Conference Committee Meetings to Begin as Legislative Session Enters Homestretch
As the GOP-led Senate and the DFL-led House of Representatives continue to pass the last of the omnibus budget bills, conference committees will begin meeting this week to hash out the differences in bills that were passed during the past several weeks. Conference committees are comprised of five members from each the House and Senate who will advocate for their body's position on the provisions contained in their respective omnibus bills. With significant differences between the House and Senate in most of the omnibus bills, it will be a long month ahead for these lawmakers to reconcile their differences and produce a conference committee report that will earn the signature of Gov. Tim Walz.
There is also a notable difference in fiscal philosophy between the two parties. The Senate GOP budget proposals contain no tax increases and state agency spending cuts, while the budget proposal offered by the House DFL and Gov. Walz includes a host of tax and fee increases that are non-starters with the GOP.
One of the first conference committees scheduled to meet is the Jobs & Labor Conference Committee that will be meeting tomorrow afternoon. Of particular interest to AgriGrowth is a provision included in the House version of S.F. 1098 that would affect meat and poultry workers. AgriGrowth testified several times earlier this session in the House that the legislation is unnecessary and would result in significant regulatory overreach toward an industry already heavily regulated by more than a half dozen state and federal agencies. The legislation would provide paid leave to all meat and poultry processing workers to recuperate from an illness, injury or to care for an ill family member. It would also create a “ Workers’ Rights Coordinator'' position housed within the Department of Labor and Industry dedicated to enforcement and compliance. The legislation also contains numerous requirements (provision of PPE, adequate break time, routine cleaning, posting worker rights in multiple languages, etc.) that are already being provided by meat and poultry processing firms. AgriGrowth’s testimony emphasized that our members’ words and actions throughout the pandemic clearly demonstrated their top priority was for the safety, health and wellbeing of their employees. Not only did pre-pandemic food and worker safety measures often include masks, face shields, goggles, gloves, and protective clothing, but AgriGrowth members quickly expanded or adjusted such measures to meet evolving state and federal guidance. AgriGrowth plans to testify again in opposition to this provision when the conference committee takes public testimony.
Other upcoming conference committees of particular interest to AgriGrowth include ones dealing with agriculture, commerce, environment & natural resources, and transportation. In addition, conference committees dealing with taxes and capital investment bonding are also expected to meet next month.
Lawmakers must pass a two-year budget bill into law or be faced with the potential for a partial government shutdown which last happened in 2011. Lawmakers have approximately three weeks to finish their work for the 2021 session, which constitutionally must end at midnight on Monday, May 17.
AgriGrowth continues to remain engaged with lawmakers on key public policy priorities including additional funding for the Border-to-Border Broadband Program, state tax conformity to the ensure federal Paycheck Protection Program loans are not taxable, additional investments in infrastructure, and opposition to onerous and harmful workplace mandates.
If you have any questions about AgriGrowth’s public policy priorities or the conference committees, please contact Patrick Murray at firstname.lastname@example.org or (651) 238-0089.