There is only two weeks left in the session to negotiate more than $40 billion in budget appropriations for the next two years. Unfortunately, there is still a wide gulf between House and Senate Republicans and DFLers. Governor Dayton has made it clear Republicans must remove the more than 600 policy provisions currently in the budget bills. These provisions run the gamut from halting any future light rail projects to limiting the department of agriculture from governing the use of harmful pesticides to eliminating 40-years’ worth of campaign finance reforms. In nearly every budget category, experts in the field are decrying the massive underfunding, the shifts to cover up questionable budgeting in future years, and in some cases the total destruction of popular programs like pre-k.

All of this means the negotiations that will happen over the next few weeks will likely be animated and tense, to say the least. Session is constitutionally mandated to end on May 22.

I realize that these are trying times for all of us, especially considering everything going at the national level as well. Regardless, I will make sure to keep you all updated about everything going on at the capitol. Here is this week’s Capitol Update.

Legislative Updates

Bonding Bill

I have said it before and I will say it again, we need a workable bonding bill. As per the Minnesota Constitution, such a bill needs to come from the House of Representatives. This week, House Republicans released a bonding proposal. However, this proposal falls extremely short of what Senate Republicans and Governor Dayton have released in their bonding proposals. The House bill appropriates only $600 million in General Obligations (GO) bonds. A large portion of the GO bonds are used to maintain the state’s current buildings so our assets’ lifespans are maximized and we get the most value for the dollars Minnesotans have invested. Important users of these dollars are our higher education institutions which have buildings across the state that need to be maintained and improved when necessary. While a substantial portion of the money allocated to our higher education institutions is for repair, we also need to ensure that they have the assets needed to attract, train, and retain Minnesotans to fuel our economy. The proposed appropriation is simply not enough to cover all those costs. The House author acknowledges the release of the bill is just part of the process and will grow as it moves through the legislative process. (HF 892)

Bills to Limit Access to Abortions in Minnesota Hit the Floor

Senate Republicans recently made two politically-motivated attempts at restricting women’s access to abortion and introduce legislation that are seemingly designed to shut out low-income women, shut down abortion providers, and endanger the lives of health care workers and women.

The first bill would prohibit state funding for abortions except in cases to save the life of a woman or in cases of rape or incest. State law in Minnesota already prohibits the use of state funding for abortions except in cases of rape or incest, for health or therapeutic reasons, and when a woman’s life is in danger. The bill discriminates against women based on the type of insurance they have and challenges current state law that ensures women have access to reproductive health care regardless of their financial situation.

The second bill would subject abortion clinics to the licensure standards of the Outpatient Surgical Center Act, which essentially classifies them as small hospitals and is designed to shut down abortion providers in Minnesota. The evidence of unsafe practices within these clinics to warrant this type of heig

htened licensure is not present in the clinics that operate in Minnesota.

We at the capitol should be focused on finishing our work to balance the state’s budget instead of proposing divisive and, frankly, unconstitutional legislation that endangers women’s health. Similar proposals in the past were defeated in both the Minnesotan and US Supreme Courts, and Governor Dayton has indicated that he would veto similar legislation if it reached his desk. Yet, these divisive abortion bills have receive more public hearing time than any legislation aimed at fixing the crisis Minnesota is facing in the health insurance market. As an ardent supporter of women’s rights and an advocate for pro-choice, I am sorely disappointed that Republicans Senators are pushing for these efforts and I will most definitely oppose them at every turn. (SF 704SF 702)

Republican agreement for Jobs, Commerce, and Energy Conference Committee released.

On Monday we reache

d agreement in Jobs and Energy Conference Committee between the House and Senate Republican chairs. There was no discussion on the proposal or public testimony; instead nonpartisan staff went through the spreadsheet and bill language. Testimony, amendments, and legislators’ discussion were put off for another day. Once all of the budget bills are negotiated between the House and Senate, Governor Dayton and his administration will start actively negotiating bills with the legislature.

Below are a few notable provisions that were agreed to by the House and Senate conferees.

Jobs, Labor, and Housing Provisions

  • Consumer internet privacy language deleted – In the first hundred days of President Trump’s presidency he eliminated rules that would have prohibited internet service providers from collecting and selling their customers’ browsing history and personal information.

In response to actions at the federal level, DFL members of the Minnesota Senate and House authored an amendment that would have protected users’ data. Despite it passing the Senate with only one no vote, the provision was mysteriously removed from the bill in private meetings held by Republicans.

  • Border to Border broadband – $15 million – The Republican-led legislative agreement was $5 million less than the Senate position and $8 million more than the House position. Governor Dayton had appropriated $60 million in his budget for this grant program.
  • Building Code Policy Changes – Building code changes above $1,000 must be approved by the legislature. If a single committee in the House or Senate objects to the code change it will be rejected. This proposal originated from the Builders Association in response to rules regarding sprinklers in buildings. While the sprinkler rule was overturned by the courts, the construction industry is likely concerned about forthcoming rules that could increase building costs. This language is very problematic to the Department of Labor and Industry.

E-12 bill short-changes schools, cuts pre-K funding

The E-12 education funding and policy agreement proposed by the Republican-controlled House and Senate went through conference committee this week. The $300 million budget target lacks the necessary funding to increase by 2% the basic education formula, cuts voluntary free pre-kindergarten funding, and closes the Perpich Center for Arts Education. Even though the Senate’s E-12 education chair strongly supported a larger budget proposal to fund schools over the next two years, she fell short, providing about $100 million less for the per student funding formula than the Governor. The basic formula provides the bulk of the funding districts use to provide classroom programs for students. The Republican proposal provides about $30 less per student than the Governor recommended in January.

Higher Education budget proposal ignores Governor’s recommendations, could increase tuition

The House and Senate Republicans’ higher education budget agreement unveiled on Monday ignores not only the Governor’s recommendations, but also the requests from the MnState and University of Minnesota systems. The $125 million target is $193 million less or only 40% of the Governor’s request.

The state grant program, which helps low-and middle-income students afford college tuition, will receive $18.5 million, about $43 million less than the Governor’s request.

Both the MnState and U of M systems could face serious budget cuts and tuition increases if the bill were to become law.

That is it for this weeks Capitol Update. I appreciate everyone that has either emailed or called to voice your opinion on legislative this session. I truly value your thoughts, as it assist me in serving you. As we continue this session please contact me at sen.bobby.champion@senate.mn  or my legislative assistant, Cearah Hamilton at cearah.hamilton@senate.mn  with your concerns or questions.

I hope you all have a wonderful weekend,