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Capitol Notes Archives
Voter ID amendment approved by first committee
Minnesotans could vote on whether to amend the state constitution to require voters to show a government-issued photo ID card. (view full story)
Dayton unveils supplemental budget plan
Gov. Mark Dayton unveiled a $60 million supplemental budget plan that would fund a new jobs tax credit and human services programs by closing corporate tax loopholes. (view full story)
Committee approves spreading out vehicle lease tax
Committee approval was given to a bill that would allow customers to pay the sales tax on certain rent-to-own and lease-to-own used motor vehicles incrementally. (view full story)
Efforts proposed to make buyout agreements public information
Bill would address buyout and settlement agreements of more than $10,000 of public money making the reasons for the agreement public information. (view full story)
House passes Voter ID bill
Members of the House voted 72-62 to put a question on this November’s ballot asking Minnesotans whether government-issued photo ID should be required for voting.
Fiscal situation improves, but more trouble looms
The state’s short-term fiscal outlook has improved, but another recession could easily reverse its fortunes, officials told a joint legislative panel.
Members of the Legislative Advisory Commission were given an update on the state’s cash flow outlook. Jim Schowalter, commissioner of Minnesota Management & Budget, said the state ended its fiscal year in June with an extra $233 million in the treasury. He said the improved cash balance will likely preclude the need for any emergency short-term borrowing in the current fiscal year.
“We’re looking at improved numbers from where we were last year,” Schowalter said, calling the latest projections “good news.”
Over the last several years, the slumping economy has precipitated a drawdown in the state’s cash reserves. To keep the state operating, budget officials have resorted to moving money back and forth between different state accounts (inter-fund borrowing) and temporarily delaying certain payments and tax refunds.
In 2010, the state arranged for an emergency line of credit with U.S. Bank. With as little as 24 hours’ notice, the state can borrow up to $600 million to keep state coffers from running dry. So far, it hasn’t been used, but state officials renewed the deal for the current fiscal year just in case.
Today, members of the commission voted to authorize MMB to retain the current line of credit. Schowalter emphasized that borrowing would be MMB’s option of last resort — and in any case, probably won’t be necessary.
“At this point, I do not anticipate cash flow borrowing… but there are low points, and there are risks around these numbers,” he said.
Although the state’s budget situation appears to be looking up, the state’s long-term economic outlook is less rosy.
State Economist Tom Stinson said much slower growth is now projected for the U.S. economy this year — and in fact, another recession may be coming. He said increasing gas prices, the tsunami in Japan, the debt crisis in Europe and political gridlock in Washington, D.C., have all cast doubt on the prospects for recovery. (Read the latest economic update from MMB.)
The extra cushion in the state’s cash accounts might not last very long if the economy tanks again.
“We still have a little bit of space on the forecast, but the economic outlook has turned down pretty substantially,” Stinson said.
He said the odds of another recession starting as early as this fall are now estimated to be between 40 percent and 50 percent, which he called “extremely high” from a statistical standpoint.
“These are significant changes in the economic outlook. These, in economists’ terms, are ‘non-trivial,’” Stinson said.
He added that additional economic stimulus, in the form of a federal extension of the payroll tax cut enacted in December, will likely be needed if a recession is to be avoided.
Highlights of the Legislative Session (All laws go into effect on August 1st, 2011)
Health Care: $11.3 billion
Education: $13.6 billion
Possible Government Shutdown
Leaders call on Dayton to release detailed budget plan
Republican legislative leaders called on Gov. Mark Dayton to release more details on his proposed budget, and said Dayton is playing politics with a potential government shutdown.
At a press conference, the leaders said Dayton hasn’t offered a detailed budget proposal in more than 90 days. House Speaker Kurt Zellers (R-Maple Grove) called it a “very sad and troubling milestone.”
In May, Dayton offered to cut his proposed tax increases in half, from $3.6 billion to $1.8 billion, but did not identify specifically which programs he would cut. Zellers called on Dayton to do just that.
“It’s only fair to us — more importantly, to the people of Minnesota — that he come to the table and show us where his priorities are,” he said.
Unless Dayton and lawmakers enact a new biennial budget by July 1, a state government shutdown may be necessary. Zellers said Republicans are “absolutely committed” to avoiding a shutdown, but also restated their opposition to tax increases, which he said would “squash economic recovery.”
Senate Majority Leader Amy Koch (R-Buffalo) said Dayton should call lawmakers back into session to pass budget bills on which there is agreement or near agreement. She said Republicans might also be open to a “lights-on” bill to fund government temporarily, but emphasized there is still time for a complete budget agreement.
“All options for us are on the table because a shutdown is completely unnecessary,” Koch said.
Sen. Geoff Michel (R-Edina) suggested the governor is making a “raw political power move” to shut down state government.
“He is sprinting toward the shutdown with a pessimistic tone and outlook. This state needs more optimism and more positivity from its chief executive,” Michel said.
2011 Legislative Session: New Laws Effective July 1, 2011
All but one of the major appropriation bills that would have taken effect July 1, 2011, were vetoed by the governor. However, several bills passed during the 2011 legislative session will take effect on that date. The asterisk following the bill number denotes the language that became law. By early July, summaries of all laws passed by the 2011 Legislature during its regular session will be available online from nonpartisan House Public Information Services at www.house.leg.state.mn.us/hinfo/Newlaws2011-0.asp.
The new law also authorizes funding for research and innovation for switching from corn to cellulosic materials, such as perennial plants, in order to produce bioenergy.
