MN Government Updates 04.21

Legislative Leaders Outline Priorities for Remainder of Session

In an interview with the Star Tribune, Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka (R-Nisswa) and House Speaker Melissa Hortman (DFL-Brooklyn Park) offered their perspectives on the remaining priorities for the 2020 Legislative Session.

Gazelka said the upper chamber will stay focused on a small list of priorities.

  • A bonding bill, which he called “one stimulus thing we can do for Minnesota.”
  • Weighing in on the use of COVID-19 funds so the governor doesn’t decide how to spend “unilaterally.” “We think the House and Senate should have oversight.”
  • A number of tax provisions, including delays without penalty for impacted businesses and aligning state law with federal deductions for large equipment purchases. “Things we can help them [with] as they get their businesses back going,” he said.

Hortman said her caucus is focusing on catching up on committee work this week and getting bills that “meet the needs of Minnesotans” in shape for floor votes. Those targets include:

  • Guaranteeing pay for hourly school workers, which Hortman called “the highest priority.” Walz and the Department of Education have said their expectation is that most of these workers are paid. House DFLers are pushing to put the executive order into law. Senate Republicans say it’s not necessary.
  • Passing $100 million in assistance for renters and homeowners.
  • Hortman also thinks a bonding bill is in the cards: “I feel we’re making really good progress in our conversations with the House GOP to get a House position where we can pass a bonding bill.”
  • The speaker said worker safety is also high on her radar in light of the outbreaks at pork processing plants.

Senate Finance Committee Hears from State Budget Officials

Today, the Senate Finance Committee convened to discuss the May budget projection and pass Senate File 4486.

Minnesota Management and Budget officials are planning on presenting a new budget projection for this biennium to the legislature in May. It will include new projections of income, sales, and corporates taxes and any incomes sensitive to the pandemic. It will also focus on large expenditures and other economic variables. The level of uncertainty with this budget projection is much higher than usual, as the U.S. economic outlook is highly volatile and data is unclear or delayed. Commissioner Myron Frans made it clear that the May budget projection will be the first step in an ongoing process to assess and solve the economic damage that the pandemic has caused.

Additionally, the committee passed Senate File 4486, which would create a state COVID-19 relief account for the $2.17 billion from the federal Cares Act. The funds in the account could only be used to pay for COVID-19 related expenses incurred by the state and could only be spent through appropriation by law. While there is currently an advisory commission of legislators to review federal funding, it has no actual control over how the funds are spent. Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka said on the Senate floor on Monday that this is a priority item for him before session ends.

Daily Press Briefing

  • Due to scheduling conflicts, Governor Walz was unable to participate in the Minnesota Department of Health daily press briefing today.
  • Commissioner Jan Malcolm announced 2,567 laboratory-confirmed cases of COVID-19. This is 97 more than yesterday’s report.
  • Additionally, there have been 17 more deaths since yesterday’s report. This brings the state total to 160. 113 of the 160 deaths are associated with long-term care.
  • Currently, 237 patients are being hospitalized for COVID-19 – with 117 in the ICU.
  • When asked about the plan for growing testing in the next day or two, Commissioner Malcolm said the University of Minnesota and Mayo Clinic will be providing information on what they’ve been doing to add capacity and the sharing the research they’re doing to improve a variety of tests to suit different environments.

Amos A. Briggs | Government Relations
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