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May 3, 2022

Three Weeks and Counting until the Deadline to Adjourn 


Busy Week for Law-Makers

The legislature rolled up its sleeves and dug into multiple omnibus bills last week, spending over 30 hours in combined floor debates and committee hearings. A bipartisan working group of Senate GOP and House DFL leadership reached an agreement to combine proposals to replenish the unemployment insurance trust fund deficit and provide direct payments for frontline workers who worked through the early stages of the Covid-19 pandemic . The constitutionally mandated deadline of May 23rd, 2022 gives legislators roughly three weeks to reconcile supplemental budget bills and find common ground on differing policy agendas. It is unlikely that either majority caucus has an appetite for a special session this year, as legislators will likely want to begin campaigning in their new legislative districts. These next three weeks are key for legislators hoping to tout major accomplishments on the campaign trail and for those wrapping up their final legislative session.  


Deal Reached on Unemployment Insurance and Frontline Worker Bonus Checks 

On Thursday, April 28, 2022, Senate Republican and House DFL leadership reached an agreement that refills the Unemployment Insurance (UI) trust fund and appropriates $500 million to frontline worker bonuses.

S.F. 2677 (Pratt/Pelowski) appropriates $500 million in bonuses to an estimated 667,000 frontline workers. Recipients will receive at least $750 but may receive more depending on the size of the application pool. Applicants must have worked at least 120 hours between May 15, 2020, and June 30, 2021, in one or more of the following fields to qualify:

  • Long term care and Home care;
  • Health care;
  • Emergency responders;
  • Public health, social service, and regulatory service;
  • Courts and corrections;
  • Child care;
  • Schools, including charter schools, state schools, and higher education;
  • Food service, including production, processing, preparation, sale, and delivery;
  • Retail, including sales, fulfillment, distribution, and delivery;
  • Temporary shelters and hotels;
  • Building services, including maintenance, janitorial, and security;
  • Public transit;
  • Ground and air transportation services;
  • Manufacturing; and
  • Vocational rehabilitation.

Qualifying frontline workers have 45 days from when the Minnesota Department of Labor and Industry (DLI) opens the application process to apply for bonuses. Legislators originally set aside $250 million as a part of the 2021 budget agreement but could not agree on who could receive checks and the dollar amounts for recipients.  

S.F. 2677 also replenishes the UI trust fund by appropriating $2.7 billion to restore the fund to its pre-pandemic level, and avoid the automatic 14% assessment on businesses that would have kicked in as a result of the deficit. The Department of Employment & Economic Development (DEED) Commissioner Steve Grove said in a statement that it was too late to recalculate unemployment assessments and businesses should wait on the department to issue tax refunds from the state. 

S.F. 2677 appropriates $190 million from the general fund granted to Minnesota Management and Budget (MMB) for vaccinations, Covid-19 rapid response teams, and outbreak management. The agreement leaves roughly $6.3 billion of the state’s historic budget surplus on the bottom line.


What Was Passed?

The Legislature continues working through supplemental appropriation bills with nine bills being passed by one body or the other. These bills will head to a conference committee with members of the House and Senate. Four bills of note that advanced this week include:

  • [S.F. 2673 – Sen. Limmer (R- Maple Grove)] Senate Judiciary & Public Safety Omnibus bill. This bill focuses on officer recruitment and retention by appropriating money for bonuses to officers who exhibit exemplary service and serve a minimum of 5 years without an adverse disciplinary action; bonuses can be up to $10,000. The bill also included new spending for the courts, prisons and police body cameras. In addition, the language imposes harsher sentences for those found guilty of carjackings. S.F. 2673 passed the Senate by a vote of 48 to 19. 

  • [H.F. 4366 - Sen. Westrom (R- Elbow Lake)] Agriculture and Housing Omnibus bill. This bill features a contentious provision that reverses a voter-approved Minneapolis and St. Paul rent control ballot measure aimed at stabilizing rent prices in the two municipalities. Another provision of note in H.F. 4366 appropriates $25 million from the general fund to the office of Broadband for projects related to the installation of broadband in rural Minnesota communities. H.F. 4366 passed the Senate by a vote of 41-26.

  • [H.F. 4300 - Rep. Davine (DFL- Minneapolis)] E-12 Education Finance & Policy Omnibus bill. This is one of the largest supplemental budget appropriations bills this session with $1.1 billion being appropriated in fiscal year 23 and $2.1 billion being appropriated in fiscal years 24-25. One of the largest ticket items in H.F. 4300 provides additional funding for the special education cross-subsidy, which will help school districts fund their special education departments by appropriating $422 million in fiscal year 23 then to $922 million in fiscal year 24-25. The House passed H.F. 4300 by a vote of 69-61. 

