2015 SESSION – FIRST WEEK (January 5-11)

January 21, 2015

Minnesota lawmakers convened for the start of the 2015 legislative session on Tuesday, January 6, 2015. The opening day included calls, in both chambers, for a better working relationship between the political parties as they try to set aside political differences to tackle the two-year state budget that must be completed this spring. The session must end by midnight on Monday, May 18. 

Dayton Sworn In. Governor-elect Mark Dayton was officially sworn into office on Monday at noon at the Landmark Center in St. Paul. Dayton is the first DFL Governor to be sworn in for a second term in 28 years. The last two-term DFL Governor in Minnesota was Rudy Perpich, who was sworn in to a second term in January, 1987. The majority of the current agency commissioners will remain with Dayton as he begins his second term – 20 of the 24 commissioners have already agreed to stay. Commissioner Jim Schowalter left the Minnesota Management and Budget Agency in mid-December, and he was replaced by current Department of Revenue Commissioner Myron Frans (Cynthia Bauerly, the Deputy Commissioner of Revenue, replaced Frans). The other three commissioners who are not staying are: Tony Sertich, Commissioner of the Iron Range Resources and Rehabilitation Board; Susan Haigh, Chair of the Metropolitan Council; and Carolyn Parnell, Commissioner of the Minnesota I.T. Agency. 

Commodity Group Meeting. The executive directors and lobbyists of most of the state’s commodity groups met in Shakopee on Tuesday to continue the discussions on the possibility of putting together a unified agriculture agenda for 2015. Ideas include additional transportation funding, increased truck weights, regulatory and permitting reform, property tax reform, and up to $30 million to fund agriculture-specific programs such as the Farm Business Management program. The group has agreed to the above items in principle, and work on those issues will begin immediately. 

Transportation Funding. Discussion over what is expected to be one of the more contentious issues this session – transportation funding – kicked off the first week with all sides tossing out an opening bid. Governor Dayton called for a $5.8 billion transportation funding package, spread over the next ten years, through a 6.5% wholesale tax on fuel, an increase in the license tab fees, and an increase in the metro-area sales tax. Senate Democrats support a plan similar to the Governor’s that would raise approximately $800 million per year through the wholesale fuel tax and increases in fees. The Senate plan also includes a metro-area sales tax to pay for transit, since gas tax proceeds are constitutionally dedicated to roads and may not be used for transit. Using today’s gas price, the 6.5% sales tax would add 12 cents per gallon onto the current 28.5 cents per gallon. House Republicans support increasing funding in the amount of $750 million over the next four years using efficiencies within MnDOT and by using $200 million of the projected budget surplus. These were merely the opening bids, and all sides said they were open to other options. Something will likely come together by the end of the session as the pieces of a global budget agreement come together. It’s worth noting that 50% of the pavement in Minnesota and 35% of the bridges on highways are more than 50 years old.

 University Regents. The University of Minnesota Regent Candidate Advisory Committee met a couple of times during the first week to select candidates to forward to the legislature for consideration. Seats on the Board of Regents are divided out by Congressional districts. The Advisory Committee narrowed the list from 34 applicants down to ten finalists, and those ten finalists are competing for five seats. The ten finalists are:

1st District –   Dr. Claire Bender (Rochester), a retired physician from the Mayo Clinic

                        Randy Sampson (Worthington), CEO of Grazix Animal Health

3rd District –   Dr. Michael Belzer (Edina), chief medical officer in Hennepin County

                        Paula Prahl (Long Lake), Senior VP of communications at Best Buy

4th District –    Richard Beeson (St. Paul), a banker

                        Thomas Sorel (Woodbury), former state Transportation Commissioner

6th District –    Michael Hsu (Blaine), president of TeeMaster Corporation

                        Steven Laraway (St. Cloud), CEO of Laraway Financial Advisors

7th District –    Thomas Anderson (Alexandria), director of Anderson Funeral Home

                       Michael Yost (Murdock), farmer and former Foreign Ag Service                                                Administrator

A joint legislative committee will select one candidate from each District and forward that name to the full legislature for consideration. Four of the five seats are currently open. Richard Beeson, currently representing the 4th District, is the only incumbent.

