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For the Week of January 21, 2019

First Full Week of Session Completed
The first full week of the 2019 session has passed and was largely focused on a continuation of state department and agency overviews.   Minnesota House and Senate offices will be closed Monday in honor of Martin Luther King Jr. Day but will reconvene with House and Senate floor sessions Tuesday afternoon.  On a national level, the current federal shutdown carries into its 5th week—making it the longest shutdown in US history.   

An AMC-compiled a survey showed a large number of counties seeing impacts of the impasse through staffing and overtime costs on SNAP applications, delays in highway/infrastructure projects, postponements on grants, as well as inconveniences to residents on taxpayer services through the Farm Service Agency.  Moreover, counties were clear in their nervousness that an extended shutdown might further impact SNAP, WIC, and federal reimbursements for county-run social services. These findings were forwarded to members of the Minnesota Congressional Delegation. 
Environment & Natural Resources
Government Relations Manager
*Interim Contact for Environment & Natural Resources
Last Week
A newly formed House Water Division met Monday to hear how a wide array of state agencies (MPCA, DNR, BWSR, Dept. of Ag) interact and manage water issues.  Legislator questions centered on how local efforts might be better supported and included a short discussion on the difference between watershed districts and SWCDs and their funding/levying mechanisms.  The Senate Environment and Natural Resources Finance Committee met on January 16 to hear a presentation from the MPCA on landfill projects and permitting, including specific landfill sites in Andover and Burnsville, as well as the agency’s role in the Tru-Shrimp decision to build their new facility in South Dakota rather than in Luverne. Additionally, the MPCA provided an update on the plan for allocating money awarded to the state in the lawsuit against Volkswagen over vehicle emissions. For more information on this hearing, contact Ben Baglio at bbaglio@mncounties.org.
 
This Week
The House Environment and Natural Resources Finance Division will hear an update on the impact of the federal shutdown on Minnesota’s environmental agencies along with a presentation from the MPCA on the Anoka County Waste Disposal Engineering Closed Landfill. On Tuesday, newly appointed Dept. of Ag Commissioner Thom Petersen will present to the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Rural Development, and Housing Policy.
General Government
Government Relations Manager
General Government Policy Analyst
Last Week
House Tax committee and property tax divisions both held introductory meetings providing background to Minnesota’s property tax and tax systems.  These presentations will continue this week.  Two similar bills regarding election cybersecurity funding (HF 17 , O’Driscoll, and HF 14, Nelson ) were heard in the House Subcommittee on Elections Wednesday.  The bills attempt to provide Minnesota’s matching funds for a $6m federal cybersecurity grant that would be used for an array of vital and necessary improvements on cybersecurity, updates on the SVRS system, and election judge training.  Without the state’s match, the Secretary of State’s office will not be able to access the federal funds and make necessary improvements.  In a positive sign that these measures might quickly to the Governor’s desk, Senate State Government Finance Chair Marry Kiffmeyer introduced a companion version, SF 93. AMC joins MACO and the League of Minnesota Cities in support of this bill. On Thursday, AMC staff testified in support of Senator Jasinski’s SF 58, a bill that would allow the ease of data transfer between County Veteran Service Officers and assessors for applications for the disabled veterans market value exclusion.
 
This Week
On Wednesday, AMC will testify in front of the House Tax Committee, providing an overview of county tax priorities.  On Thursday, the Senate Veterans Affairs committee will hear two bills changing the Disabled Veterans Market Value Exclusion—SF 114 to allow a one time transfer if the property is less than the original exclusion and SF 113, increasing the spousal exclusion from 8 years to a lifetime.  
 
Bills/Issues to Watch
Presidential Primary
AMC is working with other local government associations (MACO and LMC) along with the Secretary of State’s office to promote a change to law that would switch the upcoming 2020 presidential primary system—run by local governments and election judges—to a mail-only ballot election and amend statute to make sure voter data would not be accessible to the public . If you or your county are concerned about the new presidential primary process, please feel free to let your legislators know about concerns to voter privacy and county costs as well as letting AMC staff know who you reached out to and their response.  Interested in learning more about the new primary system? Read this new House Research Report.
 
Paid Family Leave
HF 5 (Rep. Halverson, Dakota) is a proposal to create a new Paid Family and Medical Leave program that would provide up to 12 weeks paid leave for a variety of qualifying events including pregnancy and bonding (adoption and/or fostering a child), a serious health condition, a qualifying exigency, and safety leave.  The program would be funded by contributions from employees and employers and would pay various levels of wage replacement based on a progressive benefit scale aimed at provided lower income tiers maximum wage replacement. UPDATE: AMC has created an ad hoc group of county HR and admin staff to delve into the specifics of the bill, analyze county impacts, and brainstorm possible alternative approaches.

HF 187/SF. 154: Legal fee reimbursement for Wright, Becker and Ramsey counties for defense of OSA lawsuit.
HF 142/SF 274: Requirement for counties to pay military differential pay.
HF 132/SF 316: Requiring the state to test new technology/updates with local governments (AMC ran this bill last year and it was included in the vetoed State Omnibus Finance bill—MICA is leading this year).
HF 97: Requiring fractional homestead to be determined on a percentage base as long as they can be determined.
Health & Human Services
By Emily Babcock
Health & Human Services Policy Analyst
Last Week
The Senate Committee on Human Services Reform Finance and Policy took up a couple bills at its initial hearing. SF 74 (Relph) included policy language from the 2018 omnibus supplemental budget bill that was vetoed. This included a provision to allow for counties to appeal certain costs of care for clients who no longer meet medical criteria at state-operated facility. SF 4 (Relph) adds requirements to human services programs aimed at preventing fraud. Changes include revising the definition of self-employment income. The bill also includes several additional requirements for child care providers that receive CCAP funds and providers of PCA services, and providers of Nonemergency Medical Transportation.

