March 30 - 2018

This was Second Deadline week in the House, which means it was another hectic week in which committees had to act favorably - by Midnight Thursday (yesterday) - on bills or companion bills that made it through First Deadline in the other body.

Among the major topics discussed this week were: dedicating funds for roads and bridges; authorization for the Enbridge pipeline moved forward; ranked-choice voting was debated; and the Ag bill had more debate than usual. 

Now our legislators get a week off for Spring/Easter/Passover break, which began today and runs until 8 a.m. on April 9. Many legislators are likely to hold town halls, meet with local officials and constituents, and use this time as an opportunity to get feedback about how they are doing and what issues their constituency hopes will be resolved before the session adjourns.

Constitutional Amendment For Road Funds Moves
A bill that would dedicate sales taxes from auto parts, repairs and rentals towards road improvements moved out of a Senate committee this week. Using this source of funding is not a new concept but making it constitutionally dedicated has raised some doubt among legislators.  

Concern has been expressed that removing this from the general fund will create a greater squeeze on other areas that rely on general fund dollars, like schools and healthcare. Chief Author, Sen Newman (R-Hutchinson), says it is about creating jobs and providing much needed funding for roads and bridges. 

Constitutional amendments do not need a Governor's signature so if this is passed by the House and Senate it will be on the ballot next fall.

The House moved a bill this week that will allow Enbridge to continue its efforts to replace an oil pipeline across Minnesota. The proposal has been a hotly debated issue since last year's protest at Standing Rock and due to other concerns about the potential for spills. Proponents counter that the replacement is needed to improve safety and say that it will provide significant numbers of jobs, needed for the installation. The bill moved out of committee but still has more stops to hurdle in the process.

Ranked-Choice Voting
A bill that aims to remove the method of voting in both Minneapolis and St. Paul is being debated at the legislature. Ranked-Choice Voting was approved by voters in both cities but now there is an effort to prohibit that style of voting. Some legislators argue there should be a consistent method for elections statewide but the legislators from the cities that would be impacted have urged the others to respect the will of the citizens that voted to allow this method of voting. Minneapolis and St. Paul are strongly opposed, but one St. Paul citizen did testify in favor of eliminating RCV. 

Dayton has said he would like broad bipartisan support for any election issue and I suspect this issue would need to meet that bar as well.
Nitrate Rules Split Ag Committee
The House Agriculture Committee passed out its omnibus policy bill this week. The normally bipartisan bill included a provision that split the committee this time. Last week I mentioned efforts by the Dept of Ag, to regulate how farmers use Nitrates in their fields, and how an amendment aimed to prevent that effort created a split among party lines. GOP legislators felt that the requirement for any new rules should also get legislative approval, putting the decision in the hands of elected officials. DFLers were concerned however, that this method of rule-making was hampering agency efforts to enact/enforce agency rules based on the scientific evidence. The debate on this issue will continue.
Omnibus agriculture policy bill approved despite controversial provision
Other Noteworthy Bills
Here are a few of this week's more "interesting", but perhaps less publicized bill introductions:

House passes bill to criminalize fibbing about service animals 

'Safe Seniors Act' targets fraud before it happens

Residential-based businesses could see online look-up protections

Omnibus transportation policy bill proposes sweeping changes to Met Council

Bill aims to change fire code to ensure safe barn weddings

Nearly $35 million sought for Minnesota Zoo preservation, revitalization

State prohibition of local bans on to-go containers heads for House Floor

These are this year's session deadlines:

1st deadline - March 22, 2018 at midnight
2nd deadline - March 29, 2018 at midnigh t
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 we are past the 1st & 2nd deadlines the focus will turn directly to funding bills and tax provisions. Any bill that has not met the deadline requirements is now theoretically "dead". 

At the Capitol there is always a chance for these bills to be brought back to life by amending them on to another bill or other means. So, interested parties always need to be aware of so called "zombie bills" that might resurface somewhere.

Legislators will return to their home districts to get some rest and likely hear plenty from their constituents about what they are working on. It is a good time for our elected officials to take the temperature of what people are talking about and what they expect legislators to accomplish this session.

I too, am taking a short getaway to warmer weather, so there will be no newsletter next week.


Cap O'Rourke

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

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