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Legislative News and Views - Rep. Cheryl Youakim (DFL)

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Legislative Update- End of Session into Special Session

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Hello Neighbors,

I wanted to briefly update you on what has happened over the last few days that has lead to the end of regular session and beginning of the special session. Over the weekend through yesterday, House and Senate leadership and the Governor were working on a deal to bring session to an orderly close. With midnight approaching, an agreement was tentatively reached on remaining budget bills: Health & Humans Services, E-12 Education, Transportation, State Government Finance, Taxes and Bonding. We adjourned the regular 2017 session at midnight and gaveled in the first special session at 12:01 a.m. We then recessed until 3:00 p.m. today to allow for the bills be finalized and drafted.

I am sitting patiently on the floor as I write this waiting to see the language we will be voting on tonight. Leadership agreed to meet until Wednesday morning at 7:00 a.m. when this special session will conclude with or without a deal.  There has been an agreement put in place that will not allow amendments on the bills. Twitter seems to be a good, instant source of information. Follow the hash tag #mnleg on Twitter to see when the bills are posted or go to for further information.


We came into session at 11:00 a.m. and recessed to caucus. We returned to the floor periodically throughout the day until 1:30 a.m. in the morning when we adjourned. Since we were coming back in at 8:00 a.m. the next morning, I was glad I had brought a pillow and blanket for my office couch and a change of clothes. Below are the bills that came to the House floor on Sunday. They all passed, mostly on party-line votes, and are headed to Governor Dayton’s desk.

Election Bill

I introduced an amendment to add early voting into the bill. This would allow individuals to vote in person at their city hall or county seat fifteen days before Election Day without having to fill out an absentee ballot form. The amendment failed on a party line vote. My DFL colleagues also introduced an amendment that would have allowed automatic registration when you apply for a Minnesota drivers’ license as well as an amendment that would have required more disclosure on who is paying for election materials. The automatic registration bill failed on a party line vote and the disclosure amendment was ruled out of order. Despite the amendments’ failures, the underlying bill passed almost unanimously. I voted yes on final passage. You can read more about the bill here.

Legacy Bill

This bill allocates a total of $529.561 million of constitutionally dedicated funding to the outdoor heritage, clean water, parks and trails and arts and cultural heritage. Projects are voted on by a board made up of citizens and legislators. When the bill left the House floor, there were some recommended projects that were not included and some concerning policy provisions. When the bill came back from conference committee, most of the projects that had been removed were reinserted and the bad policy was gone. Overall it is a good bill. While there are still some concerns over how $22 million of constitutionally dedicated money is being spent, I was comfortable voting yes.

Environment & Natural Resources Bill

When this bill left the House floor it was in pretty bad shape. There were dozens of policy provisions included that had never been heard in committee. Other provisions of the bill drastically changed the Environmental Quality Board, reduced Minnesota Pollution Control Agency funding, and allowed businesses to pay for their own environmental impact statement among other worrisome provisions. Unfortunately, the bill did not come back from conference in any better shape than when it left the House floor so I voted no on final passage.

Higher Education Bill

Our University and State College system, as well as the University of Minnesota, have been chronically underfunded for years. Tuition has gradually increased, making higher education unaffordable and inaccessible for many. When this bill left the House floor, it was millions of dollars short and it did not get much better in conference committee. While a little more money was put into the bill, the U of M is still significantly underfunded leaving many of our students with rapidly rising tuition costs. During a time of surplus, we should be investing in the next generation, and I voted no on final passage because our students deserve better.


We caucused at 7:30 a.m. and came back onto the House floor at 8:00 a.m. We took up a few bills, recessed throughout the day until we adjourned at midnight when the deal for a special session was struck. During the recesses, I caught up on the news on the remaining bills and visited with constituents who had come up for different rallies.

Jobs and Energy Bill

This bill is the epitome of the Good, the Bad and the Ugly. While it puts the money back in for vocational rehab, it raids the Workforce Development Fund and the Renewable Development Fund and discontinues the Made in MN Solar program. It gives a little money to wage theft enforcement and highly mobile students but does not make a large needed investment in broadband. One of the biggest disappointments is what it does to local control. There is a provision in the bill that prohibits cities from placing a fee or ban on the use of plastic bags in their cities. It also allows telecommunications companies to place their equipment in a city’s right-of-way, along our main streets and in front of our homes, with little say. My Republican colleagues also stripped out a provision to protect your online data from being sold. This Jobs & Energy bill does little to grow and support jobs in Minnesota and rolls back clean energy progress. Needless to say, I voted no.

Public Safety Bill

Late Monday, when the bill came back from conference committee, the budget portion of the bill was improved although they removed $1 million that had been set aside for mental health issues in prisons. Fewer cuts were made and our department of corrections system was made whole for now. Even the anti-protest language was taken out. Unfortunately, the anti-immigrant provision regarding drivers’ licenses was tucked in the bill in place of the language that was originally in the Real ID bill. The policy of drivers’ licenses for undocumented immigrants does not belong in this bill any more than it did in the Real ID bill. It should be dealt with in a separate policy bill. The Public Safety bill is supposed to be about funding our courts, prisons and criminal justice system and has traditionally been bipartisan. With this provision included, that tradition was broken and I voted no.

LCCMR Bill (Legislative-Citizen Commission on Minnesota Resources)

The LCCMR bill is a constitutionally dedicated source of money collected from lottery sales used for preservation of our environment and natural resources. I voted no on this bill when it left the House floor originally because it removed over 20 projects that the citizen-legislature board approved. During conference committee, many of these projects were added back in. Projects dealing with solar energy and climate change were then removed. These are projects that were thoroughly vetted by the citizen-legislative board. Playing politics with this fund is disappointing to say the least. I voted no.

Education Rally

On Saturday, there was an energizing and enthusiastic rally at the Capitol. Hundreds of teachers filled the rotunda to push for an increase in education funding. They shared stories of how budget cuts have effected their classrooms. Our state’s future depends on this next generation and we owe it to them to make sure they get what they need to succeed. It is my hope that the Education bill comes back in much better shape in the next few hours then when it last left the House floor.

House Image

House Image

House Image

The next fourteen hours (I am writing this as of 5 p.m. Tuesday) we will be waiting on the House floor for the remaining bills that are part of the special session deal. Our nonpartisan staff has been working around the clock to draft and put the final touches on these bills. They are the true heroes in this process. They feel the direct impact of the majority’s poor time management. I am still hopeful that we will finish by 7:00 a.m. Wednesday. If we don’t, there will either be another limited special session or a pathway to government shutdown.

If you have any questions, please contact me by e-mail With the fluid nature of the next few hours that will be the best way to reach me.

Thank you for hanging in there with me!