April 21, 2017
Legislators returned back to St. Paul after a week-long Passover/Easter break. The House and Senate have completed their omnibus or committee bills. Now conference committees begin their work. They will determine the final content of bills that ultimately will make their way to the Governor. There is a lot of work ahead as we move into the final weeks of the 2017 legislative session.
This week, the Senate got right-to-work by appointing legislators to conference committees. Committee membership is determined by the committee chairs with concurrence by the Majority and Minority Leaders, and ultimately by a vote of the entire Senate. In most cases, they are comprised of members of both the majority and minority parties.
I am serving on the Senate Tax Conference Committee. The committee’s bill offers $900 million in relief to 81% of Minnesota taxpayers. The package includes the first income tax cut in nearly two decades, phases out the tax on Social Security income, and provides a tax credit for student loan debt. It also brings tax relief to small businesses — boosting the economies of Minnesota’s regional centers and small towns. Altogether, 2.3 million households and 350,000 seniors will see relief.
According to statistical reports, Minnesota is one of the least tax friendly states in the nation. The proposed tax bill will work to improve this.
You can follow the work of the Conference Committees here:
Earlier than any session in recent memory, we passed an entire state budget. The budget checks in at just over $45 billion over the next two years. For more detailed information on the Senate Republican budgets, click here. Among the notable provisions:
- A $900 million tax plan that brings permanent relief to 81% of Minnesota taxpayers.
- A transportation budget that invests $1.3 billion over the next two years, and $3.6 billion over a ten-year period, in 8,800 lane miles and 200 bridges – without raising taxes.
- An education budget that, over the next two years, invests $18.5 billion in K-12 students, teachers, and schools, and $3.17 billion on higher education.
- A $208 million jobs bill that boosts funding for rural broadband access, the Minnesota Investment Fund, and the Job Creation Fund, and an emphasis on public-private partnerships.
- A $14 billion health and human services budget aimed at prioritizing programs that help Minnesotans with disabilities, the elderly, at-risk youth in poverty, and that address the statewide opioid crisis and sex trafficking.
|Health & Human Services||$11,766,111||$13,724,518||$13,989,310||$13,912,500|
|Ag, Rural Dev. & Housing||$224,444||$215,143||$220,068||$240,008|
|Environment & Nat. Resource||$386,813||$292,752||$274,053||$378,603|
|Energy & Utilities||$30,303||$28,946||$26,302||$26,822|
|Jobs & Economic Growth||$304,893||$209,300||$208,115||$301,186|
|State Gov. & Elections||$1,159,153||$742,734||$802,058||$947,135|
|Veterans & Military Affairs||$206,117||$194,266||$194,166||$210,545|
|Judiciary & Public Safety||$2,172,328||$2,274,652||$2,224,130||$2,430,612|
|Debt service/cap. projects||$1,389,935||$140,000||$240,155||$0|
(Increase of 7.03%)*
(Increase of 7.95%)*
(Increase of 10.26%)*
Dollars in 000s
*increase over current budget
The Week’s Senate Floor Action
Uniform State Labor Standards Act
The Fair and Uniform State Labor Standards Act, legislation that establishes uniform labor laws across Minnesota, passed the Senate in a bipartisan vote on Thursday. The bill, known as “preemption,” means that local governments may not pass ordinances which affect wages, benefits, or work schedules that apply to employees of businesses within their geographical boundaries.
The principal argument favoring this bill has to do with the importance of maintaining consistency across Minnesota. Without this consistency it would be very difficult, for instance, to apportion during a course of a given work day the differences in salary and benefits that may exist as an employee’s travel across our state’s 853 cities and 87 counties.
The bill differs in language from the House, setting up a conference committee that will meet to come up with a bill that both sides can agree on.
Educator licensure reform
One factor in the shortage of qualified teachers across Minnesota is our teacher licensure process. Last year, the Office of the Legislative Auditor noted that the process was confusing and flawed, prompting legislative efforts to overhaul the system and make it easier for teachers to be licensed.
This week, the Senate passed a bill that establishes a new “Professional Educator Licensing and Standards Board,” which will take on the responsibilities currently shared by the Board of Teaching and the Department of Education.
In addition, the bill creates a “tiered” licensing system. These changes will give school districts more flexibility in their hiring and will create consistency in the statewide licensure process, especially benefiting qualified, out-of-state applicants.
Visitors at the Capitol
Senator Senjem spoke at the Twin Cities Habitat for Humanity Housing Rally and visited with the Minnesota Street Rod Association at the Capitol.
David H. Senjem
3401 Minnesota Senate Building
St. Paul, MN 55155