MLBA Legislative Day: The Minnesota Licensed Beverage Association held its annual “Legislative Day” on Monday, January 28, 2013. This was a great opportunity for MLBA members to visit their Senators and Representatives where their bar or liquor store business is located and to and educate them about their business. MLBA members talked with legislators about our positions on Sunday Sales, bottle recycling and deposit bills, liquor taxes, implementation of electronic pull-tabs, proposed minimum wage increases, the three-tier system and proposed changes to the tax code relating to accelerated tax payments and collection of sales tax on internet sales. Many organizations hold Legislative Days throughout the session as a way to bring grass roots advocacy to the Capitol.
Committee Activity: The House and Senate Committees have begun to take a closer look at the Governor’s budget recommendations. The Tax Committees in both the House and Senate had presentations from the Commissioner of Revenue, Myron Frans, where they learned more about the Governor’s budget, but also asked very tough questions of the Commissioner to try and determine the impact of the tax proposals on Minnesota residents. The Commissioner of the Minnesota Management and Budget Department, Jim Schowalter, presented the budget to the House Ways and Means Committee. In this committee, some legislators questioned why the Governor included a cigarette tax increase but not a liquor tax increase. Overview hearings on the Governor’s budget were also heard in the Health and Human Services Committees, Public Safety and Judiciary Finance Committees, Education Finance and Higher Education Finance Committees, and the Transportation Finance Committees.
Minnesota Health Care Exchange: As part of the Federal Affordable Care Act, the
Minnesota Legislature is creating a health insurance exchange in Minnesota. The intent is for Minnesota to create and operate a Minnesota-designed health insurance exchange, rather than have the federal government operate a federally-designed health insurance exchange in Minnesota. Federal law allows states to design and operate their own exchanges, so long as the exchange meets certain federal requirements. Enrolment in the Minnesota Health Insurance Exchange begins October 1, 2013, with plan coverage starting January 1, 2014. Minnesota’s Blueprint Certification Application, submitted to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, stated that the February 1, 2013 Page 2
legislature would make policy decisions by March 31, 2013. If states are unable to set up an exchange, the federal government will step in and establish it for them. Due to the March 31 deadline, this legislation has been quickly moving through the legislative committee process. The bills, Senate File 1 and House File 5, address governance and financing. To date, the bills have been heard in three committees in the Senate and four committees in the House.
Capitol Renovations: The House and Senate Capital Investment Committees both heard updates this week regarding restoration plans for the State Capitol. The original building cost $4.5 million to construct and preservation plans have been discussed for the past 28 years, with little being done. Chipped paint and missing concrete are obvious signs of needed repair, but the electrical, plumbing and mechanical systems are in need of work or replacement. In the 2012 session, $44 million was approved to begin the upgrades which included design work, repairs to some exterior stone and a new tunnel under University Avenue for secure deliveries. The recommendation to the committee was to invest $109 million for the renovation projects this session and another $94.5 million in the 2014 session. There seems to be a general consensus that the repairs are needed and the state will make the investment, however, the exact amount of bonding to approve each year is still up for discussion. And, the debate over whether or not the Legislature will approve a bonding bill this session has not been resolved.