Capitol Update
March 3, 2021
Advocacy Action Center
Legislative deadlines are fast approaching, and this is a crucial time for action. Your help is needed now, and your voice has power. Hearing directly from owners, operators and employees on how proposed legislation impacts them means more and can have more influence than hearing from lobbyists. That’s why we’re asking you to take an active role in contacting your lawmakers right now.
To help you make your voice heard and move our agenda forward, we’ve put together tools you can use to engage your elected officials. It’s as easy as 1-2-3:
1.     Identify your legislators and reach out via email or phone call
2.    Provide brief background on the state of the industry
3.    Make a connection to your own business

Identify Your Legislators. Go to the district finder, enter your home and business(es) addresses to reveal your legislators and their contact information.
 
State of the Industry. Consider including any of the following as points of evidence that reinforce the need:
  • Minnesota’s hospitality industry lost 140,000 jobs in 2020;
  • 47% of restaurants are on the verge of insolvency;
  • 30% of hotels are on the verge of insolvency now, and 60% by summer without help; and
  • Pre-COVID, this industry provided 1 in 10 jobs in Minnesota (nearly 300,000), generated over $1.3 billion in sales per month ($16 billion per year) and was responsible for 20% of the sales tax.

Make a Connection to Your Business. Make a connection. Remind them of your identity, location, and your impact in their district. Consider including:
  • Company name and address
  • Number of employees (total/historical, pre-COVID, now)
  • Length of time in business in their district
  • Economic data (revenue/sales, losses, etc.)
  • Snapshot of financial obligations (taxes, rent/mortgage, utilities, insurance, vendors, etc.) remind them that despite COVID shutdowns and limitations, all these bills kept coming.
  • Ask for their help in our industry’s recovery.

Help us track which legislators have been contacted by copying Ben on your email or forwarding what you’ve sent to ben@hospitalitymn.com
OUR TOP 10 ISSUES

The following are some of our top priorities currently moving through the legislative process. They include:

  • Roadmap to Recovery
  • Tax-Free PPP
  • Federal Restaurant Relief Grant
  • State Levy on Property Tax Relief for Hospitality Businesses
  • Restaurant Equipment Sales Tax Exemption
  • Expand the DEED No-Interest Forgivable Loan Program
  • ProStart/Hospitality Tourism Management Program Workforce Development Grants
  • Defending the Lodging Tax
  • Support Alcohol-to-Go
  • Fair Regulation of Short-Term Vacation Rentals

Additional issues in play are listed at the end. All will benefit from your advocacy push. Advocate on all or pick those most meaningful to you.
Roadmap to Recovery
(HF1336/SF1200—click on links to see if your legislator is an author). Hospitality Minnesota supports a bipartisan proposal to create a statewide re-opening plan that will move the dials forward in safe and commonsense ways. It’s key that we signal the market that MN has a plan for moving forward and stop losing event and group business to other states. Assuming the positivity rate stays below 6%, the plan would swiftly move:
  1. Events to 50% (increased capacity caps for social events like weddings)
  2. Restaurants to 75% (with 6 ft. distancing); parties of 10
  3. Pools and fitness centers to 50%
 
If the public health data remains stable and vaccination progresses reasonably, the plan would move forward in phases with a target date of May 1 for having our businesses as open as possible.
 
TAKE ACTION 1: Email/call the members of the House Commerce Committee and the Senate Labor and Industry Policy Committee and ask them to support and pass this legislation to the Floor.
 
TAKE ACTION 2: Email/call your legislators and ask them to support and/or co-author this legislation and ask their leadership that it be passed to the Floor.
 
TAKE ACTION 3: Contact the Governor’s office and ask Governor Walz to lay forth a statewide re-opening plan that will speed to the recovery of this critical industry that has sacrificed so much to keep its fellow Minnesotans safe. We need him to lead and issue a re-opening plan or support bipartisan plans moving through the process.
 
