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2016 Legislative Session

Posted By Murphy Pickett, Thursday, June 16, 2016

2016 Legislative Session

By: Jess Myers, Media and Public Relations Specialist

 

It’s been said that the legislative session is a marathon, not a sprint. And with meetings over the course of several months, it certainly feels like a 26.2-mile slog at times. Until the final weekend of the session, when that marathon morphs into a mad sprint to the constitutionally-mandated finish line.

 

Such was the case again in 2016, as months of meetings and negotiations boiled down to a frantic final hour before Midnight on the Sunday night in May when, by direction of the state constitution, the legislature had to adjourn.

 

After voting on and passing a capital investment package worth $800 million, the House adjourned Sine Die (the constitutional term for the end of the biennial legislative cycle) at Midnight. But the Senate passed a slightly different version of the same bill, and due to the differences, it cannot become law.

But the session was not devoid of accomplishments. For example, the legislature passed a $182 million budget that included the following:

 

•                $75 million for jobs, energy and equity (including $35 million for broadband expansion and $35 million for racial equity programs)

 

•                $45 million for state government operations

 

•                $25 million for E-12 education

 

•                $25 million for the Department of Public Safety

 

•                $7 million for environment and agriculture

 

•                $5 million for higher education

 

•                $70 million in tax provisions (separate from the funds for the tax omnibus bill)

 

The tax provisions in the budget will provide a one-year extension for the angel investment tax credit, an exemption for military pensions from state taxes, a $2,000 credit for families who have a stillborn child, and eliminates sales tax from modular homes. The supplemental budget bill was passed by both the House and Senate on Sunday, and awaits Gov. Dayton’s signature before becoming law.

 

There were also important changes in education policy that became law, including a universal pre-Kindergarten pilot program for four-year-olds which was a priority for the governor. This proposal establishes a funding formula for school districts that receive this pre-K funding, which will be split between urban, suburban and greater Minnesota school districts, awarded based on poverty rates and the lack of other quality early learning programs in the area.

 

The teacher shortage problem was the focus of many committee hearings this session and the governor, the House and the Senate included efforts to quell the shortage in their priorities. In the end, $7.5 million has been appropriated to a number of initiatives including a loan forgiveness program to individuals who teach in shortage areas, incentives to paraprofessionals to seek their teaching license, and a program to support teachers of color.

 

Another significant provision is the establishment of a six-year, $12 million competitive grant program to help school districts hire additional student support services staff such as school counselors, school psychologists and school nurses.

 

But the failure of the capital investment legislation, a small wording error in the tax bill that could cost the state $100 million in revenue, and the lack of an overall agreement on transportation funding and policy, means there is much work that was not finished, and a special legislative session may be called by the governor sometime during the summer.

 

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