Tricounty News

Week in Review, April 25, 2014

Bonding

While the Senate has yet to introduce a bonding bill, the House has several proposals in the pipeline including a recently introduced $125 million cash proposal to fund a variety of construction projects using cash from the projected surplus. That is on top of the $1 billion biennial bonding cap legislative leaders have informally agreed upon. I have submitted bonding requests for the several local units of government. It is unclear if any of the projects will be included in the final bonding bill.

There is growing support to spend some of the cash surplus on transportation projects primarily to fix all the potholes. Unfortunately, the House proposal spends only a fraction of the $125 million on transportation with $37 million going to the Metropolitan Council. Some indications suggest the Senate may put together a much more robust transportation cash funding package.

Supplemental Omnibus Finance Bill in Conference

The Supplemental Budget Conference Committee began its work Tuesday and has now completed reviewing all the articles and spreadsheets. Chair Cohen made the point that money amounts in this bill will be closely related to amounts decided for the bonding bill.

Governor Dayton wants to spend more

Earlier this week, Gov. Dayton said he wants to spend an additional $100 million of the surplus on a variety of projects including broadband infrastructure, prison staffing and cost of living raises for personal care givers. Gov. Dayton’s additional spending would match up more closely with what DFL majorities are looking to spend.

Taxes

No overall tax target has been set. It’s expected the tax bill will likely be the last bill to be completed this session, pending conclusion of the budget and bonding bills. The tax conference will start to meet next week.

Medical Marijuana

Allowing some Minnesota patients to use marijuana to relieve extreme pain has been a hot topic this session. The bill stalled in a House committee early this session after the governor declared the legislation dead because of law enforcement and medical groups being in opposition. After some pressure from various groups, the governor suggested that the legislature act on the legislation. The leaders in the House and Senate said that the bill has the votes to pass. The governor at first wouldn’t take a position on the bill and most recently indicated he would veto it. Nonetheless, the legislation is moving in the Senate and will be heard in the Rules Committee Monday.

Data Privacy Protections

Tuesday, in a bipartisan effort, the Minnesota Senate passed a bill that would require government agencies to obtain a search warrant before collecting electronic device location information. A warrant is to be issued only if the entity shows there is probable cause that the person who possesses the device is committing, has committed, or is about to commit a criminal offense. The bill, authored by Republican Senator Branden Petersen, was also supported by Minnesota’s ACLU and data privacy advocates.

Newborn DNA Screening

Wednesday, the Senate passed a controversial newborn screening bill that permits the Department of Health to retain blood samples and test results indefinitely unless a parent or legal guardian elects against or “opts out” of the storage of the samples. It also allows the government to use the samples for public health studies and research not related to newborn screening if written informed consent has been provided.

Senate Republicans supported an amendment that would have favored an “opt in” solution, addressing concerns that it would be hard for parents to fully consider their options during a hectic hospital stay. Unfortunately, the amendment was defeated.

Hit and Run Legislation

Tuesday, the Senate passed a bill that requires a vehicle driver to stop and investigate if they have reason to believe their vehicle was involved in a collision. If the driver “has reason to know the collision resulted in” damage, injury, or death, they must remain at the scene. This bill is intended to address a recent rash of hit-and-run incidents involving drivers who strike pedestrians and bicyclists. However, there is significant opposition to the bill from those who feel it is too onerous by requiring all drivers to stop for any reason if they suspect damage was sustained.

Senator Michelle Fischbach encourages and appreciates constituent input and can be reached by phone at (651) 296-2084, by mail to G 15 State Office Building / St. Paul, MN 55155 or via e-mail at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .