2019 Legislative Session convenes today
The House and Senate are scheduled to convene the 2019 legislative session at noon today. In the House, 39 new members will be sworn in. The Democrats will control the House for the first time in four years. They now hold 75 seats to the Republicans’ 59 seats. The Senate was not up for reelection this past fall, but there will be one new Senator when the Senate convenes today. Senator Jeff Howe, R-Rockville, won the special election this past fall. Republicans will maintain the majority in the Senate.
The focus of this session will largely be on setting the state’s two-year budget. Last month, Minnesota Management and Budget projected the state to have a $1.54 billion surplus for the next biennium, which begins July 1. Based on this forecast, Governor Walz is required to submit his budget proposal to the Legislature by February 19. Another forecast will be issued late February, which will help legislators put together a budget.
In addition to passing a budget, one of the other issues lawmakers and Governor Walz will be focused on is tax reform. The passage of the federal tax reform bill in 2017 created an urgent need for conformity at the state level. Despite this urgency and significant efforts last session, the Legislature and Governor could not come to an agreement on a conformity bill, thus leaving Minnesotans with a challenging filing process for this year’s tax season and for many, a tax increase. While a fix is not expected in time to ease the filing process for this year, the Legislature is expected to act this session to try to bring Minnesota in conformity with the federal changes.
Yesterday, Tim Walz and Peggy Flanagan were officially sworn into office as Governor and Lieutenant Governor. Running on the campaign slogan of “One Minnesota,” Governor Walz has said he plans to govern by finding the middle-ground and working toward unifying solutions. Lt. Governor Flanagan, who is a member of the White Earth Band of Ojibwe, is the first Native American woman elected to a statewide executive office in Minnesota. Leading the advisory panel on the new administration’s hiring and budget decisions, she is expected to continue to play a crucial role in the office.
Yesterday, Mark Dayton issued a brief statement marking his departure from public office. “My Fellow Minnesotans, THANK YOU. I am deeply grateful for the chance to serve as our great state’s Governor for the past eight years. In 2010, I promised “A Better Minnesota.” Working together, we have kept that pledge.”
This morning at 9:30 a.m. Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka, R-Nisswa, and members of the Senate Republican caucus will highlight the first five Senate bills of the 2019 session. The press conference will be available via webcast.
Lawmakers have approximately five months to pass a budget before adjournment on May 20, 2019. Watch for legislative updates to be sent throughout the session.
Traditionally, lawmakers take a recess during session for the Easter and Passover holidays so lawmakers can spend time in their districts. This year, the recess is scheduled to begin on Saturday, April 13 and go through Monday, April 22. Legislative activity may resume at 8:00 a.m. on Tuesday, April 23.
Some of the key dates for the 2019 legislative session include:
January 8, 2019 2019 Legislative Session Convenes
February 2019 Governor’s State of the State Address
February 19, 2019 Governor Releases Final Budget
February 28, 2019 February Economic Forecast Released
April 13-22, 2019 Legislative Break
Mary 20, 2019 Last Day of Session
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