Bill would require that Met Council get Legislature’s OK on housing plans, funds

The Legislature would gain control of the Metropolitan Council’s housing purse strings, under a bill sponsored by Rep. Bob Vogel (R-Elko New Market).HF1969 would also make the Metropolitan Council’s long-range plans and goals for affordable and life-cycle housing in the seven-county Twin Cities metropolitan area subject to legislative approval.[Right: Rep. Bob Vogel]The House Job Growth and Energy Affordability Policy and Finance Committee laid the bill over Wednesday for possible inclusion in a later bill. There is no Senate companion.Kim Crockett, chief operating officer at the Center for the American Experiment, questioned whether housing falls under the Metropolitan Council’s legislative authority. She praised Vogel’s bill for “reasserting the prerogative of the Legislature in the area of housing.”Judd Schetnan, Metropolitan Council government affairs director, agreed with Crockett that housing isn’t like the sewage or transit systems his agency runs. But Vogel’s bill would make housing more of a system than it is today, he said, and he asked whose interests the bill served. “We’ve not heard from cities who have asked for these changes.”One local official backing the bill is Plymouth Mayor Kelli Slavik, who told committee members the Metropolitan Council goal for her city — 932 new units of affordable housing in the decade ending in 2030 — “doesn’t make sense. Continue Reading

House passes lower minimum wage for tipped employees

Some waiters and other tipped workers could earn a wage lower than the state minimum, under a bill the House passed 78-55 late Monday.HF1027, sponsored by Rep. Pat Garofalo (R-Farmington), would set a minimum wage of $8 an hour for workers whose combined tips and wages come to $12 an hour or more during a one-week pay period.Lowering the wage would preserve waiter jobs at restaurants offering full table service, Garofalo said. “Right now, businesses that are doing table dining, we are providing a regulatory incentive for them to move to fast-casual.”[Watch the floor debate]The proposed lower-tier wage is a dollar less than the new $9 an hour minimum that goes into effect Aug. 1, 2015, as part of a law enacted last year stipulating a series of wage increases. Employees whose tips amount to less than $4 an hour during a work week would make the higher minimum wage. The bill would repeal a part of current statute that prohibits the counting of employee tips toward the minimum wage. The bill now goes to the Senate, where Sen. Gary Dahms (R-Redwood Falls) is the sponsor. Rep. Jason Metsa (DFL-Virginia) called the bill “wage theft” and said Republican backers of Garofalo’s minimum-wage bill were adopting Walmart’s “rollback” pricing policy.“Freezing wages for waiters and waitresses will not make our economy stronger,” said Rep. Ryan Winkler (DFL-Golden Valley), calling the bill “a penalty on people who earn tips for their hard work.”Rep. Abigail Whelan (R-Anoka), citing her own experience as a barista as well as the service-industry work experience of her mother and sister, said the bill would help struggling restaurants and “keep as many people employed as possible.” After misguided minimum-wage increases, Rep. Glenn Gruenhagen (R-Glencoe) said HF1027 is “a step back in the right direction.”The House adopted Garofalo’s delete-all amendment 77-56. Continue Reading