March 2 - 2018

Week two of the legislature is In the books and the pace has certainly picked up.  This week the Fed forecast came out with both good and bad news but more importantly it sets the table for how much money the MN legislature can spend this session, if they want to.  

Debates about how to fix the MN Lars system and how to protect schools from tragedies like the one in Florida were prominently featured this week. Many other committees were busy hearing bills that were laid over from last year. Committee deadlines were also announced and will mean a very short session, as all expected.
The new economic forecast came out this week and many were surprised at the final number, but overall it was a positive. The state has a reported surplus of $329 million dollars - which is seen as good news, given the last forecast - back in November -
projected  deficit . Even so, it's not all roses ... 

A lthough the forecast does show a surplus, it is well below  what most thought it would be. At the annual pre-session press event with all four legislative leaders and the Governor, most predicted a surplus between $600 million and $1 billion. Some GOP leaders hinted at that time, that they felt those numbers were too pessimistic. 

The actual forecast of $329 million presents a problem for Legislators and the Governor. Both want to do federal tax conformity this session, BUT doing so will increase taxes for many and there won't be enough money to significantly ease the tax effects AND spend on other priorities. This will be one the most significant debates of the session.

School Safety/Gun Debate
In the wake of the recent tragedy in Florida the debate(s) about school safety and gun regulations is once again underway at the capitol. The Senate GOP included this topic among their session priorities but did not offer many specifics. Dems in the House were able to force hearings on two bills related to background checks for firearms purchases. Not surprisingly, both bills were tabled and did not make it out of committee.

While I do expect school safety issues to be well debated, I do not expect any significant legislation changing our current gun laws to make it to Governor Dayton's desk.

There were a number of hearings this week on the MNLars debacle. Simply stated, the new system that updates vehicle license and registrations (rolled out last summer) is broken. $93 million has already been spent and now the Administration is asking for $43 million more; $10 million of that was said to be needed by this week. Legislative leaders still have many unanswered questions about how the money was spent and will be spent. Not surprisingly,  there is little confidence that a resolution is near.  

Because the $10 million was not authorized this week, MN I.T. officials are saying that layoff notices will go out to contractors working on the project.Though GOP legislators want to fix the issue they are asking for greater transparency and more assurances that this issue will not be revisited again with additional funding requests being made in the future. 

The leaders set session/committee deadlines this week and for capitol insiders this is always a big deal because it sets the "pace" for the remainder of Session. 

Here are this year's deadlines:
1st deadline - March 22, 2018 at midnight
2nd deadline - March 29, 2018 at midnight
3rd deadline - April 20, 2017 at midnight 

This means that:
Bills must be out of all policy committees in ONE of the two bodies by 1st deadline.
Bills must be out of all policy committees in BOTH bodies by the 2nd deadline.
Bills must be passed out of finance divisions in both bodies by 3rd deadline.

The deadlines do not apply to the House committees on Capital Investment, Ways and Means, Finance, Taxes, or Rules and Legislative Administration, nor to the Senate committees on Capital Investment, Finance, Taxes, or Rules and Administration. Any bill that is in one of these committees - in both bodies - after 3rd deadline is then "still alive". 

It should be noted that a bill is never really dead until final adjournment. Any bill failing to meet deadlines can always be revived by the rules committee.

Combined Legislative Meeting Calendar

What's Next?

Now that the session is starting to clip along many will begin to realize just how little time they have, to pass any policy changes. 

With only a few weeks remaining before 'first deadline', the pace of committee meetings will certainly pick up even more.

Though both the legislature and governor have indicated that federal tax conformity is a top priority I do not think there will be much agreement.  

In the coming weeks expect Dayton to lay out his plan for the surplus.  I expect there to be a significant difference between his plan and the GOP plan. With neither side having many "needs" this session it could set up for yet another stalemate.


Cap O'Rourke

Cap O'Rourke
Lobbyist / President
O'Rourke Strategic Consulting

Cap O'Rourke | (612) 483-1863 | |
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