Legislative Update: April 23, 2021
The House and Senate spent the last two weeks moving the omnibus bills of out their respective finance committees, debating them on the floor and sending the bills to the other chambers for their consideration. Very little has changed to the bills since leaving their committees of origin. Some notable highlights are included below.
The House passed the omnibus state government finance and elections bill, HF 1952 as amended, off the floor late Thursday evening along party lines. While the bill largely remained unchanged, two significant amendments affecting state employees were added. The first was an amendment offered by Rep. Duane Quam, which mandates that state agencies conducting layoffs due to budgetary shortfalls do so in a way that not disproportionately affect local economies outside of the metro area. MAPE opposes this language as it interferes with our contractual bumping, bidding, and seniority rights.
The other amendment, offered by Rep. Mike Howard, provides for a new process for SEGIP to select a pharmacy benefit manager (PBM) known as a reverse auction that is similar to the competitive bidding process. Other states implementing the process have seen a decrease in prescription drug costs for public employees and employers, helping mitigate the rising cost of care without impacting the drug formularies designed in the bargaining process. The new language in the amendment formalizes the joint labor management (JLM) representation for the selection of the PBM. MAPE supports the overall proposal and will continue to work on the language to ensure our members have significant input in the PBM selection process and drafting of the formulary. The Senate has yet to bring their bill to the floor.
On Saturday, the House passed HF 1684, the omnibus transportation bill along party lines. The House version includes fully agency funding and significant investments in infrastructure and multimodal transit. There is also a 1.2 cent per gallon gas tax increase to support the trunk highway fund, which is used to build and maintain Minnesota’s roads and bridges. The Senate took up the bill yesterday and amended their version onto the house file, which includes cuts to MnDOT and the Department of Public Safety, restricts the use of trunk highway funds, and uses potential federal money to supplant general funds.
The omnibus higher education bill, SF 975, passed out of both the House and the Senate largely along party lines and differ quite a bit. The Senate proposes a 5 percent tuition reduction and provides less than a third of the money requested by the MnSCU system in operating adjustment, which would have an estimated $70 million revenue impact to the system. The House included the full operations and maintenance, but also includes a tuition freeze for both years of the biennium. An amendment offered by Rep. Marion O’Neill that would permit supplanting the general funds with federal funds, if the federal relief money is determined eligible for such use, was accepted.
The E-12 omnibus bills have vast differences, including the Senate proposal shifting money away from public schools, cutting the Department of Education, and eliminating the Perpich Center for the Arts. The House position fully funds the agencies and increases public school funding.
The Jobs bill, SF 1098, also has large differences. Included in the House version is the Paid Family and Medical Leave and Earned Sick and Safe Time, COVID 19 relief and expanded UI benefits, and fully funds the state agencies and the Public Employment Relations Board (PERB).
Next week the Senate will take up the state government finance and tax bills, as well as begin the painstaking conference committee process.