March 9 - 2018

This was a very busy week at the Capitol in one sense, yet nothing of major significance happened. With a shortened session calendar and deadlines already just around the corner many policy committees were working hard to hear bills in order to have them pass the first deadline. There were also a number of press conferences held, for bills that were being introduced, but it is unclear how many of those have the support they need at this time.

Minnesota legislators are looking for ways to address the opiod problem that is affecting so many Minnesotans. A bipartisan group of legislators is looking at a number of options: one funding option would create a "Penny per Pill" fee that is based on the milligrams prescribed; another measure would limit pharmacists' ability to refill prescriptions that are more that 30 days old. Both have a better than average chance of passing, but still have a long way to go and will clearly face opposition from pharmaceutical companies.

The MNLars issue continues to be unresolved and this week it seemed that resolution might be even further away. Not surprisingly, GOP legislators did NOT approve the additional $10 million that Governor Dayton said was needed immediately. Some GOP legislators introduced new language that would require outside bids an all future IT projects at the state level, expressing deep concerns with the ability of the state IT agency to complete projects in a timely and cost efficient manner.

Budget & Tax Conformity
How the state addresses the issue of Federal tax conformity will be a central discussion/debate throughout this legislative session.  Basically, if the state conforms with the feds it will see an additional $400 million on top of the $329 million surplus.  But that also means a tax increase for many Minnesotans. If the state were to do nothing, then our 2018 tax filings would be immensely complicated and in some cases virtually impossible to complete.

What you need to know about the coming debate over Minnesota's tax code:

School Safety/Gun Debate
On the heels of the recent tragedy in Florida there have been a number of competing ideas proposed this session, for how we might mitigate the potential of a similar incident happening here in MN. DFL'ers have already held a hearing on background checks for gun purchases but even the governor expressed doubt this week that there would be sufficient political support to pass increased gun control efforts. Meanwhile, GOP Legislators proposed an idea that would improve student safety by giving districts greater spending flexibility, using money they already have in their budgets for other items; and perhaps some additional resources as well. Democrats, however, say that's not enough. 

Bills of note
During this point of session bills are being introduced at a pretty fast rate; most of which will never see a hearing, but many are quite interesting none-the-less. Here are a few examples:

A Bill to make Dan Patch the State Horse

A bill to prohibit "the Bachelor" Winner from coming to MN

I would like to point out that while some of these may seem silly (The bachelor ban) but introducing a bill takes relatively little time or effort and you would be amazed at  the wide ranging bill topics that can be proposed by constituents. FYI ... the majority of bills never make it beyond initial introduction.

These are this year's session 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?

Next week will likely be more of the same, as policy committees continue to hear bills that hope to make it through the 1st and 2nd deadlines. 

Governor Dayton is scheduled to give his State of the State Address, laying out his plans for how to the spend the surplus and his plans for federal conformity.  This will be Dayton's last State of the State address so there may also be some broad retrospective themes. 
Don't expect too many details, as it is more common for the 'State of State' to lay out broad ideas, with details being revealed when legislation is introduced.  

Once Dayton releases his proposal, the House and Senate will start to craft their own proposals for what to do with the surplus and how to address the issue of conformity. 


Cap O'Rourke

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

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