It’s safe to say the Minnesota House is off to a slow start. Through the first ten weeks of session, the House had passed just ten bills, the fewest at that point in session since at least 1995 — as far back as records are available on the House website.
Friday, March 26 marked our final legislative day before the Easter/Passover break. It’s safe to say we’ll have plenty to do when we return.
As this is a budget year, we need to craft a new state budget for the upcoming biennium that not only utilizes our projected $1.6 billion state surplus, but also addresses the billions of dollars in one time funding that is being allocated from the federal government through COVID-19 relief. Here in the House, we have not yet approved any bill that would fund an area within state government – such as agriculture, transportation, or health and human services.
Once that occurs, if the House and Senate version of each bill are not identical – and it would be highly unusual if they were — a conference committee consisting of five representatives and five senators will be called in order to create a compromise proposal that can be approved by both bodies. Then once the House and Senate have approved these conference committee reports they are sent to Governor Walz, and he decides whether or not to veto them or sign them into law.
Worth noting: The House DFL has a budget target of $52.5 billion, while the governor wants to spend $52.3 billion and the Senate Republicans have proposed $51.9 billion.
There are other proposals as well that must be addressed. Just last week, House Republicans tried to break the logjam on four bills that we thought need immediate attention. They include exempting forgiven business owner Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loan income from state taxes; pandemic-related Unemployment Insurance tax elimination for our workers; funding in-person summer school and mental health programming for our struggling students; and funding for mutual aid agreements between law enforcement agencies that respond to emergencies.
Unfortunately the House majority voted to not consider these proposals at this time. The issues aren’t going away and they will need to be addressed at some point.
Once the Easter/Passover holiday break has ended, there will be six weeks left in the 2021 legislative session. Will the pace accelerate and will we find consensus on a new budget and other issues that must be addressed before adjournment? Stay tuned.