 
PPP Tax-Free
(HF501/SF263—click on links to see if your legislator is an author). Hospitality Minnesota supports bipartisan legislation conforming Minnesota to federal law and making PPP tax-free and business deductible. Hospitality operators facing an economic cliff should not be asked to re-direct a portion of a financial relief payment to the state, this simply does not make sense. Especially when the state now has a $1.6 billion surplus. Earlier this week, the senate bill was passed to the Floor. This is a top priority this session.
 
TAKE ACTION 1: Email/call the members of the House Tax Committee and the Senate Tax Committee and ask them to support and pass this legislation to the Floor.
 
TAKE ACTION 2: Email/call your legislators and ask them to support and/or co-author this legislation and ask their leadership that it be passed to the Floor.
 
TAKE ACTION 3: Contact the Governor’s office and ask Governor Walz and his Department of Revenue to support this legislation as part of the recovery.
 
 
Federal Restaurant Relief Grant Program
Hospitality Minnesota has been advocating for a federal grant program as part of our relief requests since March. With 47% of Minnesota restaurants facing collapse, Congress is finally on the verge of passing $25 billion in federal relief grants. While the bill already passed by the U.S. House includes the measure, we need the U.S. Senate to act. 
 
TAKE ACTION: Ask U.S. Senator Klobuchar and U.S. Senator Smith to ensure this provision is in the final stimulus bill.
 

State Levy on Property Tax Relief for Hospitality Businesses
(HF1695/SF1432—click on links to see if your legislator is an author). Hospitality Minnesota supports legislation to exempt hospitality business from the state levy portion of property tax for the next two years to aid in recovery. 
 
TAKE ACTION 1: Email/call the members of the House Tax Committee and the Senate Tax Committee and ask them to support and pass this legislation to the Floor.
 
TAKE ACTION 2: Email/call your legislators and ask them to support and/or co-author this legislation, and ask their leadership that it be passed to the Floor.
 
TAKE ACTION 3: Contact the Governor’s office and ask Governor Walz and his Department of Revenue to support this legislation as part of the recovery.

 
Restaurant Equipment Sales Tax Exemption
(HF921/SF1318—click on links to see if your legislator is an author). Hospitality Minnesota supports legislation to exempt restaurant capital equipment from sales tax (other manufacturing equipment in MN is already exempt). This bill also proposes refunds on sales tax paid on equipment and materials purchased in response to adapting to COVID-19 (such as barriers). 
 
TAKE ACTION 1: Email/call the members of the House Tax Committee and the Senate Tax Committee and ask them to support and pass this legislation to the Floor.
 
TAKE ACTION 2: Email/call your legislators and ask them to support and/or co-author this legislation and ask their leadership that it be passed to the Floor.
 
TAKE ACTION 3: Contact the Governor’s office and ask Governor Walz and his Department of Revenue to support this legislation as part of the recovery.
 
 
Expand the DEED No-Interest Forgivable Loan Program 
Governor Walz proposed $50 million in no-interest loans (up to 50% forgivable)—a program we have been advocating for some time. While we were pleased to see this, we think the investment should be larger given that the state now has a $1.6 billion surplus and $2 billion in reserves. Given that hospitality represents 10% of the workforce we believe this investment should be raised to $200 million. In addition, while we won a commitment from Commissioner Grove that the program would allow hotels and resorts to seek relief, as currently drafted it prohibits those with out-of-state ownership. Please reach out to the following policymakers and ask them to make these changes to HF1235/SF991 (click on links to see if your legislator is an author).
 
TAKE ACTION 1: Email/call the members of the House Ways and Means Committee and the Senate Finance Committee and ask them to support and pass this legislation with our recommended changes to the Floor.
 
TAKE ACTION 2: Email/call your legislators and ask them to support and/or co-author this legislation with our recommended changes and ask their leadership that it be passed to the Floor.
 
TAKE ACTION 3: Contact the Governor’s office and ask Governor Walz and his Department of Employment and Economic Development to increase this investment and make sure hotels are included in this relief.
 
Additional legislation on this issue is likely to be introduced on this topic in the coming days. Stay tuned.

