1) Gov. Mark Dayton will sign a bill hiking Minnesota’s minimum wage to $9.50 for large employers by 2016 on Monday after two legislative sessions worth of wrangling over the proposal. The House, which was the main booster of raising the wage, followed the Senate in passing the increase on Thursday.
Democrats focused on the impacts of raising the wage for low income workers — and for women — when discussing the increase, which will be phased in over time and will take Minnesota from one of the lowest wage states in the nation to one of the highest. Republicans in the Senate criticized the wage increase for killing jobs, while GOP House members took shots at Democrats for agreeing to a deal that they say centered on a controversial Senate office building proposal.
“If we believe in hope and opportunity and hard work, this should be an easy yes vote for this entire chamber,” said House Majority Leader Erin Murphy, DFL-St. Paul. “And I know [Republicans] don’t want to talk about that, so you’ve talked about everything else that you could think about.”
Minimum wage negotiations and a plan to build the new Senate office building were both deadlocked for much of the session, but suddenly fell into place late last week and early this week.
2) The Senate on Thursday passed a $101 million tax relief package — on top of $443 million in tax relief already signed into law — that doesn’t directly address the property tax cuts the House passed a week ago, the Pioneer Press reports. The Senate plan would make more local governments exempt from paying sales taxes, while the House passed $45 million in cuts for farmers, homeowners and renters.
“Doing just a one-year reduction for individuals or homeowners and then having their property taxes go up again next year by a comparable amount probably is not the best long-term tax policy,” Senate Tax Committee Chairman Rod Skoe, DFL-Clearbrook, said of the $103 million House measure.
The Senate plan includes $11.6 million in tax breaks for families who have special needs children, $8.6 million for volunteer firefighters as well as $10 million to combat invasive species and a provision for tax reciprocity with Wisconsin.
3) The Senate took up a medical marijuana measure for the first time on Thursday, revitalizing what appeared to be stalled legislation, according to Minnesota Public Radio. The panel didn’t vote on the proposal, which authorizes strict access to marijuana to patients with a set of debilitating conditions, but that will likely come later this month.
Sen. Scott Dibble, DFL-Minneapolis, said he was spurred to bring the measure forward for a hearing after Gov. Mark Dayton, who has opposed the measure, told lawmakers to bring it up for a vote. The House has been pushing its own medical marijuana proposal, but it appears to have stalled out there. It’s unclear what the path forward for advocates will be after lawmakers return to the Legislature.
COMINGS & GOINGS
- Gov. Mark Dayton announced his intention to sign the minimum wage increase bill into law on Monday afternoon, though the specific time and location have yet to be determined.
- The Minnesota Attorney General’s office is hiring for a pair of administrative assistant positions. The staffers would be tasked with maintaining office databases an Excel spreadsheets, drafting office correspondence and clerical support work. The positions come with an annual salary range of $29,000-$38,000; more information at the state jobs website.
- Southern Minnesota Regional Legal Services Inc. has retained four lobbyists from the Almeida Public Affairs firm, including Cristine Almeida. Prior to those registrations, the legal interest group had only one lobbyist on record.
- The 8th Congressional District Republicans will hold their endorsing convention at the Park Rapids School tomorrow.
- Lobbyists Randy Morris and Abigail Gossman have been enlisted by AstraZeneca Pharmaceutical to represent its interests in Minnesota. Morris and Gossman both formerly represented MedImmune, and their addition gives AstraZeneca three lobbyists in this state.
- Voices of Conservative Women will hold a fundraiser in St. Paul featuring Republican U.S. Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) on Wednesday, April 23. The event is at the Embassy Suites downtown, and tickets are $50. More information here.