The omnibus agriculture and rural development finance law, sponsored by Rep. Rod Hamilton (R-Mountain Lake) and Sen. Doug Magnus (R-Slayton), is the only major appropriation bill to receive the governor’s approval during the regular session.
Two year appropriations to protect agricultural investments include:
Grant programs are funded to develop and market locally grown products for retail sale. Annual cost-share payments will also be available to those who seek certification status as an organic farmer.
The Board of Animal Health, which manages prevention and eradication of animal disease outbreaks such as chronic wasting disease or bovine tuberculosis, will receive $4.8 million each year during the next biennium.
AURI is being funded at $2.6 million each of the next two years. The institute is an agricultural research organization that provides scientific and technical assistance to Minnesota industries and entrepreneurs. It has offices in Crookston, Marshall and Waseca.
Policy changes in the law include allowing farmers to bury concrete and rebar from a former structure in their land. The solid waste burial must be recorded within 90 days with the county and show the boundary of the burial location. HF1039/SF1016*/CH14
Sponsored by Rep. Denny McNamara (R-Hastings) and Sen. Bill Ingebrigtsen (R-Alexandria), the law also allows the Department of Natural Resources to set fees for all-terrain vehicle environmental and safety education and training according to actual program costs, rather than the previously prescribed $15 fee.
As of July 1, children ages 12-17 can operate a Class 1 ATV, but any single passenger must be the person’s parent or legal guardian.
Synthetic marijuana, also known as K2 or Spice, is a mix of common herbs sprayed with synthetic chemicals that mimic the effects of marijuana. It is sold in head shops and in stores as incense or potpourri. There is no minimum age to purchase the product.
Rep. John Kriesel (R-Cottage Grove), who sponsors the law with Sen. Dan Hall (R-Burnsville), said the product has been known to cause serious health problems, including seizures. In the first 11 months of 2010 there were more than 2,500 calls nationwide to poison control centers because of synthetic marijuana use. It has been banned in 17 countries and 11 other states.
The law also adds the definition of “analog” to the controlled substances chapter of state law, allowing the Board of Pharmacy to automatically add a substance to a list of Schedule I drugs that are illegal without having to first get legislative approval. HF57*/SF1166/CH53
Ignition interlock required for some drunk drivers
Under the law, repeat DWI offenders and first-time offenders whose alcohol concentration is at least double the legal limit will have to use an ignition interlock device to drive legally in the state. The law is a statewide expansion of a successful pilot program in Hennepin and Beltrami counties.
An ignition interlock device is installed in motor vehicles to prevent them from being started if a driver’s breath exceeds a preset breath-alcohol content limit, which will be 0.02 percent. A driver will also have to breathe into the device at certain times once the vehicle is started. If a driver fails a test, the vehicle will shut down. Device features deter others from starting the vehicle, and a misdemeanor penalty is provided for someone tampering with the device, except for emergency purposes or repair. A misdemeanor penalty also applies for someone who knowingly lets a person requiring ignition interlock to operate a vehicle without the device.
Under the law, first-time offenders whose alcohol concentration is below twice the legal limit will have a choice of getting a limited license, as is in current law, or getting full driving privileges provided they use the ignition interlock device.
The law permits a holder of a B-Card to apply to have the no-alcohol restriction removed from their driving record if the person has not violated the abstinence condition for the past 10 years. A B-Card is issued to a multiple-DWI offender who wants to keep driving and pledges not to drink any alcohol. A no-alcohol restriction is visible on the card.
Alcohol-related crashes account for approximately one-third of all state traffic deaths each year.
Small Business Jobs Bill Passes Senate, Includes Klobuchar Export Bill
Legislation includes bipartisan Klobuchar-LeMieux export bill to help small businesses access new markets overseas
Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar today voted to pass the Small Business Jobs Act, legislation intended to help small businesses access capital, stimulate investment through tax incentives, and promote entrepreneurship. The small business package also includes the Export Promotion Act, which was introduced by Klobuchar and Senator George LeMieux (R-FL) to help small- and medium-sized businesses promote their products overseas.
“Small businesses are the engines of job creation in Minnesota and across the nation, and they can lead the way to economic recovery,” Klobuchar said. “By passing this legislation, we are giving small businesses access to credit, which is essential to helping fuel economic growth and creating jobs.”
The Small Business Jobs Act includes provisions that would:
The Klobuchar-LeMieux provisions in the bill would connect businesses with export promotion and outreach resources through the Department of Commerce to help them expand into new markets and increase their bottom lines. Officials in the department’s International Trade Administration have expertise in helping small businesses navigate their way into new markets abroad. More than 95 percent of the world’s customers are located outside the United States, and recently, 30 percent of U.S. businesses indicated that they would be interested in exporting but did not know where to begin
.“In an increasingly competitive global economy, it is important that small businesses have access to the information and tools that can help them capitalize on potential opportunities in foreign markets,” Klobuchar said. “This bill will help promote Minnesota businesses in foreign markets, and by doing so, will increase revenue, create jobs, and drive economic growth. Exporting is literally a world of opportunity.”
The Klobuchar-LeMieux provisions would also expand the outreach program through the department’s Rural Export Initiative (REI) to ensure that small- and medium-sized businesses located in rural areas know about available export-promotion services. In 2006 alone, the REI helped rural American businesses generate over $183 million in exports with an investment of $860,000 – a return of approximately $213 on each dollar.
U.S. exports currently support more than six million jobs in manufacturing and one million jobs in agriculture. Businesses that export pay their employees 13-to-18 percent more and are 8 percent more likely to stay in business than are companies that do not export. However, less than 1 percent of U.S. businesses take advantage of exporting, and of those that do export, 60 percent limit themselves to only one foreign country.