On Tuesday, the House and Senate passed a joint resolution to recess until Monday, cancelling committee hearings for the rest of the week and floor sessions on Thursday. The decision came after predictions of nearly two feet of snow and high winds that leaders feared would endanger lawmakers, staff, and the public commuting to the Capitol.
Gov. Walz declared a peacetime emergency, authorizing the Minnesota National Guard to help stranded motorists. The total snowfall underperformed expectations. MSP Airport measured 13.4 inches of snow Tuesday through Thursday, although some areas in the Twin Cities measured up to 20 inches. The lighter snowfall will allow plows to clear the roads before the legislature returns to work on Monday, just in time for release of the February Budget Forecast.
Inflation Added to Budget Forecasts
Minnesota is one of the few states that does not include inflation in our budget forecasts. That is all set to change with HF35/SF46. This bill will add inflation to the spending side of budget forecasts. The bill was signed by Gov. Walz this week, effective immediately. This comes just ahead of the February Budget Forecast on Monday, which will tell lawmakers what money is available for the two-year budget due at the end of session.
In 2002, the state was faced with significant budget deficits, so lawmakers removed inflation from the spending side of the state budget forecast to help balance the budget. The Minnesota Legislature just voted to add it back in, with opponents warning that adding inflation will overstate how much money government programs need to operate. If inflation was included in the most recent budget forecast in December, an extra $1.5 billion would be factored in for government costs.
“Driver’s License for All” Bill Passes Legislature
Before adjourning for the week, the Senate passed a bill that would allow undocumented immigrants to obtain a driver’s license. The bill passed 34-31 early Wednesday morning following seven hours of debate on the Senate floor. This bill, known as “driver’s licenses for all,” would remove the 2003 rule implemented by Gov. Pawlenty requiring applicants to show proof of legal U.S. residency to obtain a driver’s license.
Proponents of the bill argued that allowing undocumented immigrants to take driver’s education and obtain driver’s licenses will make the roads safer. Opponents worried that driver’s licenses for undocumented immigrants would increase illegal immigration and the risk of voter fraud. The bill now heads to Gov. Walz, who said he will sign it.
Voting Restoration Bill Passes Legislature
Minnesota law currently allows felons who have completed all or parts of their sentence and who are paroled or on probation to vote. Recent attempts to challenge the constitutionality of the law in the state Supreme Court failed, with the judges upholding the current law 6-1 and deferring to the Minnesota Legislature to decide whether felons should be barred from voting.
The voting rights restoration bill (HF28) as passed by the Senate Tuesday night (in the same floor session as driver’s licenses for all) would overturn the current law, allowing felons to vote upon leaving jail or prison. Gov. Walz has said he will sign the bill.
The Senate has confirmed more members of the governor’s cabinet since the last issue of Ewald at the Capitol.
- Department of Education Commissioner: Willie Jett II
- Department of Commerce Commissioner: Grace Arnold
- Department of Labor Commissioner: Nicole Blissenbach
Dates to Remember
February 27: February Budget Forecast Released
March 10: First Committee Deadline
March 24: Second Committee Deadline
April 4: Third Committee Deadline
April 5-10: Legislative Break
May 22: Last day of the 2023 Legislative Session