Legislature Goes on Easter/Passover Break
The 2021 legislative session has reached the halfway point. Lawmakers left St. Paul for their home districts last weekend to enjoy the annual Easter/Passover break and will be set to resume their work starting on April 5.
Last Friday marked what is known as the "second committee deadline" at the Capitol, which means bills must have cleared all pertinent policy committees in both bodies of the legislature in order to remain alive for the session. With several exceptions, policy committees will not meet again this session unless they are to hold information only hearings where votes are not taken on any bills.
House and Senate Finance and Tax committees have their own deadlines for action on legislation, which is set for Friday, April 9. This leaves lawmakers with just over six weeks to finish all of their work for the 2021 session, which constitutionally must end at midnight on Monday, May 17. If a two-year budget deal isn’t brokered by Gov. Walz, the GOP-led Senate, and the DFL-led House of Representatives, then lawmakers would look to continue their negotiations during a special session. The budget bill must be enacted by the end of June to coincide with the start of the next fiscal year which starts on July 1 or the state could be faced with a government shutdown.
The last time a partial shutdown happened was back in 2011 when former Gov. Mark Dayton (DFL) and the GOP-led legislature could not come to an agreement on a budget. The shutdown was ended after three weeks when lawmakers brokered a budget deal that did not included any tax or fee increases supported by Dayton. Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka (R – East Gull Lake) has indicated his caucus again feels that the tax increases proposed by the DFL are not necessary when the state has a $1.6 projected budget surplus for the upcoming biennium.
Minnesota House DFL Releases Proposed Budget
Last week, House Speaker Melissa Hortman (DFL – Brooklyn Park) unveiled the House DFL’s $52.5 billion budget proposal for the upcoming two-year biennium. During a virtual press conference, she was joined by other caucus leaders in promoting a budget that calls for significant increases in E-12 education funding, child care, COVID-19 relief, paid family leave, earned sick and safe time, affordable housing, and worker protection.
House Majority Leader Ryan Winkler (DFL – Golden Valley) commented during the event that, “Minnesotans are tired of seeing the rich and well-connected do better and better while workers and families can’t get ahead. Big corporations and the richest Minnesotans have seen their wealth soar during the pandemic, while so many others have struggled worse than ever. President Biden's rescue plan is exactly what Minnesotans need now, but in the long run Minnesota must invest more in health and education or we will fall behind.”
The House DFL budget comes in just above the $52.4 billion proposed budget by Gov. Tim Walz. Both plans include the creation of a new fifth tier income tax, as well as several other tax and fee increases. Conversely, the $51.9 billion proposed budget by the GOP-led Senate does not include any tax or fee increases, but does include spending reductions in various government agencies.
EQB Seeks Input to Address Climate Change as it Considers ERP Changes
The Environmental Quality Board (EQB) is considering changes to the Environmental Review Program to address climate change. EQB identified climate change as an important issue facing Minnesota and made it the main organizing focus for its biennial work plan. Additionally, Governor Walz directed ‘‘state government [to] work across the enterprise in a coordinated approach to develop equitable strategies that will mitigate climate change and achieve greater resilience.”
Currently, environmental review documents do not include information about a project’s greenhouse gas emissions and the relationship between climate change and other environmental impacts in a systematic way. The EQB is proposing changes that would help project proposers, decisions makers, and members of the public identify opportunities to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions.
There are several methods that can be utilized to share views on the draft recommendations including written comments, completing an online survey, or requesting an interview with EQB staff. The original deadline for written comments was set for March 31, however at the urging of AgriGrowth and several other members and farm organizations, it was pushed back to April 9 to align with the online survey deadline. For more information on how to provide feedback, please see the following link on the EQB website. AgriGrowth intends to submit written comments as well.
If your organization would like to provide feedback, please contact Patrick Murray at email@example.com or (651) 238-0089 to share your thoughts.
AgriGrowth Participates in Broadband Day at the Capitol
AgriGrowth participates as a member of the Minnesota Rural Broadband Coalition (MRBC) and recently attended the annual Broadband Day at the Capitol event. Among the speakers who joined the group virtually last week to explain why they support an expansion of broadband accessibility were Sen. Tina Smith, Congresswoman Angie Craig, Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan, DEED Commissioner Steve Grove, Rep. Rob Ecklund (DFL – International Falls), Sen. Tom Bakk (I – Cook), and representatives from the Minnesota Office of Broadband.
AgriGrowth is an advocate for high speed, reliable broadband access as it is critical for safety, education, jobs and commerce in today's economy. Participating in this day allowed us to continue to bring that message to these lawmakers at the Capitol.
In addition, AgriGrowth supports legislation chief authored by Rep. Ecklund, Sen. Bakk, and Sen. Torrey Westrom (R – Elbow Lake) that would appropriate $120 million to the Border-to-Border Broadband Grant Program. We continue to support policies that encourage and facilitate new investment, as well as continuous re-investment in broadband infrastructure and networks. If you are interested in participating in the MRBC or becoming a member, please see the following link for additional details.
AgriGrowth Executive Director Named to Governor’s Committee on the Safety, Health, and Wellbeing of Agricultural and Food Processing Workers
Governor Tim Walz announced a new Committee on the Safety, Health, and Wellbeing of Agricultural and Food Processing Workers. Tamara Nelsen, the Executive Director of AgriGrowth, a nonprofit, nonpartisan member organization representing the agriculture and food industry, was appointed to the committee. The Minnesota Farmers Union and Minnesota Farm Bureau are also represented on the committee.
See the full release here.