2021 Legislative Session Wrap Up

The Minnesota House of Representatives wrapped up their legislative session on July 1st after completing work on the state's $52 billion budget. Below you will find a brief recap on the new bills that are now signed into law:

Agriculture HF 8- June 19, 2021

The Omnibus Agriculture Finance bill appropriates $139.4 million from the General Fund for the 22-23 biennium and contains funding for the Department of Agriculture, The Board of Animal Health, and the Agricultural Utilization Research Institute. The appropriation for the Department of Agriculture includes funds for farmer mental health, enhanced farm-to-school markets, and provisions for noxious weed control. It spends an increase in $12.7 million over base.
 
The bill also provides $700,000 in administrative costs for the Department of Employment and Economic Development to manage the Border-to-Border Broadband Development Grant Program.   A provision in the Jobs bill contains a requirement that DEED apply for $70 million from the Federal American Rescue Plan of 2021 to fund the grants.

Legacy HF 13- June 19, 2021

The Legacy Omnibus bill appropriates money to four different funds, but unlike the other bills, this money does not come from the General Fund. In 2008, Minnesota voters supported an increase in the state’s sales tax by .375% for the preservation of outdoor habitat, clean water, parks and trails, and the arts.  The tax will have to be renewed by voters in 2034 to continue. Following the passage of the Legacy Bill this year, the four funds are receiving: 

  • $127.8 million for the Outdoor Heritage Fund
  • $126.7 million for the Clean Water Fund
  • $73.1 million for the Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund; and
  • $54.8 million for the Parks and Trails Fund


Some of the biggest projects from this bill include $27.5 million for the State Arts Board, $21.7 million for DNR state parks, recreations areas, and trails, $21.7 million for the Metropolitan Council area regional parks, and $21.2 million for the Board of Water and Soil resources grants to watersheds. 

Higher Education HF 7- June 19, 2021

The Higher Education bill appropriated $3.51 billion including $1.58 billion for the Minnesota State system, $1.39 billion to the University of Minnesota, and $546 million to the Office of Higher Education which administers student grant and loan programs. Of the funding for the Office of Higher Education, $420.1 million goes to state grant programs including $29 million for the work-study program and $17 million for interstate tuition reciprocity. This bill also caps tuition increases for Minnesota State students at 3.5% over the next two academic years. (The University of Minnesota regents recently passed a 1.5% increase and Minnesota State Colleges and Universities passed a 3.4% increase.)
 
Several policy changes were included in the bill. Most notably, “Hunger-Free Campus” program to all public postsecondary and nonprofit private institutions to notify work-study students of their eligibility for SNAP benefits. There is a new grant program to allow students who were foster children in the county or tribal social services system to get up to 5 years of college costs paid for by the state. There was a clarification of the student teacher grants program to fund the education of new teachers in subject and geographic areas that are experiencing a shortage.  A scholarship program was created to support more teachers from underrepresented racial or ethnic groups.  Finally, there was a mandate to the Minnesota State Universities and Colleges and the University of Minnesota to report on their expense patterns with regard to administrative costs. The report must be submitted to the House Ways and Means Committee by January 1, 2022.

Commerce, Climate and Energy HF 6- June 21, 2021

This Commerce, Climate and Energy bill has a total fiscal impact of $84.9 million on the General Fund and establishes a program to prevent catalytic converter theft, adds regulation for pharmacy benefit managers, and the establishment of a student loan borrower's bill of rights.
 
This omnibus bill not only addressed commerce, but also appropriates funds in the climate and energy area. $103 million is disbursed through the Renewable Development Account, which is funded by the utilities for the purpose of developing renewable energy sources in Minnesota.
 
During the debate, many concerns were brought up with some of the “green energy solutions” purported by Democrats. One of these provisions included a “Solar on Schools” program, which included $21 million of state funding for solar projects on schools. Representative Mary Franson introduced an amendment to this bill that would require that these tax-payer-funded solar panels be child-labor and slave-labor free. Currently, much of the world’s solar supply comes from the Xinjiang Province in China where they have been found to be using forced labor camps to produce solar panels. Representative Franson’s amendment was voted down on nearly partisan lines, with only one Democrat voting in support.

Transportation HF 10- June 23, 2021

The Transportation Omnibus Bill provides funding for the Department of Transportation, Department of Public Safety, and the Met Council at a cost of $7.27 billion, $220.4 million over base. This bill includes hundreds of millions of dollars for the state’s roads, bridges, and public transportation system.
 
The appropriations include, $18 million for the Small Cities Assistance Program, $14 million for local bridge improvement, $12 million for town roads, and $5.5 million for the Local Road Improvement Program. The bill also includes $10 million in appropriations for a second daily Amtrak service between Minneapolis/St. Paul and Chicago. The Department of Public Safety will receive a one-time General Fund appropriation of $14.8 million for grants to install school bus stop-arm cameras.
 
