2021 Legislative Session Comes to a Close - An Update from the Director of Government & Member Relations
The 2021 legislative session came to an end early this morning as the House and Senate passed the final omnibus bills that will comprise the upcoming biennial budget. Negotiations on the two-year budget between Gov. Tim Walz (DFL), House Speaker Melissa Hortman (DFL – Brooklyn Park), and Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka (R – East Gull Lake) were harried during the final weeks of the session leading up to adjournment. While lawmakers were to have concluded their business by midnight on May 17, they needed an extra month – and a special session – to wrap up their business. With the only divided state legislature in the country, the leaders continued their back-and-forth dealings on provisions included in the more contentious omnibus finance bills dealing with Environment, Public Safety, E-12 Education, Health and Human Services, and State Government.
While it was necessary for the legislature to pass all of the separate omnibus finance bills to form the framework for the FY22-23 budget, one big-ticket item left on the cutting room floor was a capital investment bonding bill. Due to the lack of support from three-fifths of the members in each body of the legislature required for passage, the public works and infrastructure bill now has to wait until the 2022 session. And while neither party accomplished everything they wanted to this session, many lawmakers were happy to have the session wrap-up without the specter of a government shutdown looming, as was the case back in 2011. In addition, Gov. Walz agreed with legislative leaders to rescind the peacetime emergency powers he utilized for the past year as a result of the pandemic.
Now that lawmakers have their work done and will be heading back home to their legislative districts for the summer, it is anticipated that many of the policy issues not advanced this session will be back up for consideration in 2022. However, it should be noted that next year will be an election year and the appetite to pass anything deemed too controversial by either party may wane as lawmakers rev up their campaigns. All 201 House and Senate seats will be up for grabs in an election that will have a huge bearing on the direction of the state, as well as how the legislative and Congressional districts maps are drawn by lawmakers – or the courts if necessary. In addition, Gov. Walz will also be up for re-election, as will all of the other statewide offices including Attorney General and Secretary of State.
AgriGrowth was also pleased to see the passage of a tax bill by both the House and Senate early this morning that will provide state tax conformity to ensure federal Paycheck Protection Program loans are not taxable, additional infrastructure investments for Minnesota’s transportation network, the defeat of several harmful pieces of legislation detrimental to the crop input sector, and the defeat of several onerous and harmful workplace mandates detrimental to meatpackers. If you have any questions about the recently concluded special session, please contact Patrick Murray at firstname.lastname@example.org or (651) 238-0089.
AgriGrowth-Supported Provisions Included in Agriculture and Rural Development Omnibus Bill
Among one of the omnibus bills closely watched by AgriGrowth this session was the one containing a host of legislative initiatives affecting agriculture and rural development. Authored by House Agriculture Committee Chair Mike Sundin (DFL – Esko) and Senate Agriculture Committee Chair Torrey Westrom (R – Elbow Lake), there was plenty of collaboration and cooperation in the crafting of this legislation - often considered one of the least controversial bills at the Capitol. The bill provides funding for the Department of Agriculture, the Board of Animal Health, and the Agricultural Utilization Research Institute. In addition, funding was provided for areas including mental health issues, farmer safety, meat and poultry inspection services, and the build-out of infrastructure for retail service stations to handle higher blends of ethanol in gasoline.
Minnesota Legislature Makes Largest Broadband Investment to Date
The Minnesota Legislature passed $70 million for the Border-to-Border Broadband Infrastructure Grant Program which was included in the Omnibus Jobs and Economic Development Bill. The funding will be evenly divided over the next two years and will come from the American Rescue Plan Act’s Capital Projects Fund. The Office of Broadband Development must apply to receive the funds from the federal government. Full guidance on the program requirements and application process is forthcoming from the U.S. Treasury. AgriGrowth has been very supportive of the infusion of additional investments in this critical program that will assist in providing connectivity to regions of the state that are underserved or not served at all with broadband access.