance to you and your family. I am here to serve you!