The Legislative on Thursday resolved two issues that had been causing tensions to rise just before they left for a short Easter Break. The issues included extending unemployment benefits to laid off mining workers on the Iron Range and reducing unemployment insurance premiums for Minnesota businesses. DFLer wanted a clean bill to extend benefits and GOP members wanted relief for businesses since the unemployment fund balance had grown beyond flush.
The battle to get this deal in place was a bruising one and if it’s any indication of how the rest of session will go, then I wouldn’t hold your breath for substantial transportation, tax and budget legislation to emerge.
For those of you tracking the Tax bill and the potential for farm tax relief on school bonds, there was a positive step forward last week. The House Property Tax Division heard a bill to create a 50 percent farm tax credit on school bonds authored by Rep. Paul Marquart (DFL-Glyndon).
The House GOP carried the bill into a Tax Conference Committee last session, but Marquart’s bill shows growing bi-partisan support among rural legislators for this kind of targeted tax relief.
Still, a leadership agreement on taxes, transportation, bonding and supplemental budgets is a long way off. After the policy bill deadlines clear over the next two weeks, we’ll start to see details emerge from both bodies on their approach to dealing with the $900 million surplus.
There are eight weeks remaining this session and as always, the major decision making will take place right at the end.
Week 4 gets underway Tuesday as the Legislature returns from a short Easter break. There will be a number of issues at hand before the April 1 deadline for committees to act favorably on bills in the house of origin.
The second committee deadline — when committees must act favorably on bills, or companion bills, that met the first deadline in the other house is April 8.
The following education-related bills are up this week:
HF 2805 (Fenton) – Grow Your Own teacher residency pilot program established, and money appropriated.
HF 3132 (Erickson) – Teacher Shortage Act created, and money appropriated.
HF 2670 (Kresha) – Early learning scholarships, home visiting programs, and parent aware activities funding increased; early learning scholarship cap eliminated; eligible age range for early learning scholarships and targeted home visiting program expanded, and money
SF(TBD) (Wiger) – Wednesday Omnibus Education policy bill rollout and testimony.
Similar schedule in House Innovation and Policy Committee for House Omnibus Education policy bill.