Skip to main content Skip to office menu Skip to footer
Minnesota Legislature

Drawing to an uncertain close

Published (4/27/2012)
By Session Weekly Staff
Share on: 



House Speaker Kurt Zellers (right) speaks with House Minority Leader Paul Thissen on the House floor April 23. (Photo by Paul Battaglia)With perhaps only a few days left before lawmakers adjourn for the biennium, the most closely watched bills this year — the bonding bill and the stadium to house the Vikings — remain in limbo at Session Weekly press time.

Legislative leaders have been meeting privately with Gov. Mark Dayton to try to hash out an agreement on key legislation, but with little sign of progress. In a departure from the usual end-of-session proceedings, House Speaker Kurt Zellers (R-Maple Grove) told Capitol reporters April 25 that this year’s negotiations are unlikely to yield a “global agreement” — a catch-all deal that wraps up the session. Instead, Zellers suggested that the stadium package, the bonding bill, an omnibus tax package and other significant bills will simply have to sink or swim on their own merits.

“I don’t think this year is one of those years where you’ll see that here we all are standing in front of a microphone saying, ‘It’s done and we’re moving on,’” Zellers said.

The House and Senate have been meeting in session on an almost daily basis during the past couple of weeks, passing dozens of bills to reform state government, protect vulnerable adults, boost veterans programs and improve health care and education. More controversial measures to loosen restrictions on fireworks and tighten restrictions on abortions have also passed the House floor.

Some of these measures have been signed into law; others have been met with the governor’s veto pen. But the fate of the biggest bills is still in doubt. But as Dayton said during an April 25 press availability, “It ain’t over ’til it’s over, as Yogi Berra said.”

Complicating the situation is the session’s aggressive timetable. Recognizing that legislators would want to return home quickly to campaign in their newly redrawn legislative districts, Zellers announced before the start of the 2012 session that the Legislature would adjourn no later than April 30.

Legislative leaders have remained firm on that deadline. But even if they opt to extend the session out to the May 21 constitutional adjournment deadline, it’s unclear what the path forward is. As of this writing, the Legislature has already used up 110 of its 120 legislative working days, meaning they can only meet in session 10 more days this year.

All this is to say that the clock is ticking.

Agriculture

Awaiting action by Gov. Mark Dayton, the omnibus agriculture bill would name a state soil, change requirements for labeling of landscape and garden stock and delay an ethanol mandate.

Sponsored by Rep. Paul Anderson (R-Starbuck) and Sen. Doug Magnus (R-Slayton), HF2398*/ SF2061 would designate Lester as the state soil. That would coincide with the University of Minnesota’s 2013 celebration of the 100th Anniversary of the soil science program and the 40-year-old Minnesota Association of Professional Soil Scientists. (See omnibus agriculture bill story on page 6.)

Bonding

A bill that would commit $221 million in bonding proceeds to repair the State Capitol failed in the House April 19 on an 80-50 vote — capital investment bills must be approved by three-fifths of the body, or 81 votes.

However, a $443.9 million bonding bill (HF1752) that includes money to restore the State Capitol and fund other capital investment projects awaits action on the House floor. Appropriations include:

• $221 million for the Capitol repairs;

• $102.5 million for transportation projects;

• $60 million for Higher Education Asset Preservation and Repair (HEAPR) projects;

• $30 million for flood hazard mitigation;

• $20 million for wastewater infrastructure;

• $10 million for housing programs; and

• $433,000 for bond sale expenses.

Rep. Larry Howes (R-Walker) sponsors the bill. He has been clear that the amount remains in flux and could change with end-of-session negotiations.

DFLers would like to see more money spent on bonding because interest rates are low and the projects would help create jobs. Republicans, however, say that the state carries a large debt load, and that a nearly $500 million capital investment bill was enacted in 2011.

Gov. Mark Dayton has said he wants a bonding bill to be in the $775 million range. The Senate bill, SF1463, sponsored by Sen. Julie Rosen (R-Fairmont), awaits action by the Senate Capital Investment Committee.

Education

This session has seen two key bills emerge from the House. HF2083*/ SF2492 sought to repay some of the funding owed to the K-12 schools that was withheld by the state to balance its budget and end the 2011 state government shutdown.

