1.) Gov. Mark Dayton signed $440 million in tax cuts into law late Friday, reports the Pioneer Press. It followed a day in which both DFL-led chambers of the Legislature gave the bill final passage by votes of 58-5 (Senate) and 126-2 (House). The package includes $226 million in federal income tax conformity measures, such as elimination of the so-called “marriage penalty” for joint filers and increased working family tax credits, and repeals all three of the business-to-business sales taxes passed just last year. It also repeals the state gift tax passed in 2013, and provides for a five-year phased-in shift from a $1 million exemption on estate taxes to $2 million.
Revenue Commissioner Myron Frans immediately sought to assure taxpayers that his department will make the logistics of claiming any additional refunds as painless as possible. According to MPR, Frans said, “If you’ve already filed, we will do three things. We will examine your return to see if we can make the adjustment for you, after we make our changes. We will notify you, a taxpayer, if you need to give us more information, and we’ll notify you if you need to file an amended return. But we’ll give more concrete information on Monday.”
3.) MPR notes that super-PACs have sprung up on both sides of DFL U.S. Sen. Al Franken’s election bid. Greg Johnson of Weber Johnson Public Affairs is heading up an anti-Franken PAC dubbed the Heartland Campaign Fund, and its efforts will be countered by a new pro-Franken committee established by WIN Minnesota, the organization that has spearheaded fundraising for DFL independent spending efforts in the past two election cycles. The WIN Minnesota Federal PAC, headed by Adam Duininck, has already raised $357,000 that will be spent on defending Franken and possibly DFL U.S. Rep. Rick Nolan, whose own fundraising totals have been running on the low side.
3.) Failure of a medical marijuana bill this session seems inevitable, but Gov. Mark Dayton is looking to keep the issue alive in some sense. Dayton announced on Friday that he wants to see the state fund a $2.2 million study on the topic, according to the Star Tribune, and has called for the research to be conducted at the prestigious Mayo Clinic in Rochester. The study would look specifically into benefits and risks of using cannabinoid compounds found in marijuana to treat seizure disorders such as epilepsy, and the idea has the support of Health Commissioner Ed Ehlinger. It’s less clear if the governor has cleared the idea with law enforcement groups, which have so far opposed any move toward legalization, though Dayton said the administration believes those organizations would back the study proposal.
- COMINGS & GOINGS
- Rep. Kathy Brynaert, DFL-Mankato, will retire from the Legislature after this session, according to the Mankato Free Press. Brynaert, 69, is in her fourth term in the House, and has been a leading DFL lawmaker on issues of education topics ranging from early childhood programs to the state college system. No potential successors have made their candidacy official; the local DFL unit will hold its endorsing convention May 17.
- Attorney Dave Pinto won the DFL endorsement in House District 64B on Sunday, the Pioneer Press reports. Pinto outlasted a field of six candidates, each of whom had agreed to abide by the party endorsement, to win the party support of the district currently held by Rep. Michael Paymar, DFL-St. Paul.
- University of Minnesota-Duluth economics professor Jennifer Schultz earned the Democratic endorsement in the race to succeed outgoing Rep. Tom Huntley, DFL-Duluth, according to the Duluth News Tribune. Schultz needed seven ballots to win the four-way race, finally ousting Duluth Fire Department Captain Pete Johnson on the last vote count.
- Andrea Ledger terminated her registration to lobby on behalf of the Minnesota Nurses Association, bringing the organization’s Capitol representation team down to five; it had been Ledger’s only lobbying work.
- The Department of Administration is taking applications for a pair of fellowship openings, one of which would be conducted in concert with Minnesota Management and Budget (MMB). The position contained within Administration would allow for hands-on work converting state rules to “plain language,” while the combination post with MMB involves the collection and use of business data as it relates to population trends. Both jobs can be found in the state jobs board site.