Week Two: March 1, 2018

  • The Minnesota Senate kicked off the second week of the 2018 session on a light note – former Olympic hockey player Senator David Tomassoni rose on the Senate Floor Monday to congratulate fellow Chisholm native John Shuster and his USA Curling teammates on winning the United States’ first-ever Olympic gold medal in curling. The entire Senate chamber rose to a standing ovation in response to Sen. Tomassoni’s speech.

    On Wednesday, Minnesota Management and Budget (MMB) released a new forecast that projects a $329 million budget surplus for the current biennium. Less than 10 years ago, Minnesota faced a $6 billion budget deficit. The remarkable fiscal turnaround is due in large part to a prudent decision made by Governor Dayton and DFL lawmakers to raise income taxes by 2% on the richest 2% of Minnesotans in 2013.

    State lawmakers are now tasked with determining what to do with the budget surplus. Options include passage of a supplemental budget, adding savings to the state’s rainy-day fund, financing a bonding bill, or leaving the money on the state’s bottom line. What we do know is that federal tax reform and ongoing dysfunction in a Republican-controlled Congress create a lot of uncertainty for state finances. Senate DFL Leader Tom Bakk urged Minnesotans to be cautious in reacting to the new budget figures, adding that state lawmakers should not “overcommit” and instead take prudent steps to ensure a structurally balanced budget.

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    February forecast provides cautionary optimism

    Minnesota Management and Budget released the state’s February forecast this week. The forecast projected a positive balance of $329 million for the current biennium.

    Minnesota named second strongest state in America

    Minnesota is the second-best state in the country, according to the 2018 Best States study from US News and World Report.

    Changes ahead for lieutenant governor vacancies?

    Senator John Marty this week introduced a proposed constitutional amendment to change the process for filling a vacancy in the office of lieutenant governor.

    Net neutrality and consumer protection

    A bill was introduced this week to protect consumers in response to the 2017 Federal Communications Commission reversal of net neutrality.

    MinnesotaCare buy-in gives Minnesotans more health care options

    DFL Legislators participated in a media availability this week to discuss the details of the proposed MinnesotaCare Buy-In with Governor Dayton. Legislators expressed support for the proposal that would expand enrollment eligibility for affordable health insurance coverage through MinnesotaCare.

    Watch a video on the MinnesotaCare buy-in.

    Robots in the Rotunda

    Dozens of students and a handful of robots visited the Capitol this week for STEM Advocacy Day. Robotics teams from Minnesota met with legislators and showcased their robots and other current projects.

    UMD Bulldog Lobby Day

    The University of Minnesota-Duluth Student Association traveled to the Capitol on Thursday, March 1 to participate in Bulldog Lobby Day.

    New high school graduation rates

    Investing in our children and teachers has proven to be successful. The Minnesota Department of Education this week announced that in 2017, Minnesota students posted the highest rates graduation rates on record—82.7%.

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    The State of Agriculture

    The Joint Agriculture Rural Development and Housing Finance and Policy Committee heard from the Department of Agriculture about how low commodity prices are hurting agriculture.

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    Training requirement would help teachers address student dyslexia needs

    A bill requiring Minnesota teachers renewing their teaching licenses to take training to understand dyslexia and identify and access professional services to address it in Minnesota students was heard in the Education Committee this week.

    Bill would enhance human trafficking prevention

    Legislation that allows school districts to include child sexual prevention instruction in health curriculum had its first hearing this week.

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    Photos and fingerprints

    Legislation was heard this week to change the way Minnesota conducts background studies on children of daycare providers.

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    Judiciary bills sent to the floor

    The Senate Judiciary Committee sent two controversial bills heard last year back to the Senate floor on a procedural motion this week.

    HMO quality of care investigations

    The Senate Judiciary Committee heard a bill this week that has been the focus on an investigative story in the Star Tribune.

    Gun safety bills have House hearings

    Employing a seldom used rule, two gun safety bills had hearings this week in the House Public Safety and Security Policy and Finance Committee, despite opposition from the Republican chair of the committee.

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    2017 Omnibus Pension Bill Reconsidered

    The Pension Commission met Tuesday evening to overview the 2018 Omnibus Pension Bill.

    Veterans Committee

    The Senate Veterans Committee met this week to hear presentations from some of the programs that have been established to help our state’s veterans.

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    MNLARS Update

    Both the House Transportation Finance Committee and the Senate Transportation Policy and Finance Committee heard updates on the Minnesota Licensing and Registration System (MNLARS) this week.

    Potential transit cuts in Transportation

    The Senate Transportation Policy and Finance Committee heard a bill this week that has the potential to adversely affect transit in the Metro area.