Rep. Pat. Garofalo (R-Farmington) and Sen. Gen Olson (R-Minnetrista) sponsor the bill that was vetoed by Gov. Dayton April 5 because he said it would shrink the state’s budget reserve too much.

The omnibus education bill, HF2949*/ SF2482, awaits action by the governor. It would expand postsecondary enrollment options, make changes to pay for school employees deployed in the military, and allow districts to withhold salaries for teachers charged with a felony. Also sponsored by Garofalo and Olson, the conference committee report was passed 119-9 by the House and 64-0 by the Senate.

The House has yet to hear the so-called “Last In, First Out” bill, which would authorize schools to base teacher layoffs on evaluations, rather than seniority alone. A conference committee agreed on a final version of the bill April 3, but the House and Senate have yet to re-pass the report. The governor opposes the proposal.

HF1870 has drawn criticism from some teachers and union officials, who say the legislation is yet another piece in the continued Republican assault on educators. Rep. Branden Petersen (R-Andover), who sponsors the bill with Sen. Pam Wolf (R-Spring Lake Park), said the bill will bring fairness to the practice of teacher layoffs.

House Speaker Kurt Zellers (left) speaks with Senate Majority Leader Dave Senjem on the House floor April 23. (Photo by Paul Battaglia)Environment

Republicans wanting to loosen environmental regulations got their wish when the House passed its omnibus environment bill April 5. Differences between the House and Senate versions were resolved by a conference committee, and now the report is referred back to each body for consideration.

Sponsored by Rep. Denny McNamara (R-Hastings) and Sen. Bill Ingebrigtsen (R-Alexandria), HF2164*/ SF1830 includes permit streamlining, environmental deregulation and a statewide course to identify aquatic invasive species.

Other features of the House bill would allow state parks and recreation areas and the Minnesota Zoo to remain open during a government shutdown and expedite the exchange of school trust lands in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness for land that generates income for the trust fund, possibly nonferrous mining.

Differences between the bills are inclusion of a minor permit in the House; House language that would limit the state from paying more than 20 percent more than the tax-assessed value for land; allow shallow lakes to be drained to help fight aquatic invasive species; and remove the state Executive Council from the decision-making process in many cases, including permitting of nonferrous mining.

Conferees met April 26 and reached agreement on the bill that now returns to each body for consideration.

Game and Fish

A conference committee is meeting to work out differences in the House and Senate omnibus game and fish bills.

Included in both bills is the proposed creation of a wolf-hunting season. Sponsored by Tom Hackbarth (R-Cedar) and Sen. Bill Ingebrigtsen (R-Alexandria), the bills would allow 400 wolves to be taken as well as a variety of related measures.

Differences between the House and Senate versions of the omnibus bill are increases in hunting and fishing license fees by the Senate; House language requiring shooting ranges that are partly or wholly owned by the public to host youth firearms safety tests four times a year; and restrictions on importing minnows into Minnesota contained in the House bill.

Health care

Autism studies, group homes, personal care assistants and electronic benefit transfer cards are just a few of the dozens of health and human services reform policies awaiting the governor’s signature in HF2294*/ SF2093, the omnibus health and human services bill, sponsored by Rep. Jim Abeler (R-Anoka) and Sen. David Hann (R-Eden Prairie).

One of the more controversial provisions of the bill would limit electronic benefit transfer card purchases to stores in Minnesota and adjacent states. The bill also adds liquor stores, tobacco stores and tattoo parlors to the list of prohibited uses. (See omnibus health and human services bill story on page 13)

Higher Education

A bill containing bonding and provisions for the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system and University of Minnesota awaits House and Senate action after an April 25 approval of a compromise bill by a conference committee.

Sponsored by Rep. Bud Nornes (R-Fergus Falls) and Senate President Michelle Fischbach (R-Paynesville), the major feature of HF2065/ SF1573* is increasing the bonding authority of MnSCU from $300 million to $405 million.

The bill provides endowment funding of up to $25 million to create a mining, metallurgical or engineering degree program offered by the University of Minnesota at Mesabi Range Community and Technical College — and scholarships of up to $6,500 a year for students in the program.

