1.) The House Taxes Committee voted unanimously to approve a bill that would reduce taxes by $500 million through federal tax conformity and the repeal of all three business-to-business excises passed in 2013. Committee chair Rep. Ann Lenczewski, DFL-Bloomington, said moving the wide-ranging bill swiftly is critical, because many Minnesotans have already filed their income taxes or are in the process of doing so. Lenczewski’s bill would benefit middle-class families, she explained, through the inclusion of $111 million worth of tax exemptions currently offered by the federal government. Two of the business-to-business services taxes went into effect at the beginning of the current fiscal year, while the warehousing and storage tax is scheduled to start on April 1. The tax repeal package, and Lenczewski’s dedication to moving it immediately, drew support from the committee’s Republicans, but is unlikely to advance with the same pace in the Senate, where an informational tax hearing was held earlier this week.
2.) Let the posturing toward a global legislative deal begin: As the Star Tribune reports, the House Rules Committee met yesterday to discuss its pending approval of the $90 million to build a new Senate office building ($63M) and two new parking garages ($27M). To no one’s surprise, the committee deferred any action on the bill, which awaits only the blessing of House Rules before the project can start. “I’ve heard both from Democrats and Republicans a fair amount of skepticism and also, I think, a lot of alignment around the idea that if the building is to proceed, that there should be 67 senators in that building, or 67 offices, even if the senators aren’t all in them to start,” House Majority Leader Erin Murphy told the panel. “I think we have a question before us that needs some thought.”
In addition to representing a potentially serious campaign-season headache for Gov. Mark Dayton and the DFL House majority, the approval of the new Senate building represents one of the few clear sources of leverage in negotiations over numerous legislative differences between the two chambers. Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk and Senate Tax Reform Division Chair Ann Rest have both expressed reservations about House Democrats’ push to repeal three controversial business-to-business sales taxes passed last year and to adopt full federal income tax conformity (see above), and the House and Senate remain $1.75/hour apart on legislation to increase the state’s minimum wage.
3.) MPR reports that the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency has postponed the release of recommendations regarding changes to Minnesota’s sulfate standard for wild rice. The seemingly obscure administrative rule involved has been a source of controversy owing in part to the rule’s potential impact on pending mining operations in northern Minnesota. The MPCA released a study in January suggesting that stringent sulfate standards were needed for waters where wild rice is grown, but more recently the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce released an analysis critical of the MPCA’s findings.
COMINGS & GOINGS
- Both the DFL Party and the Republican Party of Minnesota are holding a number of local party unit endorsement conventions over the weekend, with dozens of GOP events scheduled to kick off tomorrow morning. View the list of DFL endorsement conventions here; Republican events can be found here.
- Former Minnesota Chamber of Commerce lobbyist Kate Johansen has been hired by the Department of Human Services to assist in improving that agency’s work on MNsure, according to MPR. Johansen was the business group’s lead lobbyist during MNsure’s passage during the 2013 session, and has since become a graduate student at Stanford University in California.
- Republican Drew Christensen seized on the news that Rep. Pam Myhra, R-Burnsville, will join Marty Seifert‘s gubernatorial ticket, announcing his candidacy for Myhra’s House District 56A seat. Christensen is currently a student at the University of Minnesota, and has previously served as treasurer of the Minnesota College Republicans.
- Lobbyist John Berns registered to represent Fresh Energy, taking that group’s current list of lobbyists on retainer up to eight.
- Debra Corhouse has signed-up to lobby for Education Minnesota. It is Corhouse’s first lobbying job, and she becomes the union’s 20th advocate on file.