Committee deadlines for the 2015 session were established this week:
- March 20, committees must act favorably on bills in the house of origin;
- March 27, committees must act favorably on bills, or companion bills, that met the first deadline in the other house; and
- April 24, committees must act favorably on major appropriation and finance bills.
The House, Senate and Governor also announced an agreement on allocation of space in the renovated Capitol. The design reduced the number of offices for State Senators inside the Capitol from 39 to 4, assigning offices in the newly constructed Senate office building across the street.
The first bill adopted on the House floor was the tax conformity bill, HF6, introduced by House Tax Committee Chair Greg Davids (R-Preston). It was introduced on January 8 and passed by the relevant House Committees a week later. The bill was amended to add language from HF27, clarifying the 2013 Destination Medical Center law to address a recent Attorney General’s ruling. Following a unanimous bipartisan 129-0 House floor vote, it moved to the Senate, with sponsorship by Sen. Rod Skoe (DFL-Clearbrook). House Minority Leader Paul Thissen (DFL-Minneapolis) urged the Senate to move quickly to pass the bill and it did so on Thursday with a vote of 62-0.
Minnesota Senate Republicans unveiled a plan to eliminate the state income tax on Social Security in an effort to keep retirees from leaving the State. The “Retire in Minnesota Act” would reduce Minnesota’s income tax on Social Security income by 10 percent annually until it is completely phased out in a decade. Although leaders acknowledge it will reduce seniors’ contributions to the State’s fund, they argue that loss will be made up by the seniors who stay in the State and contribute to the economy.
Meanwhile, Gov. Mark Dayton has proposed an expansion of the State’s child and dependent care credit, which, if approved by the Legislature, would provide nearly $100 million in tax relief to families.
With Minnesota’s elderly population on the rise, nursing home owners and workers have told Minnesota legislators that they are in need of more State money to stay open and retain staff. Care Providers of Minnesota is part of a Coalition, Long Term Care Imperative, that is advocating for a $200 million plan that would reform nursing homes reimbursements. They launched a campaign, “Face Aging MN,” to increase awareness among the public of aging and long-term care needs. The nursing home proposal would link more public money for higher nurse salaries to better quality of care. It also attempts to equalize reimbursement rates between rural and urban parts of the State, and expand health insurance options for employees. The nursing home proposal already has support among some key Republicans in the Minnesota House, including Aging and Long-Term Care Policy Committee Chair Joe Schomacker of Luverne. as well as DFL Human Services Finance Committee Chair Tony Lourey of Kerrick. The Lourey-Schomacker bill would connect nurses’ pay in an area to how much State money facilities receive.
Sunday Liquor Sales
Sen. Roger Reinert (DFL-Duluth) and Rep. Jenifer Loon (R-Eden Prairie) introduced legislation to repeal the State’s ban on Sunday liquor sales. Both lawmakers said with growing public support, they believe 2015 is the session to pass the bill. House Speaker Kurt Daudt supports repeal and Governor Dayton has indicated he would sign it if it comes to his desk. At a press conference announcing the bill, several liquor store owners were in attendance and one owner from a store in the Mall of America estimated her store would make $100,000 more a year in sales if open on Sundays.