Minnesotans enjoy a high-level of quality of life here in this state, and that’s due in large part to the work DFL legislators have done with Governors Walz and Dayton to invest in the state. Senate Republicans have continued to denigrate the important work of state employees, who ensure Minnesotans receive the high-quality services they expect and deserve.
The 2019 special session State Government Omnibus Bill averted detrimental cuts to state services and controversial policy provisions that were proposed by the Senate Republican majority. Some of these cuts included:
- Penalizing state agencies for unfilled positions over 180 days by clawing back appropriations
- Freezing the state government workforce as of June 30, 2019
- Prohibiting agencies from adopting rules relating to residential construction without legislative approval
- Preventing interim enactment of collective bargaining agreements if the Subcommittee on Employee Relations does not meet
- Eliminating state aid to PERA for the MERF merger
- The Senate GOP-proposed Historical Society cuts due to the addition of the name ‘Bdote’ to Fort Snelling
- Limiting the authority of the MN.IT chief information officer and the agency’s ability to enter into service-level agreements with state agencies
Despite the projected budget surplus, it is possible the Republican Senate majority will make a renewed push to implement some of these burdensome and unnecessary cuts and advocate for controversial policy changes within state agencies. The Senate DFL Caucus is committed to ensuring state employees have the necessary resources to continue to provide the highest quality of services to Minnesotans.
Legislative Budget Office
The Legislative Budget Office (LBO) Transition Planning Task Force has facilitated the creation of the new office and clarified the duties of the new agency. The responsibility to create fiscal and local impact notes statutorily transferred from Minnesota Management and Budget to the LBO on September 1, 2019. This will be the first session that the LBO has exclusive responsibility for the development of fiscal notes for proposed legislation.
State Employee Contracts
In October, MMB and SEIU concluded negotiations on new public employee labor contracts for 2020-21 for AFSCME Council 5, AFSCME Council 25, MAPE, and the Middle Management Association. The contracts provide for a 2.25% and 2% across-the-board increase in both fiscal years and step increases from 2.7-3.6% for eligible employees. Since the Legislative Coordinating Commission Subcommittee on Employee Relations (SER) did not approve the contracts during the interim within 30 days of a tentative agreement, the AFSCME and MAPE contracts went into effect in November of 2019.
Minnesota State reached labor agreements with the Inter Faculty Organization to provide 1.9% and 2.0% across-the-board increases for 2020-21, respectively, and the Minnesota State University Association of Administrative and Service Faculty to provide an across-the-board increase of 1.5% in 2020. Since the SER did not approve the contracts during the interim, the contracts were implemented in early January.
The Legislature must approve these contracts prior to adjournment of the 2020 session for these collective bargaining agreements to remain in effect.
Met Council Restructure
Republicans contend the Met Council is an unelected government agency with the ability to tax residents and spend indefinitely on unnecessary transportation projects without accountability. They argue locally and regionally elected officials should comprise the majority of Met Council membership because the council has regional taxation authority.
Advocates of the current Met Council structure contend that current appointees are accountable through the governor and must have a regional, rather than parochial, outlook regarding metropolitan planning. By allowing city officials on the Council, the Legislature would insert members that would have conflicts of interest between local and regional concerns. Elected officials serving as members of the Met Council would be acting in incompatible positions as the regulator and as the regulated.
The Senate DFL Caucus supports numerous reforms to the governance structure of the Met Council to make it more accountable to the public; staggered terms for members, adding more citizens and locally elected officials to the nominations committee, and making the nominations process more transparent.
Ban on local fees for plastic bag usage
During the 2017 session, the Republican-controlled Legislature was successful in passing legislation that prohibited cities from banning the use of plastic bags and other auxiliary containers. The new law preempted the 2016 Minneapolis ordinances that banned plastic bags and imposed a five-cent tax on paper bags. Minneapolis and Duluth have since passed ordinances imposing user fees on single-use containers, and recent pushback on these ordinances from Republican lawmakers and other outside groups indicates the issue could come up again in 2020.
Despite its failure to pass during the previous few sessions, preemption continues to be a top priority for certain Republican lawmakers. In 2019, Senate Republicans inserted language into the Jobs omnibus bill that would have retroactively stripped local governments of their power to pass progressive labor benefit policies. Due to DFL efforts, the language did not make it into the final bill and did not become law.
Preemption undermines local governments’ ability to raise wages and provide better benefits for workers in their community. Should Republicans choose to fight for preemption again during the 2020 session, the Senate DFL will continue to stand firm with local governments in fighting to improve conditions for working families.