April 27 - 2018

A lot of movement was made t his week, relative to end-of-session negotiations. The House began debating their spending bills and released their tax bill. T he Senate passed their Omnibus spending bill - after a 12 hour session - just yesterday. Oh, and the Governor sent another letter to leaders, highlighting his expectations for these final weeks of session.

In addition, the gun debate was raised yet again and new House rules on harassment were tested immediately after passage, with brand new allegations.

On the lighter side of this week's political news, Rep. Tom Emmer's "Hotdish of Champions" was named the winner of the Minnesota U.S. Congressional delegation's '2018 Hotdish Off' (8th Annual). This is Rep. Emmer's first hotdish title. Congratulations Rep Emmer!  

The House Budget
The House started debating omnibus bills on the floor this week and will hear even more next week. In addition to the spending bills, the tax bill will go up for a vote next week as well. Once these pass the floor votes they will be ready for conference committee, where they can iron out differences with the Senate and Governor.

Tax Chair Greg Davids released his tax proposal. In an effort to conform MN tax law to the newly passed federal tax overhaul, Rep Davids' bill will still result in tax increases for some Minnesotans but fewer than the number originally impacted.  DFLers were worried about scheduled tax cuts that do not take effect for a few years and some of the impacts those will have on taxpayers. 

Senate Passes Spending
The Senate has decided to put all of their spending bills into one large "Omnibus" bill, which contains and combines the spending bills from all of the various finance divisions. The Senate debated the bill yesterday for nearly 12 hours, before it passed. It was a massive bill and it drew opposition from Democrats who said that it violated the single subject law, but this is not the first massive funding bill to go through the Senate, even when DFLers were in the majority.  

What's still a bit unclear is how this bill will be negotiated in Conference Committee, but b ecause the House is splitting their funding provisions up into separate bills it is likely that there will be separate conference committees. We will see next week, how it all plays out. 

Senate Spreadsheet
Governor's Expectations
Governor Dayton sent another  letter to Legislative leaders this week, laying out his expectations for the end of session. Nothing in the letter was particularly shocking or different from what he had requested previously, but adhering to his requests could create some issues for leaders. Additionally, the Governor expressed concern that he has not yet received some previously requested bills of significance, but I am not sure that he truly expected those to be on his desk by now. In his most recent letter Dayton highlighted 6 points:
  • Transparency and Accountability in End-of-Session Negotiations
    • He wants bills to be negotiated in public conference committees.
  • All Offers Must Be Made in Writing: 
    • Dayton wants all offers to be exchanged in writing; nothing verbal. 
  • Bills Must Be Available for Public Review: 
    • He has requested that bills be posted and publicly available for review for at least 24 hours before debate takes place.
  • Negotiations Must Include Commissioners and Minority Representatives:
    • Dayton wants his commissioner and DFLers to have a seat at the table.
  • House and Senate Must Agree on Unified Positions: 
    • The Governor says he will only negotiate after the House and Senate have reached agreements on their spending differences.
  • Targets Must be Reached No Later than May 11: 
    • He wants the spending targets to be agreed upon, by all parties, by May 11th. (This is an ambitious goal and I will not be surprised if is not met.)
As I stated earlier, very little of this letter was surprising and some of these requests could very well be met. That said, I do not think they all will be met; especially given that the House still has a number of funding bills to pass next week.

Gun Control Bills are Dead. Again. 
The gun debate was raised and briefly revived again this session but was then squashed, just as quickly. Rep Maye Quaid held a 24 hour sit-in this week on the House floor to protest the legislature's lack of action on background checks and gun legislation. At one point it seemed at though there may be a shift in the GOP, as Speaker Daudt indicated that behind the scenes negotiations could be taking place on potential gun legislation. Then, a day later, the Speaker clarified and explained that he views these bills to be dead for the session and does not personally support them.  

Clarified 'Sexual Harassment' Rules - and its First Test
The House made a number of changes to its internal workplace harassment rules this week, which were immediately given their first real test. Most notably, they removed the 'severe or pervasive' language from the previous version and they've also allowed for non-partisan staff to hire outside investigators. And - any case that involves a legislator will now require a report be issued to leadership of both parties. Soon after the House made these changes it was revealed that a sitting Legislator in the House was accused of misconduct; Rep. Rod Hamilton (R) was removed of his Chairmanship by leadership, in light of these accusations.
Other Noteworthy Bills
Here are a few of this week's interesting, but perhaps less publicized actions:

Could a constitutional amendment reroute funding to Minnesota's roads, bridges?

Senate Passes Bill Toughening Release For Sex Offenders

What's Next?

By next week all the spending bills, including the tax bill, will have been passed off the floor of both bodies, setting the stage for the end of session negotiations.  I expect a number of different conference committees to be set up to deal with various  sections of the spending proposals.  

Judging by this week's letter sent by Governor Dayton, he is expecting the legislature to settle their difference before engaging his administration  in final negotiations. I am not sure this is how legislative leaders expect it will go, so it will be interesting to see how that plays out.

More important will be how fast actual budget targets can be agreed to. If there is significant delay in reaching targets it will likely set up - once again - a mad rush at the end, to pass bills.

The bonding bill, which is traditionally one of the last bills passed, has yet to released by either House or Senate. This bill can typically be agreed to in a quicker timeline but it is possible we may get a glimpse of at least one proposal sooner rather than later, next week.

Thank you for reading,

Cap O'Rourke

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

Cap O'Rourke | (612) 483-1863 | cap@orourkesc.com | www.orourkesc.com/
Stay Connected
Join Our Mailing List
Follow us on Twitter   View our profile on LinkedIn