2018 Legislative Session Closes

The following information was shared with the library community via the MLA and ITEM Legislative Update Newsletter Tuesday, May 22, 2018 by Sam Walseth, Capitol Hill Associates, in his role as the MLA-ITEM lobbyist.

2018 Session closes, but it’s not over yet…

The last night of a legislative session is always a display of organized chaos and this year’s version didn’t disappoint. In fact, so much happened in the last two hours on Sunday night that we’re still sorting through what exactly happened. The next question is what will happen in the next two weeks. Under the parameters of the state’s constitution, Governor Dayton has 14 days to either sign, veto or ‘pocket veto’ the bills the legislature put on his desk this weekend. A ‘pocket veto’ would occur on a bill if the 14 day period expires and the Governor has not signed a bill into law. Without his signature, the bill is vetoed.

What’s at stake for libraries?

A Bonding bill (HF 4425) emerged at the last minute and passed both bodies. The bill appropriates $825 million in general obligation bonds. Unfortunately, the bill only has $1 million for library construction and renovation grants. It became difficult to hang onto the $2 million in funds as negotiators added more projects to the omnibus bill, but didn’t increase the overall price tag of the bill. There are no earmarks for these dollars. The bill also contains $25 million in cash for school safety and security upgrades. Districts can apply to MDE for up to $500,000 in grants to help cover the costs of identified physical security needs. The Governor is likely to sign this bill, but could line-item veto individual projects.

Supplemental Budget Bill

A 990-page Supplemental budget bill (SF 3656) that contains policy provisions and funding changes across all of state government. It includes language on RLTA that would allow the regional systems to repurpose unspent RTLA funds for other broadband expansion purposes. The bill also contains $15 million for the Broadband Development fund. Governor Dayton said repeatedly over the week that he will veto the bill. However, we can expect a steady drum beat of interest groups to emerge, asking him to sign it because it contains particular provisions of interest to them. 

Tax Conformity

A Tax conformity and one-time emergency school aid bill (HF 947) was put together on Sunday and was sent to the Governor. The bill contains virtually the same tax conformity bill the Governor vetoed last week, but the legislature is hoping to sweeten the deal with the addition of $50 million in one-time money for schools. The bill also allows districts to apply to MDE to transfer Community Education reserves and repurpose any staff development funds encumbered under the 2% set-aside. The GOP is arguing this package creates an additional $225 million in available funding for schools to deal with any budget shortfalls this year. The Governor has said he will absolutely veto this bill. However, vetoing the Tax conformity package means a difficult tax filing season next year. Expect enormous pressure on the Governor to sign the bill.

Pension Reform

And last but not least, the Pension bill (SF 2620) passed. As expected, the Pension bill was held hostage until the very end and was the last bill passed by both bodies. The bill contains a major improvement to the Teachers Retirement Association (TRA) that has been in the works for several year. We expect Governor Dayton will sign this bill soon.