THIS WEEK IN THE LEGISLATURE
We have less than 10 days left in this legislative session and must adjourn as midnight strikes on Monday, May 21st. The Republican House and Senate majorities have both passed their respective supplemental budget bills, their tax bills, and are in the process of unveiling their public infrastructure jobs bills. With less than two weeks to go, they’re going to have to not only reconcile all of their differences, but agree to something Governor Dayton will sign.
OMNIBUS PENSIONS BILL PASSES HOUSE COMMITTEES
The Omnibus Pensions bill (SF 2620) passed out of two House Committees this week.
On Monday, the bill passed unanimously from the Government Operations and Elections Policy committee that I serve on. Many groups testified in favor of the bill, including the Executive Directors from all four of the public pension funds - the Minnesota State Retirement System (MSRS), the Public Employees Retirement Association (PERA), the Teachers Retirement Association (TRA), and the St. Paul Teachers Retirement Fund Association (SPTRFA). They all supported the bill because if passed into law, it will reduce the plans’ unfunded actuarial accrued liabilities and increase the plans’ funding ratios.
Today the bill passed out of the State Government Finance committee on a unanimous voice vote. During the hearing, the House Republicans bent over backwards to blame the Governor for vetoing the past two pension bills in 2016 (placed the entire solution on the backs of the retirees) and 2017 (merged into a bill on preemption of local options on minimum wage and sick leave), questioning whether the Governor was going to veto this bill as well. The Governor has committed to signing this bill if the legislative majorities don’t play political games with it.
UNIVERSITY OF MINNESOTA REGENT SELECTION
A Joint Convention of the Legislature convened yesterday to select a University of Minnesota Regent to fill the vacancy created by the resignation of Patricia Simmons from the First Congressional seat. Five applications were submitted for consideration, but the Regent Advisory Council did not meet to screen them or make recommendations.
On May 7, the House and Senate Higher Education Committees met jointly to recommend candidates to be forwarded to the Joint Convention of the full House and Senate. The joint committee recommended two of them on a bipartisan basis: Mary Davenport, interim president of Rochester Community and Technical College and Dr. Brooks Edwards, a Mayo Clinic cardiologist.
Instead of electing one of the two recommended candidates, Republicans nominated on the floor and then elected their preferred candidate: Randy Simonson, CEO of Cambridge Technologies in Worthington. This is troubling for a few reasons. The Republicans anointed a candidate that was not recommended by the joint higher education committee. Additionally, Mr. Simonson suggested during the screening process that campuses may need to close, and that the University should shy away from important, lifesaving research. With this appointment, now only two out of twelve regents are women. We now need to do more to ensure we have diverse and qualified candidates to advance the needs of our university.
ABORTION ULTRALSOUND BILL
Yesterday, the House Republican majority passed HF 3194, the Abortion Ultrasound Bill. This bill requires a physician to notify a pregnant woman of her opportunity to view or decline to view an ultrasound of her unborn child, if at any time before an abortion is performed the woman had an ultrasound, or if ultrasound imaging will be used during an abortion of the woman’s unborn child.
While on the surface this may sound like a reasonable measure, I voted NO on this bill because it is more about intimidating women in order to discourage them from securing an abortion than it is about “informed consent”. It seems to be built upon an assumption that the woman has not already thought carefully about her decision. Patients deserve their physicians’ best medical judgement and counsel, not unnecessary requirements mandated by elected officials. All women in Minnesota should have the right to make their own health care decisions without interference from government officials, their boss or anyone else.
REAL ID UPDATE
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security just granted Minnesota an extension until October 1, 2020 as it works to roll out REAL ID later in 2018. This means that Minnesotans will not have problems using their current driver’s licenses/state IDs to board commercial airplanes or enter federal facilities while REAL ID implementation is in the works.
While the federal extension is welcomed news, the Minnesota Department of Public Safety is continuing its work to roll out REAL ID in October of this year. In a press release, DPS also outlined these points:
State general fund revenues were $252 million above the forecast amount for April 2018.
The latest Department of Management and Budget (MMB) information compares actual receipts for April to receipts forecasted by the February 2018 general fund forecast.
In addition to this positive $252 million for April, revenues for February and March of 2018 were $6 million above the forecasted amount. So the cumulative change in revenue since the February forecast for fiscal year 2018 is a positive $258 million.
The net $252 million positive variance for April is the sum of the variances in several areas. The chart below reflects the forecasted amount, actual revenue and the difference (dollars are in millions).
MMB cautions that monthly revenue numbers are preliminary and subject to revision.
April is the month when most individual income tax returns with payments are received and processed. MMB reports that the combination of payments and refunds connected to 2017 income tax returns is about $219 million more than forecast.
While corporate tax revenue was above forecast in April, it was $40 million below forecast in February and March.
NORTHSIDE FRESH COALITION’S PLANT DISTRIBUTION –MAY 19
Northside Fresh Coalition is having an event on May 19 with music, free food, and child activities. They will also have a wide variety of produce and herb seedlings for sale. You can find more information on the Facebook event.
I encourage you to contact me with any questions, comments, concerns, or ideas on any legislative topic. Also, I am available during select hours on Monday and Friday mornings most weeks for in-district meetings, if Northside residents aren’t able to make it to the Capitol. If you would like to send me a message or set up an in-district meeting, you can reach me by phone at 651-296-4262 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. I look forward to hearing from you!