It also would create a textbook work group to study ways to lower textbook costs for students and a one-time $645,000 appropriation from the university to Hennepin County Medical Center for graduate family medicine programming.

Legacy Funding

After changes in funding levels and language, a conference committee approved $99.9 million in Outdoor Heritage funding April 25. Passed by the Senate 61-4 April 26, it awaits action by the House.

Conferees approved $11.3 million to fund aquatic invasive species efforts, including $7.5 million to build Asian carp barriers on the Mississippi River and $3.8 million in research and clean water projects for the state’s lakes and rivers.

That $4.8 million appropriation is intended to create an Aquatic Invasive Research Center at the University of Minnesota. The center would collaborate with the Department of Natural Resources to control the spread of Asian carp, zebra mussels and invasive aquatic plant species.

“The AIS was the most important part to get in,” said Rep. Dean Urdahl (R-Grove City), who sponsors HF2430/ SF2493* with Sen. Bill Ingebrigtsen (R-Alexandria).

Other provisions in the conference committee report include spending $11 million to buy the 1,882-acre Mississippi Northwoods Habitat project in Crow Wing.

Removed by conferees was House language to create a grassland grazing program.

House Speaker Kurt Zellers (left) speaks with House Majority Leader Matt Dean on the House floor April 23. (Photo by Paul Battaglia)Stadium

The plan to build a $975 million “People’s Stadium” on the eastern edge of downtown Minneapolis, including the Metrodome site, has been changing almost by the day, in the final week of session.

As of press time, HF1485 was awaiting action on the House floor. Sponsored by Rep. John Kriesel (R-Cottage Grove), the bill initially was designed to provide tax relief to charities, but the House Ways and Means Committee amended the stadium language of HF2810 onto the bill earlier in the week.

The move was necessary because the latter, sponsored by Rep. Morrie Lanning (R-Moorhead), was thought to be dead after failing to get out of the House Government Operations and Elections Committee April 16. After that vote, Lanning said a rabbit would need to be pulled out of a hat to get a stadium bill done this session.

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell visited with Gov. Mark Dayton and legislative leaders April 20. Although no threats were issued, Goodell indicated something must be done on the issue this session.

Under the plan, the team would cover $427 million of construction costs; the state $398 million; and Minneapolis $150 million. Money from electronic pull tabs, electronic bingo and tipboard games would be used to pay the state’s share of the cost. Supporters noted that charities would get tax relief and more gambling proceeds while the state also would get more revenue.

The Senate version, SF2391, sponsored by Sen. Julie Rosen (R-Fairmont), is awaiting action by the Senate Taxes Committee.

Taxes

Republicans have been clear their goal this session has been to reduce business taxes, while DFLers said they want to protect the renters property tax credit from further erosion and bring property tax relief to homeowners.

Labeled as a vehicle for “Tax Relief and Jobs Creation,” a phase-out of a state property tax levy paid by seasonal/recreational property owners and business property owners is a cornerstone of the omnibus tax bill, HF2337*/ SF1972. Sponsored by Rep. Greg Davids (R-Preston) and Sen. Julianne Ortman (R-Chanhassen), the bill passed the House 72-62 March 21, but the Senate passed a different version 34-26 nine days later.

A conference committee has held two meetings, and it is expected the bill will be part of end-of-session negotiations.

Davids said the bill’s provisions are aimed at improving the state’s business climate by phasing out the state property tax levy over 12 years beginning in 2014 and excluding 70 percent of the first $150,000 value of all business property in 2013.

Critics say the tax benefit comes at the expense of renters, namely seniors and the poor through a decrease in the renters property tax credit.

The House file would also:

• freeze local government aid at 2012 amounts;

• provide targeted tax relief for homeowners equal to 90 percent of any tax increase over 12 percent for pay 2012 only;

• replace the foreign operating cooperation deduction with a tax credit;

• increase, in some cases, the research and development tax credit, as well as the angel investment credit; and

• provide a jobs credit for businesses hiring qualified veterans.

Transportation

The 2011 and 2012 omnibus transportation policy bills have been sitting on the House Fiscal Calendar for approximately a week.

