Here’s your quick guide to (almost) everything Minnesota lawmakers did — and didn’t do — this year
Despite bitter battles, dashed deadlines and lots of worried waiting, the Legislature moved forward many policies and plans that will impact Minnesotans immediately and for years to come.
Lawmakers also forwarded an array of ideas that went nowhere during the 2017 session — and its overtime aftermath.
From abortion to the Appleton prison and blaze pink to buffers, the Legislature and Gov. Mark Dayton muddled their way through the five-month yearly regular session making decisions.
By late Tuesday, lawmakers had not passed their final measures, and Dayton had bills stacking up on his desk waiting his final verdict. Despite the lack of a coda on the session, lawmakers left a lot of examine.
Here’s a rundown of (almost) everything your Legislature did for you, or to you.
Taxes, tax cuts and farm tax credits
Farmer tax credit: There was broad agreement to help farmers pay for property tax levies that fund school maintenance and construction. Farmers will save more than $30 million through the program in the near term.
Tax cuts: Minnesota taxpayers will get back a chunk of the state’s budget surplus after Dayton and GOP lawmakers agreed to cut taxes by $650 million over the next two years. Senior citizens got the largest break from a reduction in state income taxes on Social Security benefits. College students will receive a first-in-the-nation tax credit for student loan payments, and families saving for college would qualify for new tax credits. The measure also includes a break for businesses’ property tax payments.
Pre-K, college funding, teacher licensing, teacher layoffs and vouchers
Preschool: The budget deal Dayton struck with Republican leaders includes $50 million in new spending for preschool education. Dayton, who sought more than $100 million for public preschool, also hinted that the money would be used in a way that satisfies Republicans desire to focus on low-income students who would benefit the most from early childhood education.
College funding: Lawmakers agreed to $210 million in new funding for state colleges and universities. Roughly half of the new money goes to Minnesota State colleges and universities, but they are required to hold down tuition costs. The University of Minnesota gets $54.6 million in new funding, about one-third of what it requested, which will likely lead to tuition hikes.
Teacher licensing: Dayton vetoed the overhaul of the state’s teacher licensing system the first time the Legislature sent it to him, saying it wasn’t paid for and didn’t have tough enough standards. Lawmakers were able to address the governor’s concerns and the legislation is included in the education budget bill they plan to pass before Wednesday.
Teacher layoffs: School leaders and teachers unions will have to negotiate a local plan for how staffing is cut when budgets get tight. The education funding bill eliminates fall back language that uses seniority as a key factor, a system commonly called “Last In, First Out,” or LIFO.
School funding: There was bipartisan agreement that local schools needed a 2 percent increase each year on the per pupil funding formula that funds day-to-day operations. Doing so would cost about $380 million over the next two years.
Integration funding guidance: Lawmakers did not provide new guidance on how schools can spend funding dedicated to integrating schools and closing the academic achievement gap, despite a request last fall from Brenda Cassellius, education commissioner.
Gun rights, genital mutilation, protest penalties and police training
Protest bills: Despite the new Legislature sponsoring a slate of bills to increase both criminal and civil penalties against protesters, on highways or off, none survived. The language that made it the furthest — which would have increased criminal penalties for protesters blocking highways — was nixed at the last minute, in exchange for a provision preventing undocumented immigrants from getting driver’s licenses.
Gun rights: A batch of bills that would have strengthened gun rights also didn’t survive the session. A “stand-your-ground” bill that would have expanded the types of incidents in which it is legal to take another person’s life received a pair of hearings, but in the end was not heard on the floor of either house.
Appleton prison: A push to mandate a lease of Appleton prison should the state ever need more prison beds was hobbled in committee hearings. In the end, the Legislature mandated an analysis of the prison if the state ever needs a major expansion.
Police training: With broad bipartisan support, the Legislature allocated a significant amount of money — $6 million a year — for police training, specific to the areas of crisis intervention and mental illness; conflict management; and “recognizing and valuing community diversity and cultural differences,” including implicit bias training.
Genital mutilation: Inspired by the April news of two Minnesota girls who allegedly had their genitals mutilated, House members approved a measure cracking down on parents who allow their daughters to undergo the traditional procedure. The Senate, however, did not act, so the measure will wait another year.
Fishing licenses, Sunday liquor, blaze pink, and Vikings suites
Sunday sales: After years of debate, Minnesota this year adopted a law to allow liquor stores to be open on Sundays, changing a ban on Sunday hours that had been around since statehood. In cities where Sunday liquor store hours are not banned, the Sunday booze sales can start July 2.
Two fishing lines: For years, some anglers have pushed legislators to allow fishing with two lines — current law allows only one outside of ice fishing — year-round. It has always died. It did again this year.
Fishing, hunting, state park fees: They’re all going up by a few bucks, in a $23 million fee increase awaiting Dayton’s signature. This is something the state Department of Natural Resources, Dayton and many outdoors groups supported to keep DNR funds flush.
Soccer stadium: Minnesota United will likely get the sales tax exemption it wanted for construction of a proposed $150 million professional soccer stadium in St. Paul, as well as a permanent property tax exemption for the site.
