Senate Commerce Hearing on Liquor Related Bills: The Senate Commerce Committee will hold a hearing on Monday, February 25 at noon on liquor related bills. The intention of the committee is to hear all bills relating to liquor that have been introduced to date, but to not take votes on any of these bills. This will include bills that we are “ok” with and bills that we oppose, including the bill to allow Sunday liquor sales. The committee will put together an omnibus liquor bill at a later date.
Minimum Wage: The House Labor, Workplace and Regulated Industries Committee will hold hearings on Monday, Wednesday and Thursday next week on the minimum wage issue. On Monday, the committee will hear presentations on the economic impact of increasing the minimum wage from John Schmitt of the Center for Economic Policy and Research and Douglas Hall of the Economic Policy Institute. On Wednesday, the committee will take public testimony on H.F. 92 which increases the minimum wage. On Thursday, votes will be taken on amendments and passage of H.F. 92. The bill proposes to increase the minimum wage for large employers to $7.50 beginning August 1, 2013. Also, beginning August 1, 2014, the minimum wage would be adjusted according to inflation for both small and large employers each year.
1 . . . 2 . . . 3: Governor Dayton signed into law the first three bills of the session. Chapter 1 expands Medical assistance eligibility; Chapter 2 ratifies state labor agreements and compensation plans; and Chapter 3 conforms various Minnesota taxes to federal changes enacted since 2011 and for tax year 2012 only.
Committee Work: Most work is taking place in committees as the Legislature heads toward the committee deadlines. A few of the committee highlights include:
Labor Day School Start Date: As predictable as a cold winter in Minnesota, the debate about when school starts in Minnesota surfaced this week in at the Capitol. Current law prohibits schools from starting the school year before Labor (with a few exceptions). The House Education Policy committee took testimony on a bill to repeal this law and allow school boards to determine the starting date. Those who support the current law include Minnesota’s resort and hospitality community, the Minnesota State Fair, Minnesota Grocer’s Association and other tourism related groups. The Minnesota School Boards Association and other education groups support the bill and changing current law. The committee took testimony on the bill, but no vote was taken.
Frac Sand Mining: A joint hearing of the Senate Environment and House Energy committees was held this week on the issue of frac sand mining. This was the first large airing of the issues that pit environmental and industry groups against each other. An overflow crowd attended the hearing where legislators learned about the mining of silica sand which is increasing in value because of its use in the hydraulic fracturing (fracking) operations that yield natural gas. The issue is extremely controversial and divisive in the city of Red Wing and southeastern Minnesota where the silica sand is of high quality. Legislation is expected to be introduced to address concerns about air and water quality as a result of the frac sand mining. At the end of the hearing, legislators were left with more questions than answers on this controversial and complicated topic.
Guns Move to the Senate: After three days of hearings in the House Public Safety committee on gun issues, the Senate held two days of hearings this past week. However, the chairman of the Senate Judiciary committee has stated that the Senate will not be considering bills that ban guns, instead focusing on issues related to background checks, permitting and similar issues. The committee chairman said that the issue of an assault weapons ban is better addressed at the federal level.
Photo Cop: The House Transportation Policy committee considered legislation to allow local governments to install cameras at intersections in an effort to catch motorists that run red lights. The chief author of the bill testified that the intent of the bill is to reduce the number of injuries and deaths at signal-controlled intersections. Law enforcement organizations are split on in their opposition or support of the bill. The bill faced bipartisan opposition from committee members and the committee did not vote on the bill.