Sponsored by Rep. Mike Beard (R-Shakopee), the 2012 version, HF2685, would, in part, allow suburban opt-out transit providers to “establish a pilot program that adds a distance-based surcharge to standard transit fares.” Such a surcharge could only be implemented on routes whose total length exceeds 15 miles. The pilot program would expire on Jan. 1, 2016. Metro Transit could also impose an increase on its express bus service.

Other provisions in the bill include: directing the Employment and Economic Development and Transportation departments to conduct a freight rail economic development study and broaden a “first haul” exception to vehicles that exceed weight limits by no more than 10 percent and are performing the first transport of unprocessed farm products or unrefined forest products to a location within 100 miles.

The Beard-sponsored 2011 version (HF1284), which was awaiting action on the House floor when last year’s session concluded, includes provisions related to speed limit violations, online driver’s education training, electronic-bicycle use and organ donation education.

Potentially the most controversial part would prohibit speed limit violations of up to 10 mph over the limit in 55 mph and 60 mph zones from going on a driver’s record. Currently, a ticket does not appear on someone’s driving record if the person was driving up to 10 mph over the speed limit in a 55 mph zone, or 5 mph over the limit in a 60 mph zone.

The companion bills, SF1072 and SF2321 await action by the full Senate. Sen. Joe Gimse (R-Willmar) sponsors both.

Session Weekly More...


Session Weekly Home



Related Stories


A session of compromise
Successes, disappointments and controversies mark 2012 session
(view full story) Published 5/25/2012

Minnesota Index: 2012 session
Facts and statistics on the 2012 legislative session
(view full story) Published 5/25/2012

Drawing to an uncertain close
Major bills are in limbo as the end of session looms
(view full story) Published 4/27/2012

Greene exits House after one term
Redistricting costs early childhood advocate a seat at the Capitol
(view full story) Published 4/27/2012

Going home to put out different fires
LeMieur plans to spend more time with sons
(view full story) Published 4/27/2012

Education funding champion
Dittrich says serving was ‘just the perfect pinnacle experience’
(view full story) Published 4/20/2012

Complicated road to the Senate
Koenen wins one Senate seat, but hopes to switch to another
(view full story) Published 4/20/2012

Putting family first
Kriesel steps down after a brief but eventful first term
(view full story) Published 4/20/2012

Educator, lawmaker, advocate, mom
Slawik prepares to leave on a high note for her key issue: early childhood
(view full story) Published 4/20/2012

Wanting to go to Washington
After one term, Bills seeks to serve Minnesota in the nation’s capitol
(view full story) Published 4/6/2012

Hilty: ‘It’s time’
Pragmatic legislator best known as renewable energy advocate
(view full story) Published 4/6/2012

A family man heads home
Shifting priorities cause for Hosch to step down
(view full story) Published 4/6/2012

A distinctive voice departs
A staunch conservative, Buesgens was more principled than partisan
(view full story) Published 3/30/2012

Breakfasts with Bobby to continue
Champion hopes to inform constituents over a cup of ‘Joe’
(view full story) Published 3/30/2012

First and last term
After two years in St. Paul, Mazorol plans to rejoin the private sector
(view full story) Published 3/30/2012

‘Stepping up’ to Senate race
Westrom hopes to continue renewable energy advocacy in different chamber
(view full story) Published 3/30/2012

Stepping down and across new lines
Doepke plans to take her education focus to the Senate
(view full story) Published 3/23/2012

One less Anderson in the House
‘Anderson, B.’ strives to put people first, rather than government
(view full story) Published 3/23/2012

An educated first term
After two years in House, Petersen looks to join the Senate
(view full story) Published 3/23/2012

Artist and advocate for natural resources
After eight years in House, Scalze to run for Senate
(view full story) Published 3/16/2012

Just call her Mary
New district has Kiffmeyer hoping to break bread with senators
(view full story) Published 3/16/2012

The RULE of law
Lawmakers consider reigning in agencies’ rulemaking powers
(view full story) Published 3/9/2012

Continuing his public service
Eken running for open Senate seat to avoid race with close friend
(view full story) Published 3/9/2012

Renewable energy advocate
Knuth proud of her accomplishments in the House
(view full story) Published 3/9/2012

Family calls him back home
Murdock leaves with better understanding of the district he has served
(view full story) Published 3/2/2012

