Capitol Update for February 28, 2013:
It was a busy week for both on-sale and off-sale liquor issues at the Capitol.
Senate Commerce Committee Liquor Bills: The Senate Commerce Committee held a hearing on Monday on a variety of liquor-related bills, including the bill to allow Sunday Sales of alcohol. Brief testimony was provided in support and opposition, but no vote was taken on the issue. Others bills included allowing Valley Fair to hold an on-sale liquor license, creating a beer educator license, allowing beer tastings, clarifying the ability of municipal liquor store cities to issue a taproom license, authorizing a liquor license for the new Saint Paul Ballpark, and three bills related to microdistilleries and the ability to offer samples, sell products at on-sale and off-sale. No votes were taken on any of these bills. The committee chair will likely include the non-controversial provisions in the omnibus liquor bill.
Liquor Tax Increases: The House Taxes Committee held a hearing on the bill to increase alcohol taxes and fund chemical dependency related programs. The increased taxes would raise approximately $393 million for the fiscal years 2014-15 biennium. Supporting the bill were proponents who mainly testified about the negative and costly effects on the public from alcohol use and abuse.
We worked with a coalition of representatives from all three-tiers of the alcohol industry to oppose the bill. We drafted a letter that was presented to the committee on behalf of the coalition (see attached). The committee ran out of time and the opponents only had time for three testifiers at this hearing, Anheuser Bush, the Teamsters and a Farm Winery testified. The committee will continue the hearing next week where Tim Mahoney of the Loon Restaurant in Downtown Minneapolis, the owner of the Lake Elmo Inn and Joe Bagnoli will testify on behalf of retailers; additional testimony will be provided by the Beer Wholesalers Association, and other opponents.
Minimum Wage: The proposal to increase the minimum wage passed by the first committee in the House. Mike Jennings, Jimmy’s in Minnetonka, attended several of the committee hearings and testified in opposition to the bill. The House Labor, Workplace, and Regulated Industries Committee passed H.F. 92 which proposes to increase the minimum wage as follows:
Large Employers (Annual gross volume of sales not less than $625,000)
$8.35 per hour beginning August 1, 2013
$9.45 per hour beginning August 1, 2014
$10.55 per hour beginning August 1, 2015
Small Employers (Annual gross volume of sales is less than $625,000)
$6.50 per hour beginning August 1, 2013
$7.75 per hour beginning August 1, 2014
$9.00 per hour beginning August 1, 2014
The bill also increases the wage for employees under the age of 20 for the first 90 consecutive days of employment. Additionally, the bill provides that beginning November 1, 2015 and each year, the minimum wage will be increased according to inflation
House Commerce Committee Liquor Hearing: On Tuesday, March 5, the House Commerce Committee will hear several liquor related bills. The bill to allow Sunday Sales of alcohol is not on the agenda. The committee will not vote on these bills but will consider them for possible inclusion in the omnibus liquor bill. The hearing is at 4:00 p.m. in the Basement hearing room in the State Office Building.
House Taxes Committee Hearing: On Wednesday, March 6 the House Taxes Committee will continue the hearing on the bill to increase liquor taxes. Committee testimony was cut short at the first hearing, retailers and others who oppose the bill will testify at this hearing. The hearing is at 12:30 p.m. in room 10 of the State Office Building.
Senate Jobs, Agriculture and Rural Development Committee Hearing: On Wednesday, March 6 the Senate Jobs Committee will hear bills related to increasing the minimum wage. The hearing is at 3:00 p.m. in room 112 of the Capitol.
General Legislative Update
February Budget Forecast: On Thursday, the Minnesota Management and Budget office released the February budget forecast. This is an update on the outlook of the state’s budget predictions which will be used as the Legislature assembles a budget for the next biennium, fiscal years 2014-15.
The February budget forecast shows a projected budget deficit of $627 million for fiscal
years 2014-15. This is an improvement of $463 million from the November budget forecast that showed a projected deficit of $1.1 billion. Fiscal year 2012-13 is now projected to have a positive balance of $295 million. Current law directs $290 million to buy back the K-12 school shifts, leaving a balance of $801 million remaining. Also under current law, the final $5 million is put towards the state’s budget reserve bringing that balance to $649 million. The 2016-17 structural balance improves from $263 million in the November forecast to $782 million.
Governor Dayton will present additional budget recommendations the week of March 11, 2013. The release of the February budget forecast officially starts the process for the legislature to make its budget recommendations.
Anti-Bully Legislation: Legislation to address bullying in schools was introduced in the House and Senate and heard in the House Education Policy committee this week. The “Safe and Supportive Minnesota Schools Bill” will require every school district to have an anti-bullying policy that contains specific components. Including clear definitions of bullying, harassment and intimidation, as well as protections for students most likely to be bullied.
Governor’s Tax Bill: The House Taxes Committee held a hearing on the Governor’s Tax bill and over a hundred individuals or organizations lined up to testify. Both proponents and opponents were given two minutes to tell the committee why they loved or hated the Governor’s proposed tax increases or the programs he proposes to fund. After two long hearings, the number of proponents and opponents were nearly equal.
Same-Sex Marriage: Bills were introduced in the House and Senate on Thursday to legalize marriage between same-sex couples. The bill has both DFL and Republican authors in the Senate. The bills will be heard by the Senate Judiciary Committee and the House Civil Law Committee.
Next Week: The House and Senate will take up the Health Care Exchange bills on the Floor of each body next week. We can expect that these will be long, contentious Floor debates. Next week on Wednesday, the House and Senate will meet in a Joint Convention for the election of Regents to the University of Minnesota.