2018 Session Final Report

The following information was shared with the library community via the MLA and ITEM Legislative Update Newsletter Friday, June 1, 2018 by Sam Walseth, Capitol Hill Associates, in his role as the MLA-ITEM lobbyist.

This week Governor Dayton ended all uncertainty over the last remaining bills on his desk. Of note, the Governor signed the omnibus Bonding bill (HF 4425) and the omnibus Pension bill (SF 2620) into law. The Bonding bill contains $1 million for library construction and renovation grants for public libraries. MLA-ITEM requested $10 million for library bonding over the current biennium and with the 2017 bonding bill ($2 million for libraries) and the 2018 bill ($1 million for libraries) we were able to secure a total of $3 million of the $10 million request. This may not sound like a win, but we typically see $2 million appropriated for libraries in any given Bonding bill. 
 
During the signing ceremony on the Pension bill Thursday morning (May 31), Governor Dayton noted twice that this would be the last bill he signs into law as Governor. 

 2018 On the Whole –

 2018 was slated for three months and legislative leaders and the Governor generally agreed on the scope of issues that needed to be addressed, including; a bonding bill, federal tax conformity, elder abuse, the opioid crisis, and fixing the MNLARS (the new vehicle license and registration system). The school shooting in Parkland, FL last February also turned everyone’s attention to school safety, which became a priority of both Governor Dayton and the legislature.
 
Despite agreement on the priority topics, the 2018 the session ended with Governor Dayton vetoing two major bills that encompassed many of the priority issues. The ground for the vetoes was sown a year ago when the relationship between the Governor and legislature was severely diminished in the wake of the 2017 tax bill, which Dayton felt he was forced to sign and his subsequent line-item veto of the legislature’s operating budget because of it. 
 
In previous sessions, the three leaders, Dayton, Speaker Daudt and Majority Leader Gazelka spent many hours together toward the end of session crafting the outlines of budget and tax deals. Tellingly this year, they met very little. Despite repeated veto warnings from Dayton, the legislature gambled that they had done enough with the Supplemental bill and the Tax conformity bill to address Dayton’s concerns and sent them to him on the last night of session.  
 
Three days later (May 23), following through with his promise, Governor Dayton vetoed the Legislature’s two significant bills; the omnibus Supplemental bill (SF 3656), and the Tax Conformity bill (HF 947). His reasons for the two vetoes run the gamut of policy items he didn’t like in the Supplemental bill, deeper tax cuts than he would allow in the Tax Conformity bill, not enough education funding, and perhaps a feeling that there was an overall lack of respect toward his administration and a sense that he needed to defend the role of the Governor in the legislative process. The blame game has begun and despite calls for a special session to take up scaled back versions of the two vetoed bills, Dayton has said he will not call a special session.

2018 Election Cycle

We now turn to the election season where the stakes are enormous. The DFL and GOP need to select a Gubernatorial candidate for November and will take the first official stab at doing so on June 2 at their respective party conventions. It’s possible that both parties will see candidates run through an August primary to gain the November ballot slot under their party’s banner. 
 
House Speaker Kurt Daudt is defending a 77-57 GOP majority. House DFLers are banking on a slate of new candidate recruitment and a potential national ‘blue wave’ for their attempt to retake a majority in the House. While not on the ballot until the 2020 election, the Senate Republican majority has taken an interesting twist. GOP Sen. Michelle Fischbach has taken the oath of office for Lieutenant Governor and there will be a special election (held on the general election date, Nov. 6) for her seat. The outcome of that special election could flip control of the Senate, which now stands at a 33-33 tie. While this special election will be expensive and hard fought, SD 13 (central MN) is traditionally very conservative (63% for Trump in 2016) and state Rep. Jeff Howe (R – Cold Spring) is running and is well positioned to hold the seat for the GOP.
 
In addition to the battles for Governor and control of the legislature all eight Congressional seats are on the ballot. We also have both of our U.S. Senate seats on the ballot this November due to the midterm resignation of Al Franken. All state constitutional officers, Attorney General, Secretary of State and State Auditor, are up for election as well. We’re told the ad-buys for the Twin Cities media market this fall have already been purchased and Minnesotans should brace for an unprecedented amount of political money and ads being dumped on them this fall. Hang on for a bumpy ride to the November 6 general election.