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CAI-MN Legislative Update - April 11, 2014

Posted By CAI-MN LAC, Friday, April 11, 2014

Solar Bill- HF 2834: Omnibus Energy Bill

This week Michael, John and I met with representatives of Fresh Energy and House bill author Rep. Will Morgan (DFL-Burnsville) to discuss the solar energy systems language. Originally HF 2918 the bill has been wrapped up into the House Omnibus Energy bill which is HF 2834 authored by Rep. Melissa Hortman (DFL-Brooklyn Park). The House bill has been schedule to be taken up on the House floor on Tuesday, April 22. Fresh Energy has brought fourth another amendment which eases more of the concerns that we have raised with the proposal since day one. In return for giving us more of our requests they are looking to move the bill forward without the effective date that was added in the Senate on SF 2555.


Following our meeting the three of us along with Todd Liljenquist with CIC Midwest discussed strategy to put pressure on the Senate regarding the effective date of January 1, 2015 being adopted in conference committee. Over the next week we will be working on a few letters to key legislators in the Senate advocating for that position. In the House we plan to let the bill take its course with adoption of the latest amendment that was discussed this week. We could offer an amendment regarding the effective date but it would be voted down and then the House would have an official position on the issue going into conference committee. We will also be working on a few action alerts to members to contact individuals regarding the effective date.


Over the past few months the language while not idea has gotten better and better for CAI and HOA’s. In our meetings and committee hearings it is clear that a bill is moving forward this session. By working with Fresh Energy and legislators we have been able to address a number of concerns and the bill continues to get better and better from where it originated. We will continue to work and talk with individuals to try and get the best outcome we can.


Bigger Picture Items:

This week legislators wrapped up their work on a number of larger issues as well as passed their own supplemental budget and tax bills. Two of the larger outstanding pieces of the 2014 legislative session which were passed off the House and Senate floors this week were the Omnibus Supplemental Budget bill and the second Omnibus Tax bill.  Now that each chamber has passed their bills the real work will come upon return from break when conference committee’s on each bill will have to work to reach compromise. Unlike the first tax bill that passed both chambers earlier this session these two bills in each body are very far apart from being similar.


In the Omnibus Budget bill the Senate looks to spend $209 million while the House has $322 million allocated in their bill. On top of the differences between the Senate and the House, Governor Dayton has publically said that both proposals spend too much. Differences will have to be ironed when legislators return from break, which could lead to some tough negotiations and a possible showdown with the governor.


With the passing of a second Omnibus Tax bill HF 3167 which is quite different from the bill passed last week by the House, members of the Taxes Conference Committee will have their own challenge.  Included in the Senate bill is about $100 million in spending on revenue changes, including a new income tax credit for families with out-of-pocket expenses related to special education or reading help; extending the local sales tax exemption to joint powers entities;  income tax credit for volunteer first responders; modifications to the June accelerated sales tax; funds to help counties with aquatic invasive species and help for counties with unpaid assessments for conservation easements on state owned land; retroactive sales tax exemption for durable medical equipment; and a variety of local bills for tax increment financing, sales tax authority and other items.


House conference committee members are Lenczewski, Davnie, Davids, Torkelson, and Slocum.  Senate conference committee members are Skoe, Rest, Dziedzic, Koenen and Gazelka.  They will meet to work out the differences in their bills after the legislative break.


Along with the budget and tax bill’s, the House and Senate reached a deal on minimum wage. On Monday, legislative leaders announced that they had reached a deal over the weekend on minimum wage. Since last session the House and Senate had been split on the amount and whether the minimum wage should be indexed to reflect inflation. The two were eventually able to come together on a wage of $9.50 an hour but the inflation piece remained the biggest obstacle. The deal reached raises the minimum wage for large employers from $6.15 an hour to $9.50 an hour by 2016. It also includes a 90-day training wage of $7.75 an hour for teen workers. Future increases would be tied to inflation starting in 2018; however the commissioner of the Department of Labor and Industry (DEED) would be able to prevent inflationary increases if there is an economic downturn.


The bill HF 2091 passed the Senate earlier this week on Wednesday with a 35-31 vote. Three DFL Senators voted no on the measure. On Thursday the House passed the bill 71-60 with one DFLer voting no. The bill now heads to Governor Dayton who has announced that he will sign the bill on Monday. 


Legislative Easter/Passover Break:

The Minnesota Legislature is now on break and will return on Tuesday, April 22 at noon. No meetings or hearings are schedule over this time. Once legislators return we are anticipating a quick few weeks as they look to wrap up their work for the session and head home early.

Tags:  law  legislative  omnibus  solar  update 

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