Thanks to the Senate, no tax increases are included in the bill, such as indexing the gas tax to inflation, which was proposed by Democrats in the House.

Housing HF 4- June 24, 2021

The Housing bill passed the House along largely partisan lines, with most Republicans voting no and all DFLers voting yes. The debate on this bill was largely about how to end the renter's eviction moratorium. Under the agreement, renters will have up to a year to apply for state and federal COVID-19 assistance and get caught up on their rent at RentHelpMN.org.
 
Republicans wanted a much shorter timeline, citing hardship for landlords who still had taxes to pay and buildings to maintain while not receiving ANY income in some cases. They also looked to trying to reduce burdensome regulations to help lower the cost of housing but the focus on the ending the renter’s moratorium derailed that discussion.
 
The bill spends $125.6 million, a $10 million dollar increase in new funding, and calls for the issuance of $100 million in housing infrastructure bonds.  At the time the bill was passed, it was expected that federal funds from the Federal American Recovery Program would flow into the renters help program and the bill states that expectation.

Environment SF 20- June 25, 2021

The Environment bill spends $1.66 billion, of which $367.08 million is spending from the General Fund. The bill lacked some of the most controversial provisions it started with, thanks to the Senate; however, the Senate tried but was not able to do anything to stop the California Emissions Standards which the Governor put into effect through the rulemaking process since the Democrat-led house blocked them.  

The bill increases spending for the DNR by $25.77 million, including a $3.98 million operating adjustment, $2.5 million for accelerated tree planting to capture carbon, and $2 million in state park funding increase. It also increases funding for the Pollution Control Agency by $3.23 million, with just under $2 million being used for local government water infrastructure grants. The bill does not increase the cost of park permits, hunting or fishing fees, or registration fees on boats, kayaks, canoes, or paddleboards. 

The bill also included some policy provisions which have some ominous news for deer farmers, in that they will now be regulated by both the Board of Animal Health AND the DNR, a combination that even the author of the bill, Chair Hansen said was probably not going to work.  His choice would have been to have Deer farms regulated by the DNR instead of Agriculture and Animal.

After the House adjourned, the Senate threatened to not confirm Minnesota Pollution Control Commissioner Laura Bishop, who lead that rulemaking process and she resigned before the Senate took a vote.

Health and Human Services HF 33- June 26, 2021

The Health and Human Services Omnibus Bill spends $18.8 billion, with $16.6 billion coming from the General Fund. A majority of the appropriations go to the Department of Human Services, at $18.1 billion, with $566.7 million being proposed to fund the Department of Health.
 
The bill also includes a $435 payment and a $50 monthly housing benefit increase for welfare recipients. Some other provisions are wage increases for PCAs and home care providers, requiring obstetric care providers to provide anti-racism continuing education for their staff, and providing MA coverage for COVID-19 testing and vaccination as required by the American Rescue Plan.
 
While some of the federal funding comes from the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) block grants as it usually does, some of it is one time money related to increased payments for COVID recovery. When that runs out, either the state will have to cut the program or replace the funding.  As Rep. Pat Garofalo noted, that although the federal government may contribute more down the line “there is no revenue stream that is growing as fast as the spending in this bill…this is a fiscally irresponsible act.” 

Education HF 2- June 26, 2021

The Education Omnibus Bill spends $21 billion, including $554.2 million in new spending for the next two years. The general education basic formula would increase by 2.45% for fiscal year 2022 and 2% for fiscal year 2023. This increase in formula accounts for $462 million of the new spending. The bill also spent $45.9 million to maintain existing voluntary public school  pre-kindergarten at 4000 seats.  Since the Dayton Administration, Democrats have tried to expand pre-K to “universal” status, offered in every school district, competing with other daycare and early learning programs. Republicans have preferred “early learning scholarships” to allow parents to choose the best option for their child. The result has been a stalemate, with a large public program and some early learning scholarships. This year was no different.  

Some other large spending increases in this bill include:  $10.4 million for special education funding; $10 million for the “Grow Your Own” program to recruit and prepare community members to enter teaching and $9 Million for three different programs for recruiting, training, mentoring and retaining teachers of color. 

Unfortunately, the Senate provisions that provided for Education Savings Accounts and school choice support were blocked by the House Democrats and did not make the final agreement.  They also had to compromise their positions on spending, agreeing to an increase in the basic formula, where the Senate had proposed none.  The House bill had been strongly influenced by radical ideology with 92 references to terms used in critical race theory: “Race, Ethnicity, Racism, and “Culturally Responsive”-ness.  The final version of the bill had only 13.  

Jobs SF 9- June 29, 2021

The Jobs bill spends $1.6 billion on programs, 11.3% above the base for the next two years.  The bill funds the Department of Economic Development and the Department of Labor and Industry and includes major amounts of new spending on projects and grants around the state as well as some new regulations for businesses.  It also funds the Unemployment Insurance and Workers Compensation Funds, both of which have been stretched by COVID related claims.
 
