Advocacy News | May 20, 2021
GOOD NEWS, WITH AN ASTERISK

From our perspective, the best thing about the budget deal / targets announcement on Monday was the inclusion of full tax conformity for forgiven PPP loans.

There were many reasons that your Chamber advocated hard for this provision. Considering that the point of PPP (the Paycheck Protection Program) was to keep as many employees on the payroll as possible, and that state taxes were not an allowable use of those funds, forcing businesses to use other revenue -- which is money a lot of them do not have -- to pay an extra state tax was not, in our opinion, a good way to support businesses or their employees. In addition, every employee that avoided filing an unemployment claim helped the state in that regard, as the UI trust fund is well underwater.

But of course this announcement comes with an asterisk; while the deal has been made, the bill has not actually passed and been signed into law yet. Also, since the deal was announced the same day that taxes were due, many businesses had to file with the old rules in place. The Department of Revenue is trying to find a way to make those adjustments automatically -- IF the legislature passes the bills in a June special session as intended -- but if they cannot, impacted businesses will have to file an amended return.

Your public affairs team will continue to carefully monitor this issue and advocate for full conformity until the bill becomes law. A giant thank you to everyone who contacted their legislators and helped us draw attention to this issue. Those contacts really do count!

Shannon Watson
Vice President of Public Affairs
Follow me on Twitter @Shannon_SPACC

p.s. Programming note: during the regular legislative session, the Advocacy News publishes every Thursday, and then moves to every-other week during the interim. The next scheduled newsletter will be published on June 3. Thanks for reading!
BILLS WE'RE WATCHING
Each week we'll highlight a few bills at the legislature that have caught our attention. Being included in this list just means we're watching them -- it does not indicate approval or opposition. ("Retweets =/= endorsement.") Language from the bill title is listed, analysis from SPAC PA staff is in brackets.

Omnibus budget bills have the starring role at the Capitol these days. Here's where the bills stood as the final gavels fell.

These committee omnibus bills passed:

Omnibus State Government Finance - Both House and Senate passed the House bill (HF1952), differences were worked out by conference committee, and the conference committee report passed both chambers.

Omnibus Health and Human Services Policy and Finance - Both House and Senate passed the House bill (HF2128), differences were worked out by conference committee, and the conference committee report passed both chambers.

Omnibus Agriculture and Broadband Finance - Both House and Senate passed the Senate bill (SF958), differences were worked out by conference committee, and the conference committee report passed both chambers..

(But wait, there's more! Even some of these committees that did find agreement will be coming back for budget provisions and/or additional policy issues during the special session.)

These bills did not make it out of the conference committee process with agreements by the constitutional adjournment deadline. Since groups aren't technically "conference committees" after session adjournment, legislative leadership said they still wanted those conferees to work out the solutions in their own bill areas, so those will operate as informal working groups between now and the special session.

Omnibus Tax
Omnibus Higher Education
Omnibus Education
Omnibus Commerce
Omnibus Workforce and Business Development
Omnibus Judiciary and Public Safety
Omnibus Environment and Natural Resources
Omnibus Transportation
Omnibus Housing
Omnibus Legacy

Want more info? Chamber member Messerli Kramer wrote this recap report and generously allowed us to share it. (Thank you, Nancy Haas!)
UPCOMING TOWN HALLS & LISTENING SESSIONS IN THE EAST METRO

District 41 Town Hall - Rep. Connie Bernardy, Rep. Sandra Feist, Sen. Mary Kunesh
Tuesday, May 25 7:00-8:00 pm
Join the event on Facebook live

Roseville Business Council - confirmed panelists include Sen. John Marty, Sen. Jason Isaacson, Rep. Alice Hausman
Wednesday, May 26 7:30-8:30 am
Register for the zoom link here
IN LOCAL GOVERNMENT NEWS

Congratulations to new Stillwater community development director Tim Gladhill.

West St. Paul is separating with their community development director.

Should Ramsey County Commissioners be paid more? You can weigh in on June 15.

Washington County is considering a sales tax increase to fund road and bridge projects.

Condolences to friends and family of former county commissioner Wally Abrahmson of Stillwater.

St. Paul’s Community-First Public Safety Commission
Our Chamber is not formally represented on the commission, but John from our PA team is attending the meetings and will share updates on the Commission’s work. 

On Wednesday, May 19, the Citizens League presented the work of the Community First Public Safety Commission to the St. Paul City Council’s Organizational Committee.  

The Commission recommended the City of St. Paul establish an Office of Neighborhood Safety, like the Office of Violence Prevention in Minneapolis, which was started in 2019. Other recommendations that garnered 90% support from Commission members included changes to call for service policies involving minors, vehicle/parking issues, individuals in crisis, welfare checks, disorderly conduct, child abuse, general assistance, and civil problems. 

To see the Citizens’ League slide deck that was presented to the Organizational Committee click HERE

The final report is scheduled to be released on Friday, May 21, 2021. 
OPPORTUNITIES TO GET INVOLVED

St. Paul and NCXT are hosting a discussion on the future of restaurants on Monday, May 24. RSVP to attend.

Ramsey County is seeking public comment on the Rush Line.

Riverview Corridor Purpose and Need Statement is available for comment through Friday, June 25. Individuals and organizations are invited to review the document and submit comments by emailing info@riverviewcorridor.com.
We regularly get calls from reporters looking for businesses to comment on a wide set of issues. To make those interactions easier and quicker we keep a list of member company media contacts and areas of expertise. If your company is willing to speak to media on the record, email Shannon and she'll add you to the list.
2021 PUBLIC AFFAIRS SPONSORS
Thank you to the following companies supporting public affairs initiatives and programming in 2021!
Want to see your logo here? It's not too late! Contact Shannon.
EAST METRO VOTER GUIDE RETURNING FOR 2021

Elections in our footprint in 2021 that will be included in the Guide are: St. Paul Mayor and White Bear Lake Mayor, and city council races in Falcon Heights, Mahtomedi, St. Anthony Village, St. Paul Park, and White Bear Lake.

If you or someone you know is a candidate and would like to be included in the guide, contact John for a questionnaire.
Supporting our members' own advocacy at the Capitol and in City Halls across the East Metro. If you have an issue you’re working on and would like support from the Chamber, contact Shannon to discuss the options. From committee testimony, to letters of support, to meetings with elected officials, we're here to support you and champion an economically vibrant business community. Especially if you do not have in-house government relations staff or contract lobbyists to move your issues, our public affairs team can be a powerful ally and a valuable benefit of membership.
St. Paul Area Chamber