The 2018 legislative session adjourned at midnight on Sunday, May 20 with - as usual - multiple bills passing in the final minutes. The afternoon before adjournment, I sent an update about where a number of issues stood at that time. Now that Governor Dayton has acted on the last of the bills to pass, I’m writing to update you on those same issues.
Omnibus” Budget & Policy Bill: Governor Dayton made good on his promise to veto the 989-page bill encompassing every area of the state budget. This bill contained many law changes, some needed and some highly controversial. The Governor had repeatedly urged legislative leaders to separately consider the issues on which we would more likely find consensus, like the opioid crisis and elder abuse (see below). Unfortunately, the Republican leadership insisted on combining all of these issues, putting the final version on our desks just hours before a vote. Minnesotans deserve better.
Taxes and Emergency School Aid: Minnesota needs to make conforming changes to its tax laws following recent changes in federal law. In doing so, however, the Republican majority doubled down on the benefits that that federal law is already giving to corporations and the wealthiest, rather than to working families. Additionally, the Governor had called for the Legislature to prioritize emergency school aid over these tax breaks. The Republican majority ultimately merged these two issues, sending its tax bill to the Governor along with a school-funding package that fell far short of what the Governor had requested (and what our students need). The Governor followed through on his earlier commitment to veto the bill.
Elder Abuse: Despite the clear need for reform of Minnesota’s elder-care industry, the majority’s “omnibus” budget bill referenced above would have done little more than appoint a series of task forces on this issue. This failure was deeply disappointing; our parents and grandparents deserve to live with dignity and in safety. As it is, these provisions earned the opposition of the AARP and other advocacy groups for seniors - which wanted much more significant reforms - and they were included in the Governor’s veto.
Pensions: One accomplishment this session was passage of a measure to strengthen our state’s public employee pension system. This bill – over three years in the making – will ensure our teachers, law enforcement personnel, correctional officers, and other dedicated state workers can count on economic security when they retire. The bill also protects taxpayers by cutting our state’s long-term pension obligations about in half and is projected to be fully funded into the 2040s. Governor Dayton signed this bill into law this morning at the State Capitol.
Bonding Bill: As is often the case, especially in even-numbered years, a capital investment bonding bill passed in the session’s final hours and was recently signed into law (with one line-item veto). I’m pleased that the bill will fund important infrastructure, both statewide and in St. Paul, including some funding for school-safety grants. But I’m disappointed by two aspects of the bill in particular. First, it included only very limited funding for the deteriorating RiverCentre parking ramp, which is critical to downtown. Second, it used Environmental & Natural Resources Trust Fund resources (state lottery proceeds) to pay debt service and interest - the first time that this has ever been done and a questionable approach under the state constitution, which requires these funds to directly pay for conservation projects.
Gun Violence: Despite many opportunities over the course of the session - and even in light of yet another school shooting occurring just before the final weekend - the Republican legislative leadership refused to allow the advancement of any meaningful legislation to address gun violence. Our children and communities deserve so much better. I’ll continue to champion broadly-supported and effective proposals like criminal background checks and extreme risk protection orders. Please join me in continuing to pressure policymakers at every level to do the same.
Cell Phone Use While Driving, Opioids, & Sexual Harassment: The prior update contained a good update on these three issues and the strong, bipartisan proposals relating to them. As I had anticipated, the Republican leadership didn’t allow any of those proposals to go forward. As discussed by the Star Tribune in a recent editorial on the opioid issue, it’s appalling that special interests (the pharmaceutical industry, in that case) can block such popular, needed legislation.
I’ll continue to process the session in the coming weeks. For now, I’ll simply note that almost all of the bills resulting from months of work were combined in the final days into two giant bills - the “omnibus” budget bill and the tax / school funding bill - which the Governor had made clear that he would veto. When the Governor followed through on that commitment, the result was that the Republican majority had very little to show for the session. Again, you and all of our constituents deserve far better.
Thank you for the honor of serving our community,
State Representative, District 64B
321 State Office Building
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