Jan 06 - 2017

Theeeeey're back and so are the weekly legislative updates from O'Rourke Strategic Consulting. The internationally recognized* legislative advocacy firm with offices in Minneapolis, St. Paul and Nevis Mn. For those that are getting this for the first time - this update is a quick and simple way to keep track of what may or may not be happening at the Minnesota legislature. We always welcome readers but are not offended if you unsubscribe either.

*we had a twitter "like" from Estonia last year.
2017 Legislative Session Starts
As you may remember, last year's session left a number of major bills and issues still unresolved.  Most notably the Tax, Bonding and Transportation Bills all failed to get signed into law for various reasons.  Additionally, late this year the costs for those enrolled in Mnsure saw significant increases. Attempts to deal with this issue and the other bills - during a special session - was never able to find agreement. So not surprisingly, these issues are now all near the top of many legislator's lists of items to be tackled this session.

There are always a number of great articles by local journalists, previewing the issues and topics that will be covered during session - and this year was no different. 

Pioneer Press


Some New Faces in Legislative Leaders
The 2017 Legislative session began this week with a number of new faces, including some new ones in the all-important legislative leaders club.  

For those that may not have been following the Minnesota general election last November, the GOP expanded their Majority in the House to 76 seats and not surprisingly re-elected Kurt Daudt to serve once again as Speaker of the House.  The House DFL Caucus elected Melissa Hortman as their new leader after Paul Thissen decided not to run again for a leadership post.

The GOP also took control of the senate this year for only the second time in 40 years, although they only have a slim one seat majority.   Sen. Paul Gazelka was elected as the new majority leader after Senator David Hann lost his re-election bid. The DFL Senators kept Sen. Bakk as their leader, continuing a role he has held since 2011. Many eyes will be on Gazelka to see how he manages his 34-33 majority.
Dayton Releases Two Major Bills
While the House and Senate were getting used to the new capitol and committee assignments Governor Dayton released his proposals for both a bonding and a tax bill. While it is pretty early for both of these bills to come out it is not too surprising that they did. Both are largely similar to the bills that were left on the table from last year. 

The tax bill proposal contains a number of items from the 2016 bill that passed both bodies (last year) with large bipartisan support. But now, with GOP controlling both chambers, they will likely want additional changes aimed at reducing tax burdens in Minnesota.

Though bonding bills are traditionally passed during even-numbered years the inability to find an agreement last year on a bonding package raised the odds that one could pass this year. Speaker Daudt, at first signaled little interest in a bonding bill this session but has since softened a bit, saying it may be a possibility. Passage of any bonding bill will need a super majority and will require DFL votes in both bodies.

Brand New Capitol
One the highlights of the opening of the 2017 session was the newly renovated Capitol building.  After years of construction - including last year when only the house was able to use the building - the newly renovated capitol is finally open. There are still some finishing touches to be made but the building was restored with great effort and detail.  There are the many new spaces available for public meetings and many sections - which were restored back to they way they were originally intended - are wonderfully finished.

What's Next?

The beginning of every session is typically a time for optimism and hope. This year that optimism seems thin.  Perhaps it is due to the prolonged, yet failed, efforts by leaders to get a special session agenda agreement.  At many early events legislators of all caucuses seemed to be more interested in highlighting differences rather than areas of agreement.  

Politics is a relationship game so here are some key relationships to watch this session.

Dayton and Daudt: Admittedly they have said their relationship is damaged. Can they or do they want to salvage it?

Daudt and Gazelka: Daudt has a wide majority but the Senate has only 1 extra vote. Will the senate caucus have the votes to pass reforms wanted by the house?

Gazleka and Bakk: Bakk and the DFL caucus can make it very tough for the GOP's efforts to pass legislation off the floor.  A good working relationship here could benefit both and help prevent total gridlock.


Cap O'Rourke

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

Cap O'Rourke | (612) 483-1863 | cap@orourkesc.com | www.orourkesc.com/
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