LSOHC Recommendations.  The Lessard-Sams Outdoor Heritage Council met in December to finalize its recommendations for the 2015 session. The Council is recommending projects totaling $100 million, and the entire list has been introduced as HF-181 (McNamara) and SF-242 (Saxhaug). For more information, go to www.lsohc.leg.mn.

Committees. No committees of interest to agriculture met during the first week.

Introduction of Bills. At the start of each bi-ennium, the party in power gets the privilege of introducing HF-1 and SF-1, which are considered symbolic bills to let the public know what the top priority is in each body. SF-1 (Jensen) provides disaster assistance deficiency funding appropriations, while HF-1 (Kresha) promotes rural economic development and includes permitting and rulemaking reforms. The following bills of interest to agriculture were introduced during the first week. Any of these bills can be found at http://www.leg.state.mn.us/ by clicking “Search House Bills” or by clicking “Search Senate Bills”, under the “Bill Search & Status” heading, and then entering the bill number: 

SF 9                 Skoe           Makes changes to agricultural homestead determinations

HF 60              Davids

SF 50               Skoe             Conforms Minnesota law with federal income tax changes

HF 6                Davids

HF 1                Kresha           Modifies permitting processes and reforms rulemaking

HF 4                Kelly               Requires MnDOT to implement cost efficiencies

House Committee Rosters. The full roster of House Committee members was released in December. The most important committees for agriculture are the agriculture, environment, transportation, and tax committees. One notable change from prior years is that Representative Jean Wagenius (D-Minneapolis) was not appointed to any committee dealing with agriculture or the environment. The link to the entire committee roster list is: http://www.house.leg.state.mn.us/comm/commemlist.asp.


HOUSE AG POLICY COMMITTEE – meets Wednesday at 10:15 a.m. in Room 5 of the State Office Building.

CHAIR: Paul Anderson (R-Starbuck)                      

VICE CHAIR: Mary Franson (R-Alexandria)

Mark Anderson (R-Lake Shore)                     David Bly (D-Northfield)

Jeff Backer (R-Browns Valley)                      Susan Allen (D-Minneapolis)

Rod Hamilton (R-Mountain Lake)                 Clark Johnson (D-Mankato)

Dale Lueck (R-Aitkin)                                    Carlos Mariani (D-St. Paul)

Bud Nornes (R-Fergus Falls)                          Paul Marquart (D-Dilworth)

Jason Rarick (R-Pine City)                             Jeanne Poppe (D-Austin)

Joe Schomacker (R-Luverne)                          Jennifer Schultz (D-Duluth)

HOUSE AG FINANCE COMMITTEE – meets Tuesday and Thursday at 10:15 a.m. in Room 5 of the State Office Building.

CHAIR: Rod Hamilton (R-Mountain Lake)            

VICE CHAIR: Deb Kiel (R-Crookston)                  

Mark Anderson (R-Lake Shore)                     Jeanne Poppe (D-Austin)

Paul Anderson (R-Starbuck)                           Jon Applebaum (D-Minnetonka)

Peggy Bennett (R-Albert Lea)                        David Bly (D-Northfield)

Brian Daniels (R-Fairbault)                            Karen Clark (D-Minneapolis)

Dan Fabian (R-Roseau)                                  David Dill (D-Crane Lake)

Glen Gruenhagen (R-Glencoe)                        Rick Hansen (D-South St. Paul)

Dale Lueck (R-Aitkin)                                    Clark Johnson (D-Mankato)

Tim Miller (R-Prinsburg)                               Jason Metsa (D-Virginia)

Nels Pierson (R-Rochester)                            Mike Sundin (D-Esko) 

HOUSE ENVIRONMENT POLICY AND FINANCE COMMITTEE – meets Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday at 8:15 a.m. in Room 5 of the State Office Building.