 
ProStart/Hospitality Tourism Management Program Workforce Development Grants
(HF1324/SF1262 —click on links to see if your legislator is an author). Hospitality Minnesota supports a $250,000 DEED grant to help high schools expand two successful national workforce programs that are already in 100 MN high schools. Workforce will be key to our industry’s recovery over the next 3-4 years. 
 
TAKE ACTION: Contact your legislators and the members of the House Workforce Committee and Senate Jobs Committee and ask them to support ProStart/HTMP. For ease, you may cut-and-paste any part of the following (including the videos) to help make your case:
 
EXAMPLE TEXT: Please support hospitality workforce development. 100 schools are already teaching ProStart and/or Hospitality Tourism Management Programs and there’s more demand. These two nationally accredited career and technical programs prepare young people to hit the job market running in this industry. The ProStart program includes a heralded statewide and national competition, and some of these ProStart schools have their own restaurants, engage in gardening/farming, and participate in local food donation projects!
 
Please take a minute to watch this video prepared by Hospitality Minnesota, featuring award-winning chef and ProStart alumnus Josh Walbolt and HTMP alumnus and now-hotel manager Kevin Sparks on why Minnesotans should support these programs for our youth.
As well as this national ProStart video explaining the program:
What Legislators Can Do to Help: Become a co-author and support bipartisan legislation (HF1324/SF1262) to create a $250,000 grant through DEED for schools to apply for grants of up to $5,000. These grants will offset costs for teacher training, learning materials, etc. which can be significant hurdles for schools to get these programs up-and-running and maintained. This legislation represents a request for one-time funding of a nominal amount to the state’s budget.

Defending the Lodging Tax
Hospitality Minnesota opposes the re-direction of lodging tax funds for capital projects by local governments. Earlier this session, we testified in opposition to HF551, a bill to make permanent a Plymouth lodging tax that is partially used to fund capital projects, rather than the statutory purpose of promoting tourism and putting “heads in beds.” This is a bad precedent, and other municipalities are also lining up to attempt to use lodging taxes for similar purposes in their jurisdiction, including Maple Grove and Woodbury.

TAKE ACTION: Tell the Tax Chairs in the House and Senate that it is more important than ever to protect the statutory purpose of the lodging tax: to direct 95% of the funds to marketing and promoting destinations. This is critical to the recovery and development of our tourism economy. As a matter of fairness, local capital projects should not be funded by fees on one industry alone.

Support Alcohol To-Go
Hospitality Minnesota is partnering with a broad coalition of operators asking to modernize MN liquor laws by passing Senate File 1176/ House File 1192, commonsense proposals to:

  • Make beer, wine, and cocktails to-go permanent for bars and restaurants
  • Allow liquor stores, bars and restaurants to fill and sell growlers
  • Allow breweries to sell 768 oz person/day of their beer to-go in cans, bottles, crowlers/growlers
  • Allow cideries up to 75,000 gal & brewpubs up to 200 barrels of self-distribution
  • Allow distilleries to sell up to 1.5L of their own product in standard bottle sizes

TAKE ACTION: Contact your legislators and ask them if they will commit to:
  • Become a co-author of the bill (yes or no)
  • Vote for the bill if it comes before them (yes or no)

Make sure you explain that you want them to provide yes or no answers on their level of support to you in a timely manner, so that we can count on their support.

Fair Regulation of Short-Term Vacation Rentals
Hospitality Minnesota supports fair regulation of short-term vacation rentals, so that they compete on a level playing field with lodging operators. We have had some success at the county level in the last two years, with several counties passing new ordinances (Cook, St. Louis, Crow Wing, Becker). We have recently weighed in with Hubbard County and Itasca county, as well, both of which are considering their own measures.

TAKE ACTION: If you are interested in weighing in with Hubbard or Itasca county officials, or if you would like to advocate for an ordinance in your county, contact ben@hospitalitymn.com

Other issues on which we are currently engaged:

This is not an exhaustive list, so you may not see an issue of concern to you that we are working on listed here. If that is the case, and you’d like more information, email ben@hospitalitymn.com

Would you like to help shape HM’s policy agenda? Join the HM Advocacy Group. Contact ben@hospitalitymn.com
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