  • [H.F. 4492 - Rep. Hansen (DFL- South St. Paul)] Environment Finance & Policy Omnibus bill would appropriate an additional $240 million from the general fund to the board of Soil & Water Resources ($68.7 million), the Department of Natural Resources ($54.7 million), the Pollution Control Agency ($58.4 million), and the Metropolitan Council ($13 million). One provision to note in H.F. 4492 is a controversial provision that bans the use of so-called ‘forever chemicals’ known as PFAS. H.F. 4492 passed the House by a vote of 70-59. 


Important Dates to Remember

  • May 13-14, 2022: Republican State Convention in Rochester - All statewide constitutional offices endorsed.  (No US Senate race)

  • May 20-22, 2022: DFL State Convention in Rochester - All statewide offices endorsed.  (No US Senate race)

  • May 23, 2022: Session’s Constitutional Mandated Adjournment 

  • May 17 - May 31, 2022: Candidate Filing for all constitutional offices and the MN House and Senate

  • August 9, 2022: Primary Election

  • November 8, 2022: General Election


Federal Update

It’s May 2, which means there are 190 days until the midterm election. Primary season is in full swing, with voters in thirteen states headed to the polls this month, including two tomorrow – Ohio and Indiana.


Week Ahead Brings Second Wave of Budget Hearings 

The House may be out, but the Senate is gearing up for another round of Cabinet members pitching President Joe Biden's fiscal 2023 budget, with several planned starting Tuesday. Here's a rundown for tomorrow: 

  • Transportation — Biden’s request includes substantial increases in rail (no surprise there) and transit but overall represents a slight reduction in discretionary dollars from fiscal 2022. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg goes before the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee to tout that plan. 

  • Defense — The Senate Defense Appropriations Subcommittee will hear testimony on the full Department of Defense. Biden asked for a 4 percent increase over the $742.7 billion appropriated for fiscal 2022, and $58 billion, or 8 percent, more than he requested in last year’s budget. 

  • NASA and NSF — NASA and the National Science Foundation budget is on the agenda for the Senate Appropriations Commerce-Justice-Science Subcommittee. Biden’s request for NSF would provide a roughly $700 million boost in funding to support new research on climate change. And for NASA he's asked for $26 billion compared to an enacted level of $24 billion in fiscal 2022. 

  • IRS — The bulk of Biden’s proposed $16.2 billion in discretionary funding for the Treasury Department is to infuse the Internal Revenue Service with additional funds, seeking a 12 percent increase for fiscal 2023. The Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Financial Services will hear testimony on that strategy. 


Bipartisan Backlash Against COVID, Ukraine Aid Combo    

As key House Democrats paid a weekend visit to Ukraine, a $33 billion assistance package for Ukraine paired with billions in additional funding to combat COVID-19 faced opposition within the party.  The idea is to pressure Republicans skeptical of virus funding to vote for it in tandem with the Ukraine aid.

But in a Friday letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), and Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) a group of five representatives, three of them Democrats, said the plan could bog down the flow of aid to Kyiv, something widely supported in both parties.

Reps. Jared Golden (D-Maine), Jake Ellzey (R-Texas), Jimmy Panetta (D-Calif.), Don Bacon (R-Neb.), and Kai Kahele (D-Hawaii), wrote that the Democratic leaders' strategy could backfire. 

“Attaching unrelated COVID-19 legislation ... adds uncertainty and precious time to the process of passing this crucial aid. Those debates should happen on their own merits, not with Ukraine’s sovereignty and tens of thousands of innocent Ukrainian lives hanging in the balance,” the lawmakers wrote.

Biden had suggested that Congress fold in the Ukraine funds with $22.5 billion in previously requested COVID-19 funding. 

Pelosi, who supports pairing the Ukraine aid and COVID-19 funding, led a weekend delegation to Kyiv, meeting with President Volodymyr Zelenskyy. "Our delegation traveled to Kyiv to send an unmistakable and resounding message to the entire world: America stands firmly with Ukraine," the group said in a statement Sunday. Its visit to Eastern Europe continued in Poland. 


Virtual Substance Use Treatment at Risk   

Members of vulnerable and hard-to-reach groups could find it more difficult to get treatment for substance use disorders if the end of the public health emergency also brings the end of policies that allow health care providers to prescribe medications through video or audio calls, experts say.

The Drug Enforcement Administration has in the two years since the COVID-19 pandemic began allowed providers to prescribe the gold-standard addiction treatment to patients with opioid use disorder through telehealth without first doing an in-person evaluation. 

The DEA said starting treatment via a telehealth visit would be acceptable during a pandemic. This decision led people to avoid doctors’ offices and substance abuse treatment facilities saw fewer patients. Some groups, including people living in rural areas and others released from incarceration, especially benefited, clinicians say. 

They worry that such groups won’t be able to make in-person visits at the end of the public health emergency unless Congress or the DEA take action. The DEA has said it is working to permanently allow telehealth prescribing of medication-assisted treatment without requiring an in-person visit, but hasn’t released a timeline or other details.

Please reach out to any of the Larkin Hoffman Government Relations team members with any questions. 


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