Minnesota Legislative Preview for 2018

Mitchell Rolling

The 2018 legislative session has started, kicking off what is sure to be a contentious and complicated year of legislation for the state of Minnesota.

Last year’s session ended on a heated note between Republican lawmakers and Governor Mark Dayton, whose line-item veto de-funded appropriations for the legislative branch in a desperate political move to force Republicans to give in on budget spending. 

District Judge John Guthmann originally ruled that this veto violated the Constitution by effectively leaving the state without an operating legislative branch. The Minnesota Supreme Court reversed this decision, though, claiming that Dayton had a constitutional right to line-item veto the funding. The Supreme Court ordered mediation between the two parties which yielded no results.

GOP lawmakers assert that they will send Dayton a clean funding bill to start off the legislative session, but Democrats want to include state employee contract approval. 

This is Dayton’s last session in office, and he will likely push for more of his legislation to solidify his legacy as he walks out. 

The agenda for Minnesota lawmakers will also include a capital investment bill and address the changes in the federal tax code.

Governor Dayton is pushing for a $1.5 to $2.3 billion budget proposal, which Republicans say is too high. Republican Senator Dave Senjem says that he wishes to see it closer to $800 million. Other Republican lawmakers agree with Senjem. Last year’s budget was $988 million, far less than what the Governor is proposing.

Regarding taxes, Minnesota is one of the few states that use the federal taxable income to determine the states’ taxable income. After reviewing the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, which has been projected to increase Minnesota’s tax-base, the Minnesota legislature will then determine how to simplify tax filing and provide tax relief. 

This debate will not be easy, as Dayton has already stated that he wishes to re-address the 2017 Omnibus Tax Bill. Republican lawmakers claim they will hold firm on not revisiting bills that have already passed into law.

The legislative session will also cover transit and transportation issues as well as address the problems with the new licensing system for vehicles, known as MNLARS.

MNLARS problems include long delays, slow performance, incorrect charges, and the inability to process transactions. Officials are asking lawmakers for $43 million to fix the system in addition to the already $93 million appropriated for the program. 

The Republicans control the Senate 34-33 to start the session, but that could change depending on the legal status over Michelle Fischbach’s dual status as senator and lieutenant governor. Many members of the legislature are also either seeking higher office or have elected not to run for re-election.

Lawmakers seeking higher office include: 

Senator Karin Housley (R-Stillwater) for the U.S. Senate, Representative Jim Newberger (R-Becker) for the U.S. Senate, Senator Carla Nelson (R-Rochester) for Congress, Representative Tina Liebling (DFL-Rochester) for Governor, Representative Erin Murphy (DFL-St. Paul) for Governor, and Representative Peggy Flanagan (DFL-St. Louis Park) for Lieutenant Governor.

Members not seeking re-election include: 

Susan Allen (DFL-Minneapolis), David Bly (DFL-Northfield), Karen Clark (DFL-Minneapolis), Matt Dean (R-Dellwood), Clark Johnson (DFL-Mankato), Sheldon Johnson (DFL-St. Paul), Paul Thissen (DFL-Minneapolis), Mark Uglem (R-Champlin), JoAnn Ward (DFL-Woodbury), and Abigail Whelan (R-Anoka).