Equal representation for 5,303,025
A special feature on Minnesota's legislative redistricting.
(view full story) Published 2/24/2012

Collaboration over discipline
Whips rely on communication as session moves forward
(view full story) Published 2/24/2012

Editor's Note
No 'First Reading' story this week
(view full story) Published 2/17/2012

Changing the rules, mid-game
Land use spat pits developers against cities, environmentalists against business
(view full story) Published 2/3/2012

So many rules, so little time
Lawmakers debate the wisdom of curbing agencies’ rulemaking powers
(view full story) Published 2/3/2012

Big plans, short session
Vikings, bonding, government reform top the agenda in 2012
(view full story) Published 1/27/2012

Always looking to help others
Allen brings her fight for social and economic justice to the House
(view full story) Published 1/27/2012

The Dance of Legislation has started
Numerous bonding proposals highlight first bill introductions of 2012 session
(view full story) Published 1/27/2012

Minnesota Index: Session 2012
Facts and statistics about legislative sessions past and present.
(view full story) Published 1/27/2012

Pension changes now law
Local employee plans to join statewide plan
(view full story) Published 8/11/2011

Small budget, big changes
State government finance law includes plans for government reform
(view full story) Published 8/11/2011

State of uncertainty
Budget stalemate, government shutdown leave Minnesota in limbo
(view full story) Published 7/15/2011

Freshmen power
Zeal for reform influences session agenda
(view full story) Published 7/15/2011

Too much reform?
Gov. Dayton says state government bill too aggressive in proposed cuts
(view full story) Published 7/15/2011

Minnesota Index: 2011 regular session
Facts and statistics from the 2011 legislative session.
(view full story) Published 7/15/2011

Special session? Not so special anymore
Number 50 since statehood could be imminent
(view full story) Published 5/20/2011

State of disrepair
Lawmakers look to fix a crumbling Capitol Building
(view full story) Published 5/13/2011

Minnesota Index: Older Minnesotans
Facts and statistics on aging in Minnesota
(view full story) Published 5/6/2011

Rangers in a strange land
Iron Range lawmakers stick together at the Capitol
(view full story) Published 4/15/2011

Black and Light
A photo essay
(view full story) Published 4/8/2011

Beyond budget cuts
Finance bill heralds big changes for state government
(view full story) Published 4/8/2011

Minnesota Index: State demographics
Facts and statistics on the state's population
(view full story) Published 4/8/2011

The long and winding road
Omnibus bills morph and change all along the way for a purpose, tax chair says
(view full story) Published 3/25/2011

Betting on change
Budget bill would restructure state government
(view full story) Published 3/25/2011

Blueprint for change
What would a redesigned state government look like?
(view full story) Published 3/11/2011

The big reboot
To help cut costs, lawmakers look to technology improvements
(view full story) Published 3/11/2011

Remembering Ed Burdick
Former chief clerk passes away
(view full story) Published 3/11/2011

From staffer to representative
Melin wins special election to become newest Iron Range member
(view full story) Published 3/4/2011

Melin wins special election
New member takes seat formerly held by Sertich
(view full story) Published 2/18/2011

Minnesota Index: Celebrating black history month
Figures and statistics on black Minnesotans
(view full story) Published 2/18/2011

At Issue: Address is a snapshot of hard times
Governor pledges funding for education, all-day kindergarten
(view full story) Published 2/11/2011

A farmer with wings (New Member)
Green acres is Daudt’s place to be
(view full story) Published 2/11/2011

From daycare mom to legislator (New Member)
Franson commits to practicing kindness, likes to see others follow
(view full story) Published 2/11/2011

Rural Republican’s challenge (New Member)
Hancock says government’s role important in supporting small communities
(view full story) Published 2/11/2011

Runbeck the reformer (New Member)
New members’ senior has her eye on property tax reform
(view full story) Published 2/11/2011

From volunteer advocate to member (New Member)
Anderson now has an office in building she used to roam as activist
(view full story) Published 2/4/2011

Cutting through the red tape (New Member)
Benson hopes to reduce bureaucracy, empower people
(view full story) Published 2/4/2011

Following Willard Munger’s trail (New Member)
Gauthier strives to give voice to working class
(view full story) Published 2/4/2011

