GREETINGS FRIENDS AND NEIGHBORS!
It has been a very busy past two weeks at the legislature. Unlike last year, the House has been burning the midnight oil early on in session, working well into the night and past midnight discussing and debating legislation affecting Minnesotans in many different ways.
There have now been approximately 3,350 bills introduced during this biennium. I wanted to take this opportunity to provide you with an update on a few of these legislative initiatives and issues.
MnDOT will begin extending the Highway 610 corridor west and making its connection to I-94 this construction season. I have been advised that the bid letting and contract will be let in late summer or early fall.
In addition, I94 will receive a third general service lane between Rogers and St. Michael. Lastly, MnDOT has agreed to advance the effort to design/build a third general service lane for 494 on the western side of town between Highway 55 and Bass Lake road. I will continue to join our other West Metro legislators in making general purpose lanes to 494 in Western Hennepin County a priority.
SENATE OFFICE BUILDING
This week, the House Rules Committee approved the highly contentious building of the $89 million dollar office building for state senators. This project has now cleared all of the legislative hurdles which are required for the project to now go forward.
There is one outstanding civil lawsuit challenging the project and the manner in which it was included into legislation that arguably was not titled correctly for a project of this type. The lawsuit may be resolved by the end of July or early August, this year.
SUNDAY LIQOUR SALES
While general Sunday sales of liquor has not survived the legislative process, a compromise allowing small brewers and brew pubs to be open on Sundays including the sale of growlers, which are larger bottles generally approximately 64 ounces in size could still pass this session.
MINIMUM WAGE INCREASE
The Senate version of the minimum wage bill has been passed out of the House, and will be signed by the Governor on Monday. Provisions of the law are as follows; $8.00/hr. beginning Aug. 1, 2014, $8.50/hr. beginning Aug 1, 2015 and $9.50/hr. beginning Aug.1, 2016. Other provision of the new law include a minimum wage of $7.75/hr. for; 90 days training wage for 18-19 year olds, all 16-17 year olds, all employees working under a J1 Visa. An automatic increase of 2.5% inflation adjustment would begin on January 1, 2018.
SAFE AND SUPPORTIVE SCHOOLS ACT
The Safe and Supportive Schools Act, also known as the bullying bill, passed the House this week and the Governor held a signing ceremony the very next day. The bill does not fund an estimated $20-25 million dollars of unfunded costs to school districts statewide for data collection and reporting of data and compliance requirements to the state department of education. Opposition to the legislation included the inclusion of teaching questionably age appropriate materials about sex, sexual behavior, and sexual orientation to children as young as ten (10) years old.
The bonding bill is still a work in process. The legislature has received approximately $3 billion dollars of bonding requests. The Governor’s initial recommendations include approximately $1.25 billion dollars of funding requests. The House and Senate have preliminarily agreed to keep the level of bond funding for this biennium around $1 billion dollars. Since $177 million dollars were appropriated in a smaller bonding bill last year mostly for the continued restoration of the State Capitol building, there would remain approximately $823 million dollars available for funding statewide projects consistent with projected spending targets.
Agreement upon a final bonding bill may prove contentious due to agreement in establishing priorities of which projects should be included. Unlike all other legislation that has passed this biennium which requires a simple majority to pass legislation, bonding indebtedness does require a bipartisan two-thirds vote to pass. Approving a bonding bill of this size will increase our state bonding indebtedness to approximately $7 billion dollars. Our bonding credit limit is approximately $8 billion dollars. Minnesota is currently spending about $1.25 billion dollars of general fund revenue per biennium on debt service.
I wish all of you a safe and enjoyable holiday next week in celebration of the Judeo-Christian holidays of Passover and Easter.
Rep. Jerry Hertaus