House committees heard overviews of health and human service programs.
 
This Week
House committees will continue to hear overviews. This will include presentations by the Department of Health and Department of Human Services and a discussion on the HHS budget, including the Health Care Access Fund. The House Health and Human Services Policy Committee will also hold a hearing on Friday in Onamia at the Grand Casino Mille Lacs Convention Center. The informational hearing will focus on the impact of opioids among Minnesota’s Native communities.

The Senate committees will hear presentations on adverse child events and an initiative to reform the state’s disability waiver programs
 
Bills/Issues to Watch
Senate Republicans outlined a package of health care proposals. Sens. Scott Jensen (R-Chaska), Michelle Benson (R-Ham Lake), Mary Kiffmeyer (R-Big Lake) Rich Draheim (R-Madison Lake), and Jim Abeler (R-Anoka) all laid out a set of proposals aimed at what they say will target and health care costs. The GOP “Patients First” initiatives include:
  • Regulatory changes for Pharmacy Benefits Managers, including a requirement for licensure and expanding pharmacy networks.
  • Allowing patients the right to choose a health care provider regardless of the provider or clinic is out of network.
SF 3 (Draheim) requires health plans to offer shared savings incentives programs.
SF 277 (Jensen) authorizes a direct agreement between patient and physician that allows a direct charge.
SF 278 (Jensen) requires licensure and additional oversight of Pharmacy Benefit Manager.
SF 351 (Jensen) requires uniform rates for primary care services provided within a geographic service area.
SF 353 (Jensen) establishes a Prescription Drug Affordability Commission and a Prescription Drug Affordability Advisory Council.
Public Safety & Data Practices
Government Relations Manager
*Interim Contact for Public Safety & Data Practices
Last Week
Chair John Lesch’s House Judiciary Finance and Civil Law Division held a hearing outlining the Data Practices Law with presentations from the Office of Data Practices and the Minnesota Coalition on Government Information (MNCOGI).  The Senate Public Safety and Judiciary Committee’s spent most of their time on overview the Minnesota Sentencing Commission.
 
This Week
The House and Senate will continue overviews of the Minnesota Sentencing Commission while the House Transportation and Finance Policy Division will start what is expected to be a full session of debate on a proposal to prohibit cell phone use while driving. Both Speaker Hortman and Majority Leader Gazelka have made statements supporting the prohibition of cell phone use while driving.  On Tuesday, The Robina Institute of Criminal Law and Criminal Justice will provide an overview to House Publics Safety and Criminal Justice Reform Division on the “State of Probation in Minnesota.” Presentations will include the Department of Corrections and overviews of structures and funding for Community Corrections Act and Community Probation Officer models. The next day, both House Public Safety and the Corrections Division will meet to hear a joint overview of the Department of Corrections. On Thursday, House Public Safety Division members will hear an overview on emergency communication networks and the Office of Justice Programs.
Transportation & Infrastructure
By Emily Murray
Transportation & Infrastructure Policy Analyst
Last Week
House and Senate Transportation Committees met for the first time this session last week. The House Transportation Committee heard an overview of transportation finance and policy from House research and fiscal staff on Tuesday and a MnDOT overview last Thursday. The Senate Transportation Committee met last Wednesday for a hearing on “The Future of Transportation” with presentations from MnDOT and Frank Douma from the Humphrey School of Public Affairs. The House Capital Investment Committee met twice to hear updates on bonding projects in committee members’ districts.
 
This Week
House and Senate Transportation Committee Chairs Sen. Scott Newman (R-Hutchinson) and Rep. Frank Hornstein (DFL-Minneapolis) kicked off session with a bipartisan bill aimed at decreasing distracted driving by requiring hands-free cell phone use while driving. On Tuesday, the House Transportation Committee will hear HF 50 (Hornstein) and on Wednesday, the Senate Trasnportation Committee will hear SF 91 (Newman). AMC Transportation & Infrastructure Chair Vance Stuehrenberg will testify in support on behalf of the association. The Senate committee will also hear SF 75 (Osmek) on Wednesday, a bill to increase the penalties for texting while driving.
 
The Senate Transportation Committee will also meet on Tuesday to hear a presentation on the Future of Driver-Assist Technology in Commercial Trucks. Additionally, the House Transportation Committee will meet again on Thursday to hear an overview from Met Council.
 
The House Capital Investment Committee will meet again this week for an overview on the different types of bonding by House research and fiscal staff and again on Thursday for an update from MMB on how local units of government and political subdivisions navigate the complexities of submitting a capital investment budget request to the state.
 
Bills/Issues to Watch
  • HF 7 (Ecklund) and SF 9 (Koran) fund the Border-to-Border broadband grant program at $35 million in both fiscal year 2020 and 2021.
  • SF 10 (Newman) 100% statutory dedication of the revenue collected from the sale and purchase of motor vehicle repair and replacement parts to the Highway User Tax Distribution Fund (HUTDF).
  • SF 144 (Anderson, B.) sewage septic tank trucks vehicle-weight limitations exemption
  • SF 211 (Senjem) motor vehicle parking violations surcharge credit to highway user tax distribution fund
  • SF 367 (Frentz) motor fuels tax increase, increasing the tax on gasoline to 35 cents per gallon
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