First Legislative Deadline

Today marks the first deadline that legislation must meet in order to be considered this session. By today, bills must be heard in committee in their chamber of origin (this deadline generally does not apply to finance bills). As a result, this past week has been a flurry of committee activity, with several meetings extending late into the evening and plenty of Friday hearings. Committees will begin to hear bills nearly around the clock as we approach the second deadline on March 24.

Bonding Bill Passes the House

On Monday night, the House passed a $1.9 billion bonding bill off of the floor and sent it to the Senate for a vote. This is exceptionally early in session for passage of a bonding bill. Senate Minority Leader Mark Johnson (R-East Grand Forks) has indicated his caucus will not support the bill—which requires a supermajority of votes, necessitating support from both parties—until tax cuts are passed. Senate Republicans have sought a variety of initiatives to cut taxes, including social security tax relief and direct rebate checks. Meanwhile, both chambers’ capital investment committees continue their work to assemble additional bonding proposals.

Fairview/Sanford Merger

The Senate Health and Human Services committee held an informational hearing on Tuesday night regarding the proposed merger of Fairview Health Services and South Dakota-based Sanford Health. Because Fairview has a long-standing partnership with the University of Minnesota, observers, including former DFL Governor Mark Dayton and Republican Governor Tim Pawlenty, offered concerns that an out-of-state business would have a say in the operations of Minnesota’s state university. Attorney General Keith Ellison also testified about the ongoing legal investigation into the proposal.

Social Security Benefit Taxation

Minnesota is one of 11 states in which social security benefits are taxed. While our state’s model only taxes those who reach a certain income threshold, a proposal to remove this tax for all payers was a top campaign issue for lawmakers of both parties last year. The House Taxes committee held a hearing this week on two similar proposals offered by DFL lawmakers to subtract these taxes, at a cost of $300 million to $1.3 billion per biennium. The proposals are set to be voted on in committee next week. While it doesn’t yet appear to have majority support, this issue could become a key bargaining chip in end-of-session negotiations.

Antitheft Investigation for Automakers

Attorney General Keith Ellison announced this week that his office is launching a civil investigation into Kia and Hyundai for failing to include standard antitheft measures on some oldermodel cars. These vehicles have disproportionately fallen victim to a recent rash of thefts in Minnesota. Automakers have begun rolling out solutions, including software updates and steering wheel locks, in recent months.

March 10, 2023