COMMUNITY VOICES | What’s up with 2014 Minnesota legislative session?

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The 2014 session will be quick. It’s slated for 13 weeks but rumor has it that legislators may finish long before that. However, this is a perennial rumor! By September 9, 20 bills had been “pre-filed;” by January 13 there were close to 300. Judging from all these interim introductions, expect hearings to be fast and furious!

So what should we expect from these 13 weeks?

  • The overarching issue for the 2014 legislature is the November 2014 election. Every constitutional office, every state representative and every senator will stand for election. It can be argued that this is the session voters will remember and is therefore a last chance for elected officials to provide good talking points for door knocking campaigns.
  • A decade of state budget deficits followed, finally, by a budget surplus will no doubt create a robust debate on the use of those dollars.
  • Governor Dayton has made clear his desire to streamline government and has been direct with his commissioners about making that happen. Whether legislation may be required to accomplish his goal is yet to be determined, but expect debate on repealing the business-to-business tax passed last session.
  • The job of the legislature in the second year of a biennium has traditionally been to produce a bonding bill. Many infrastructure projects have been put on hold over the last decade and a bonding bill can deal with these projects while creating jobs. The size of the bonding bill and which projects it supports will be the debate.
  • Minnesota has one of the lowest minimum wages in the country and a great deal of work has been done over the last several years to bring this issue to light. It will be a centerpiece for the session.
  • For schools, the Safe and Supportive Schools Act (HF9) will be front and center. As often reported, current bullying legislation in Minnesota is 37 words long. HF9 is more comprehensive and based on recommendations from the Governor’s Prevention of Bullying Task Force.

While Senate rules prohibit pre-filed bills, the House has accepted 300 interim introductions, many education-related. While there is no way to know if any of these will receive hearings, it is interesting to see what might be considered. Education bills dealing with universal pre-school for 4-year olds, statutory change to reverse local referenda, a requirement for aquatics instruction in school, language to cap counselor-pupil ratio and a bill calling for the removal of funding to non-public schools are some that stand out. We will be tracking all of it. Not to be forgotten, there are several provisions from the 2013 E-12 Omnibus bill that are in an implementation phase and we will track that as well.

If we have learned one thing in the 11 years Parents United has been in operation, it is to dig beyond the surface, go beyond the name of the bill, consider intended and unintended consequences. This is our work for the next three months as we attend hearings, analyze bills and present what we learn in our weekly updates to members in all 134 legislative districts in the state. Join us!