CHAIR: Denny McNamara (R-Hastings)                           

VICE CHAIR: Dan Fabian (R-Roseau)

Tony Cornish (R-Vernon Center)                  Rick Hansen (D-South St. Paul)

Kelly Fenton (R-Woodbury)                          Karen Clark (D-Minneapolis)

Steve Green (R-Fosston)                                David Dill (D-Crane Lake)

Tom Hackbarth (R-Cedar)                              Peter Fischer (D-Maplewood)

David Hancock (R-Bemidji)                           Alice Hausman (D-St. Paul)

Josh Heintzeman (R-Nisswa)                         Frank Hornstein (D-Minneapolis)

Jim Newberger (R-Becker)                             Clark Johnson (D-Mankato)

Jason Rarick (R-Pine City)                             John Persell (D-Bemidji)

Paul Torkelson (R-Hanska)                            Jeanne Poppe (D-Austin)

Mark Uglem (R-Champlin)

HOUSE TRANSPORTATION POLICY AND FINANCE COMMITTEE – meets Monday at 12:45 in Room 5 and Wednesday at 12:45 p.m. in the Basement Room of the State Office Building.

CHAIR: Tim Kelly (R-Red Wing)

VICE CHAIR: John Petersburg (R-Waseca)

Mark Anderson (R-Lake Shore)                     Ron Erhardt (D-Edina)

Steve Drazkowski (R-Mazeppa)                   Frank Hornstein (D-Minneapolis)

Jeff Howe (R-Rockville)                                 Joe Atkins (D-Inver Grove Heights)

Jon Koznick (R-Lakeville)                              Connie Bernardy (D-Fridley)

Eric Lucero (R-Dayton)                                  Alice Hausman (D-St. Paul)

Denny McNamara (R-Hastings)                    Clark Johnson (D-Mankato)

Jim Nash (R-Waconia)                                    Sandra Masin (D-Eagan)

Linda Runbeck (R-Circle Pines)                     Kim Norton (D-Rochester)

Tim Sanders (R-Blaine)                                  Mike Sundin (D-Esko)

Mark Uglem (R-Champlin)

Abigail Whelan (R-Anoka)

HOUSE TAX COMMITTEE – meets Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday at 10:15 a.m. in Room 200 of the State Office Building.

CHAIR: Greg Davids (R-Preston)                           

VICE CHAIR: Bob Barrett (R-Lindstrom)

Sarah Anderson (R-Plymouth)                       Ann Lenczewski (D-Bloomington)

Steve Drazkowski (R-Mazeppa)                   Tom Anzelc (D-Balsam Township)

Sondra Erickson (R-Princeton)                       Lyndon Carlson (D-Crystal)

Pat Garofalo (R-Farmington)                          Jim Davnie (D-Minneapolis)

Tom Hackbarth (R-Cedar)                              Ron Erhardt (D-Edina)

Jim Knoblach (R-St. Cloud)                           John Lesch (D-St. Paul)

Jon Koznick (R-Lakeville)                              Diane Loeffler (D-Minneapolis)

Jenifer Loon (R-Eden Prairie)                         Carly Melin (D-Hibbing)

Joe McDonald (R-Delano)                             Erik Simonson (D-Duluth)

John Petersburg (R-Waseca)                           Linda Slocum (D-Richfield)

Chris Swedzinski (R-Ghent)

Paul Torkelson (R-Hanska)

Anna Wills (R-Apple Valley)

HOUSE PROPERTY TAX COMMITTEE – meets Wednesday at 8:15 a.m. in the Basement Room of the State Office Building.

CHAIR: Steve Drazkowski (R-Mazeppa)              

VICE CHAIR: Duane Quam (R-Byron)

Paul Anderson (R-Starbuck)                           Jim Davnie (D-Minneapolis)

Sondra Erickson (R-Princeton)                       Ann Lenczewski (D-Bloomington)

Jerry Hertaus (R-Greenfield)                          Ben Lien (D-Moorhead)

Jon Koznick (R-Lakeville)                              Paul Marquart (D-Dilworth)

Joe McDonald (R-Delano)                             Dave Pinto (D-St. Paul)

Bob Vogel (R-Elko New Market)                   Erik Simonson (D-Duluth)

Abigail Whelan (R-Anoka)                             Cheryl Youakim (D-Hopkins)