Even-numbered years in the Minnesota Legislature typically are reserved for policy work and this year is no different. The 2012-2013 budget was settled last year, meaning lawmakers are able to focus on policy work, a capital investment bill and other priorities this year.
It’s assumed that it doesn’t take as much time to complete this work as it does to create a budget, meaning even-numbered years also provide an opportunity for legislators to finish work in a fewer number of days. That is why after only about six weeks of session, committee deadlines are passing and lawmakers are preparing to wind down the 2012 session.
Friday, March 16 marks the first committee deadline. That means legislation must have made it through all relevant policy committees in either the House or the Senate in order to be considered alive. Bills that have not met those criteria cannot be considered without special action.
The following Friday, March 23, is the second deadline, at which time all legislation must have been vetted by relevant policy committees in both the House and Senate in order to be considered viable. Again, bills that have not met those criteria are dead for the year.
March 30 marks the third deadline that requires all legislation with a fiscal impact to have been reviewed by the Tax or Finance Committee in order to continue moving forward. The Tax Committee is going to be busy this week, as it is the final committee that has to find a way to pay for bills that cost money.
I expect the following week, preceding the Easter/Passover break, will be reserved for voting on major bills in the House and Senate chambers, assembling conference committees to work out differences between bills, and sending several pieces of legislation to the Governor.
There are some big items remaining on the agenda this year, even with these tight deadlines. Talk of a Vikings stadium continues, but the bill just began the committee process this week. I agree with the governor that a strong capital investment bill is needed this year in order to create thousands of construction jobs and boost Minnesota’s economy, but again, a bill has yet to be introduced. The remainder of March will be very busy if these items are added to our agenda.
Because this year marks the end of the two-year legislative session cycle, bills that do not meet these deadlines will not exist next year. If an idea is worthy, lawmakers will need to reintroduce the bill when session commences next January.