Minnesota lawmakers and Gov. Mark Dayton wrapped up this year’s legislative session last month in a familiar spot, with the DFL governor and Republican leaders at odds over much of their work.
Dayton did sign off on $1.5 billion in public works projects, but he vetoed tax changes and money for schools and other priorities. Here’s a look at what got done and what didn’t.
Legislature: Voted to bring Minnesota in line with changes to federal tax code and included cuts to the corporate tax rate and reductions for the two lowest income tax brackets. In response to the governor’s request that the bill include $138 million in emergency school funding, the Legislature set aside $225 million, but most of it was from existing school funds rather than new money.
Governor: Vetoed the bill, saying he disagreed with some provisions and rejected the Legislature’s school-funding plan.
Bottom line: Unless the Legislature acts quickly on a tax bill when it reconvenes in January, some Minnesotans will face higher taxes and all will face complications in filing taxes under the old federal rules.
Legislature: After the school shootings in Florida and Texas, DFL lawmakers tried repeatedly to bring gun-related proposals up for a vote, including one that would expand background checks and another that would allow for a court to order someone’s guns to be taken away if they threatened themselves or others. Republican majorities in both chambers of the Legislature blocked those bills from floor votes.
Governor: Was a vocal supporter of those gun measures, including in news conferences with students advocating for more laws.
Bottom line: The issue will almost certainly come up in the next session and could stall again or move forward depending on the results of state elections this fall.
Legislature: Approved a total of $58 million for school safety — for expenses like upgrades to buildings, counseling and security officers — in two bills: the public works package and a spending bill. Initially resisted Dayton’s request for $138 million in emergency funding for schools facing major budget cuts, but later added some new money for schools to the spending bill and authorized districts to use money from other parts of their budget to ease cuts.
Governor: Vetoed the spending bill but signed the bonding bill, which contained $25 million in grants for safety improvements to school buildings.
Bottom line: Schools will see some money for safety but nothing to help with the current round of budget cuts. School funding is likely to be a top item on the agenda of the next Legislature.
Legislature: Considered a plan that would raise $20 million for opioid prevention and treatment by charging drug companies, either through a pill tax or distributor fee. Instead, put a measuring dedicating $16 million in state funds in the broader spending bill.
Governor: Backed the fee for drug companies and called for a separate bill unattached to other measures. Vetoed the spending bill that contained that more modest plan, saying GOP leaders bowed under pressure from drug companies.
Bottom line: No additional money was dedicated to fight the growing epidemic, but a handful of lawmakers from both parties have been determined to continue raising the issue.
Legislature: Spent months trying to come up with a plan to help prevent elder abuse and strengthen oversight of nursing care facilities. They included some provisions in the spending bill, including fines for facilities that violate seniors’ rights and protections against deceptive marketing.
Governor: Sought a long list of reforms, including licensing for assisted-living facilities and strengthened protections for seniors facing eviction. Vetoed the spending bill with some elder care-related provisions, saying both he and some senior groups felt it didn’t go far enough — and could weaken existing protections.
Bottom line: With no new laws passed this year, advocates are pledging to keep pushing for reforms when lawmakers reconvene next year.
Legislature: Approved $10 million in emergency funding to help fix the state’s problematic new vehicle licensing system. Later, passed $9 million more to help licensing office operators hurt by glitches and included more than $20 million for fixes in the spending bill.
Governor: Signed off on $10 million but vetoed the rest. He said he wanted the Legislature to approve more spending to fix the system, and he vetoed the spending bill because of issues with unrelated provisions.
Bottom line: Operators of some licensing offices around the state say they are in danger of shutting down if the state doesn’t fix the system soon. Delays and glitches continue as officials try to repair the system.
Legislature: After hearing from people who lost family members in crashes involving people using cellphones, lawmakers considered a ban on drivers’ use of handheld phones and devices. In the House, with support from both Republicans and DFLers, the bill cleared committees but stalled before getting a floor vote. The measure also stalled in the Senate. Lawmakers ultimately included a provision upping penalties for texting and driving — but not banning handheld devices — in the spending bill.
Governor: Vetoed the spending bill for unrelated reasons, but supported the hands-free requirement. Dayton said he would sign the bill if it reached his desk.
Bottom line: With no visible opposition, advocates were left frustrated — and motivated to keep pushing.
Legislature: Amid broad talks about workplace sexual harassment — including incidents at the Capitol — lawmakers tried to tackle the topic. The House changed its own policy and in a bipartisan move voted to eliminate the legal standard that behavior must be “severe and pervasive” to be considered sexual harassment. Under pressure from business groups, the “severe and pervasive” bill stalled in the Senate and didn’t make it into any bills sent to the governor.
Governor: Supported changing the “severe and pervasive” standard and blasted the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce for opposing “strong, enforceable sexual harassment protections.”
Bottom line: No sweeping changes to state law, but the issue could come up again next year.