The “Main Street COVID-19 Relief Grant Program” was created and given a one-time $70 million appropriation. These grant funds will be distributed to businesses affected by the COVID-19 response and can be used to support payroll expenses, rent or mortgage payments, utility bills, and other expenses aimed at struggling businesses to help them stay afloat. It also establishes the Main Street Economic Revitalization Program to provide loans for economic development and redevelopment in the metro and Greater Minnesota through a one-time $80 million appropriation.
 
This bill included policy provisions as well, including a requirement for public housing to be retrofitted with sprinkler systems. This bill also permits high school students to qualify for unemployment insurance and requires employers with over 15 employees to offer accommodations for pregnancy.
 
The bill also contains a provision requiring the Department of Employment and Economic Development to apply for $70 million from the Federal Government to fund the department’s Border-to-Border Broadband Development Grant Program for broadband service in Greater Minnesota, a program that was moved from the Agriculture and Rural Development bill to the Jobs bill in negotiations with the Senate. The Agriculture bill contains funding for the Office of Broadband development in DEED to administer the grant.
 
The bill passed on a partisan basis, with almost all Republicans voting against it, and all Democrats voting in support. The Senate was thankfully able to keep some of the worst policy and finance provisions out of the bill.


Public Safety & Judiciary HF 63- June 29, 2021

The Public Safety Omnibus bill spends $2.64 billion in General Fund spending and sets a budget for the Department of Public Safety, Department of Corrections, Minnesota Courts, the Board of Public Defense, and the Human Rights Department. This reflects a 3.1% increase in spending over the previous 2-year budget.

Many of the policy changes initially proposed by Democrats were not included in the final bill, and all the anti-police policy was stripped out. Instead, two important policies protect police were included. First, Officer Arik Matson’s law increases the maximum and minimum mandatory sentence for causing great bodily harm to a police officer. In addition, the bill contains a provision that creates penalties for knowingly publishing the home address and other personal information of a police officer’s family (sometimes referred to as “doxing”). Some other good policy provisions included regulating no-knock warrants, reform of civil asset forfeiture laws, and changes for criminal sexual assault statutes. After a recent Minnesota Supreme Court decision, priority was given to closing the “voluntary intoxication loophole,” giving sexual assault survivors the full support of the criminal justice system.

The bill also included a 2.5% raise for judges and court employees and $5 million for salary increases for the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, which does much of the investigation and lab work in high-profile cases that cities and towns cannot handle. In addition, there were pay raises for first responders and additional funding for training programs. It also spends $500,000 for grants to local governments to improve courthouse security.

State Government SF 2- June 29, 2021

The State Government Omnibus bill, which funds many agencies, boards, and commissions, calls for nearly $1.25 billion in General Fund spending in the 22-23 biennium, a $78.5 million increase over the past biennium. It also ended the COVID-19 Peacetime emergency on July 1 but continues some government policies concerning public health and benefits to enable federal aid to continue.

This bill also carries elections-related provisions. The DFL had wanted to solidify election law changes made in court decisions in the last General Election cycle, but the Senate disagreed. Provisions like felon voting, letting 16-year-olds pre-register to vote, and automatic mailing of ballots were also rejected by the Senate. The House and Senate did agree to a process for local election authorities to use absentee drop boxes that includes constant monitoring of the boxes and the need for the boxes to be bolted to a building or concrete pad, and a requirement that the box needs to be emptied at least daily.

This bill increases state spending by $7.86 million for the Attorney General’s office, $11.03 million for the Department of Revenue, $4.52 million for MMB, and $4.25 million for the Office of the Secretary of State. Overall, this bill grows government and passed on a purely partisan vote with Democrats voting for it and Republicans voting against it.

Taxes HF 9- July 1, 2021

The tax bill provided $4.2 billion in refunds, aids, and credits, including $761 million in new tax cuts and credits. The Governor’s budget had included a new 5th income tier and tax hikes on companies and estates. Republicans in the House and Senate fought against the billion-dollar tax increases that Democrats were seeking. Republicans successfully argued that tax increases with a 4 Billion dollar surplus made no sense. There was also no gas tax increase, thanks to their efforts.

The most significant chunk of the $761 million comes from federal conformity on tax exemption for the PPP loans. It allows up to $10,200 of people’s unemployment benefits taken during the pandemic to be tax-free.

Other provisions included: $20 million a year to the counties to fight homelessness, an expansion of the working family credit to 19- and 20-year-olds, funding the “angel” investment credit at $5 million for one year, renewing the film and production credit for $5 million a year for four years, and $6.2 million for planning and development of a land bridge over I-94 where the Rondo neighborhood once stood in Saint Paul.

Our members authored an amendment added to the bill before passage that prohibits sitting legislators from being employed by organizations or firms whose primary activity is legislative lobbying.