Blaze pink: Yes, pink. It’s the new blaze orange. In a bill awaiting Dayton’s signature, hunters currently required to wear blaze orange would be allowed to wear “blaze pink” as well. It’s not about fashion; the goal is to be alarmingly bright to be seen by other hunters, so they don’t shoot each other.
Vikings stadium: After media reports and a scathing audit about its use of suites at the Minnesota Vikings stadium, lawmakers set out to revamp the Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority. But they were unable to agree on a bill before the end of the session.
Marijuana: Some Minnesota lawmakers wanted the state to look at legalizing marijuana for recreational use. But nothing much happened to make that a reality. The state, like many others, already allows medicinal use of cannabis and made some tweaks to that law.
State Fair doughnuts: For five decades, Democrats have run a mini-doughnut booth at the Minnesota State Fair, with proceeds helping local party organizations. Republicans said that the doughnut money should be reported like other political donations and that the booth should let customers know the end goal of their purchases. As of Tuesday evening, the fate of that move was unclear.
Health insurance relief, health insurance for all, reinsurance
Insurance relief: Early this year, lawmakers spent up to $310 million to give relief to Minnesotans struggling with high health insurance premiums on the individual market. People who weren’t already getting a federal subsidy began receiving 25 percent discounts in May, retroactive to the beginning of the year and running through December.
Insurance for all: Dayton proposed a plan to allow all Minnesotans to “buy in” to the state MinnesotaCare system, a first step toward the public option health care he has long supported. That plan got little traction with Republicans in charge of the Legislature and will not come to fruition.
Reinsurance: After passing aid for the 2017 insurance market, lawmakers spent $542 million over two years on a “reinsurance” program to stabilize future markets. This money will reimburse insurers for high-cost claims, letting them charge customers up to 20 percent less than they otherwise would.
Local control, transportation, lawmakers’ pay and Real ID
Pre-emption: Republican lawmakers want to take away cities’ power to set labor laws for those working in their cities. This would halt Minneapolis and St. Paul from enforcing their paid-time-off ordinances, set for this summer, and from moving forward on minimum wage increases. Republicans plan to pass that measure, including some sweeteners like a long-awaited pension measure, to woo Dayton to sign it. He has said he will veto a preemption bill and made clear he would veto the measure despite the extra sugar.
Legislative salary: After Minnesota voted to give power over legislative pay to an independent council last year, the council met and decided lawmakers should get a 45 percent bump in pay to $45,000 a year. The Legislature did not budget for the increases, and House Speaker Kurt Daudt had said the House would refuse them, but they will likely go into effect anyway.
June 2016 mock-up of what a Real ID Minnesota driver's license could look like. The actual Real ID license would be developed once the state approves a plan. The 2016 Legislature did not agree on a plan. Photo courtesy of Minnesota Department of Public Safety.
June 2016 mock-up of what a Real ID Minnesota driver’s license could look like. Photo courtesy of Minnesota Department of Public Safety.
Real ID: Starting next year, Minnesotans can get federally approved driver’s licenses, known as Real ID licenses. It took the state years to adopt the 2005 federal standards — every state took action before Minnesota. The approved identification will be required at federal security checkpoints, like those at airports.
Transportation spending: Dayton gave up on his plan to raise the gas tax to fund the state’s transportation needs; Republicans gave up on their plan to redirect huge amounts of state funds now used for other purposes toward roads and bridges. In the end, they agreed to spend about $300 million more on transportation causes, although details were unavailable Tuesday evening.
Campaign financing: Republicans wanted to kill the unique-to-Minnesota campaign subsidies that candidates get in exchange for abiding by spending limits. But Democrats and Dayton objected. In the end, the subsidies survived.
Abortion, water quality, cop look-alikes and infrastructure
Abortion: Republican lawmakers passed a bill banning state-funded abortions through public health programs, and another requiring abortion clinics to be licensed by the state. Dayton, who supports abortion access, vetoed them both.
Water quality: A $500 million plan to buy some 60,000 acres of easements to protect wetlands and streams in the state’s farm belt was poised to get an infusion of funds, although it was unclear how much. The state was likely to remain well short of its goal of $150 million, which would leverage $350 million in federal funds. The measure awaits Dayton’s signature.
Police look-alikes: The Legislature placed more-stringent standards on how closely private citizens can mimic the attire or vehicles of law enforcement officials. After some lobbying from the private security industry, language that would have required changes to the colors of private uniforms or cars was dropped — but limits were placed on what words or insignias could be printed on them.
Bonding: New construction projects will get underway across the state this summer if lawmakers complete their work on passage of a $990 million bonding bill for public works. It will pay for repairs and improvements to college and university buildings, upgrading sewer and water systems, local road and bridge construction, renovating dams and levees, and making state hospitals and prisons more secure. Most of the projects are catch-up work after state policymakers failed to pass bonding bills in the previous two years. The measure was not publicly available Tuesday evening and awaited legislative action.