Charting her own course (New Member)
Kieffer focuses on better schools and business climate
(view full story) Published 2/4/2011

The ‘beet’ goes on (New Member)
Kiel brings agricultural, educational experience to Capitol
(view full story) Published 2/4/2011

A soldier on a new mission (New Member)
Kriesel hopes to bring civility to the Capitol
(view full story) Published 2/4/2011

Standing up to Goliath (New Member)
Schomacker’s district on the frontline of keeping business
(view full story) Published 2/4/2011

Politics with his pancakes (New Member)
Woodard goes from breakfast with his buddies to the House
(view full story) Published 2/4/2011

Preserving an engineering feat
Capitol dome repairs hope to preserve Minnesota’s statehouse for many years
(view full story) Published 1/28/2011

Leading by example (New Member)
An economic wonk, Bills wants to use his background to create solutions
(view full story) Published 1/28/2011

A third call to duty (New Member)
Leidiger says his obligation is ‘to right-size government’
(view full story) Published 1/28/2011

Second run’s a charm (New Member)
Focused on government’s role, Lohmer hopes to make ‘significant change’
(view full story) Published 1/28/2011

Start early and stay late (New Member)
For Murray, new role offers much to learn and many challenges
(view full story) Published 1/28/2011

Taking part in another endeavor (New Member)
Quam’s varied background will help him make the hard decisions
(view full story) Published 1/28/2011

A Minnesota marketer (New Member)
Stensrud believes state needs to do a better job of selling itself
(view full story) Published 1/28/2011

Professor turned legislator (New Member)
Banaian goes from the classroom to the House
(view full story) Published 1/21/2011

Numbers guy (New Member)
Barrett hopes to help bring fiscal management to Capitol
(view full story) Published 1/21/2011

‘Make a difference’ (New Member)
Greene considers herself a person who can unite others
(view full story) Published 1/21/2011

Priorities based on data (New Member)
Gruenhagen doesn’t favor across-the-board cuts
(view full story) Published 1/21/2011

Firsthand information (New Member)
LeMieur brings his business background to the Capitol
(view full story) Published 1/21/2011

A brighter future (New Member)
Mazorol plans to focus on budget, business
(view full story) Published 1/21/2011

Snapshot of Delano leader (New Member)
McDonald follows in his father’s footsteps
(view full story) Published 1/21/2011

Myhra goes from home to House (New Member)
Dedicated door-knocking key to election success
(view full story) Published 1/21/2011

A new way to serve (New Member)
O’Driscoll continues a long record of public service
(view full story) Published 1/21/2011

A fast learner (New Member)
Petersen says state should practice ‘kitchen table budgeting’
(view full story) Published 1/21/2011

The bills have landed
First two House files focus on economy, budget
(view full story) Published 1/14/2011

Final Reading
Sertich steps down
(view full story) Published 1/14/2011

Putting his theories to the test (New Member)
Crawford brings big ideas, practical experience to St. Paul
(view full story) Published 1/14/2011

Steeped in Tea Party values (New Member)
Back for her seventh term, Erickson aims to improve schools
(view full story) Published 1/14/2011

Fabian hits the ground running (New Member)
Track coach and high school teacher wants to keep jobs in Minnesota
(view full story) Published 1/14/2011

Focused and determined (New Member)
McElfatrick hopes to strengthen Iron Range economy
(view full story) Published 1/14/2011

Going from homeless to the House (New Member)
Moran used hard work to improve self, wants to help others
(view full story) Published 1/14/2011

Welding the economy back together (New Member)
Swedzinski brings rural development experience to the House
(view full story) Published 1/14/2011

A reformer in the House (New Member)
Vogel brings focus on agriculture; hopes to streamline state government
(view full story) Published 1/14/2011

Looking to give the state a fresh start (New Member)
Wardlow seeks fiscal stability, better jobs climate in Minnesota
(view full story) Published 1/14/2011

Ready for the challenge
2011 session underway with changes aplenty
(view full story) Published 1/7/2011

Let the people’s work begin
Activists, lobbyists, members’ families mark day one of 2011 session
(view full story) Published 1/7/2011

Minnesota Index: Minnesota House 2011
Figures and statistics about the Minnesota House of Representatives.
(view full story) Published 1/7/2011