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February 24, 2017



The Pace Picks Up at the Minnesota Capitol

The Minnesota Legislature was in full swing this week with a flurry of press conferences, legislative announcements, high-profile committee hearings, and passionate floor debates. Senate Republicans announced their "Advancing Minnesota" agenda which, according to Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka (R-Nisswa), will be designed to improve Minnesota’s tax climate, support job creation, and improve the state’s transportation, education, and health care systems. Details will be announced with a series of legislative proposals following the release of the February budget forecast next Tuesday, Feb. 28.

Legislative activity will only increase over the coming weeks as committee deadlines draw near. The first committee deadline, the day by which a bill must pass out of all policy committees in the chamber of origin, is Friday, March 10, 2017.

Sunday Sales Passes House; Key Committee in Senate
In what has become an annual tradition, the Minnesota Legislature spent significant time this week discussing whether liquor stores should be open on Sunday. Specifically, HF 30, authored by Rep. Jenifer Loon (R-Eden Prairie), would repeal the state’s Prohibition-era ban on Sunday liquor sales. The bill would limit Sunday alcohol sales from ‎‎10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Sundays and prohibit distributors or other carriers from delivering on Sundays.

Proponents of the legislation argued that the measure was long overdue and that the state was losing important sales tax revenue to border states as a result of the ban. Critics, however, argued that repealing the ban on Sunday sales would put the significant number of small “mom-and-pop” liquor stores at a serious competitive disadvantage to larger chain retailers who can more easily absorb the increased costs of operating a seventh day. The bill passed the House of Representatives by a bipartisan 85-45 vote having failed 56-70 just last legislative session.

The Senate companion, SF 1086, was heard in the Senate Commerce and Consumer Protection Committee on Wednesday morning. The Senate bill, authored by Sen. Jeremy Miller (R-Winona) is similar to its House counterpart. However, it only allows for sales on Sundays between the hours of 11 a.m. and 6 p.m. The bill passed the committee by a seven to four vote, with both Chair Gary Dahms (R-Redwood Falls) and ranking DFLer Dan Sparks (DFL-Austin) voting no. Sen. Gazelka, a past opponent of the measure, has stated that he will allow the bill to come up for a vote on the Senate floor and Governor Mark Dayton has stated that if passed, he will not veto the bill.

House Passes Real ID Legislation Years in the Making 
On Thursday evening the House of Representatives passed HF 3, authored by Rep. Dennis Smith (R-Maple Grove), which would bring Minnesota into compliance with the federal Real ID Act of 2005. The federal law sets standards for identification documents needed to access certain federal facilities (military bases, nuclear power plants, etc.) and board federally regulated commercial aircraft. HF 3, which passed 72-58, is a complete reversal of 2009 legislation which prohibited state agencies from even planning for eventual Real ID compliance. At the time, legislators cited concerns with data privacy and federal overreach.
 
The bill provides a two-tier system under which Minnesotans could opt for a Real ID-compliant driver’s license or a non-compliant ID. The House adopted an amendment offered by Rep. Jim Nash (R-Waconia) that would prohibit the sharing of data related to firearms permits, purchases or transfers as part of the Real ID system while rejecting an amendment from Rep. Carlos Mariani (DFL-St. Paul) which would have removed language in the bill which codifies an existing rule prohibiting undocumented immigrants from receiving driver’s licenses.

The Senate companion, SF 166, is authored by Sen. Eric Pratt (R-Prior Lake) and awaits its last committee hearing in the Senate Finance Committee before it can be taken up on the floor. If the bill is not signed into law this session, thousands of Minnesotans may be unable to board a commercial flight beginning Jan. 1, 2018.


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