Legislative Update – February 21, 2018

2018 Legislative Session has begun

The Minnesota Senate and House of Representatives began the 2018 Legislative Session yesterday with floor sessions that consisted of mostly approval of procedural resolutions. In addition, the two new members who won the Feb. 12 special elections were also sworn into office yesterday. Sen. Karla Bigham, DFL-Cottage Grove, and Rep. Jeremy Munson, R-Lake Crystal, took the oath of office following the convening of session. The Senate consists of 34 Republicans and 33 Democrats, while the House has 77 Republicans and 57 Democrats.

As the session gets started, expect to see a funding bill be taken up soon in the hopes of getting something to Governor Mark Dayton’s desk in the coming weeks. The Legislature is currently operating on reserve funds after a lengthy legal battle, where Supreme Court justices sided with Gov. Dayton’s line-item veto last session that eliminated legislative funding for the next two years. House Speaker Kurt Daudt, R-Crown, said he is anticipating lawmakers will send a funding bill to Dayton’s desk either this week or early next week. Dayton has said he’s willing to sign a clean bill. A conference committee has been scheduled for this evening at 8:00 p.m. to discuss the legislative budget. Since the Legislature operates on a biennial cycle, bills from the last regular session may be taken up for action this session without re-introduction.

Other things to watch for this session include the upcoming release of the February economic forecast. A legislative leader panel, which included Gov. Dayton, met with members of the media last week to talk about the 2018 legislative session. All legislative leaders and the Governor agreed that the state’s current financial situation is stronger than the November economic forecast prediction of a $188 million deficit.

The release of the February forecast, which is scheduled for Feb. 28, is used by the Legislature and Governor to ensure enacted budgets remain on track and in balance. The four legislative leaders predicted a surplus of between $600 million and $1 billion. Gov. Dayton did not give a specific number, but said he expects a surplus.

The second year of the biennium is traditionally considered a bonding year, when lawmakers work to pass an infrastructure bill for the state of Minnesota. During the legislative leader panel, Gov. Dayton reiterated his support for the $1.5 billion bonding proposal he made in January to fund a number of projects across the state, including $274.5 million for Minnesota State.

House Speaker Daudt said the Legislature passed “the largest bonding bill in state history” during the 2017 session to make up for not passing a bonding bill the previous year, but indicated that he’s open to discussion.

House Minority Leader, Melissa Hortman, DFL-Brooklyn Park, said a “healthy sized” bonding bill is the single most important thing that can be done to create jobs in Minnesota. Senate Minority Leader Tom Bakk, DFL-Cook, said he’s interested in a billion dollar bonding bill and then looking at an additional bill that funds maintenance around the state.

Lawmakers have three months to pass legislation before adjournment on May 21, 2018. We will continue to keep you updated throughout the session.

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