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March 23, 2018

Legislative Committees Rush to Meet First Deadline

Throughout the Minnesota State Capitol complex, many policy committees met late into the evening this week as they worked toward yesterday’s first committee deadline. By joint resolution earlier in the session, House and Senate leaders set March 22 as the first committee deadline, the date by which a piece of ‎legislation must be passed ‎out of all policy committees in either the House or the Senate. Legislators voted on hundreds of policy proposals during lengthy hearings and next week is expected to be similarly busy. Any bill that passes through the committee process in one chamber will have to do so in the other chamber before midnight on March 29.  Any policy bill that does not meet the deadline is considered “dead” for the balance of the session.

Governor and Legislature Reach Compromise on MNLARS Funding
Following weeks of public hearings, press conferences, and even a high-profile firing, Republican leaders in the Minnesota Senate and House of Representatives reached a deal with DFL Gov. Mark Dayton on an emergency funding measure for the state’s struggling driver’s license and license plate system known as MNLARS. The system’s failed launch last July has led many legislators to call for dramatic reform – and at times the annulment – of MNIT, the state agency responsible for overseeing IT infrastructure for state government. Additionally, the legislative session began with Dayton calling for an immediate infusion of $10 million, as well as an additional $33 million, to repair the $90-million licensing system.

Reluctant to provide additional funds without increased oversight, Sen. Scott Newman (R-Hutchinson) and Rep. Paul Torkelson (R-Hanska), eventually agreed to appropriate $9.65 million to the Department of Public Safety. Newman and Torkelson also agreed to an additional $350,000 appropriation for the Office of the Legislative Auditor. These funds would be used to support an information technology auditor who would work closely with a new legislative steering committee to monitor the primary funding as well as the agency’s progress. Dayton agreed to sign the legislation as soon as legislators abandoned a proposal from the House of Representatives to pay for the $10 million by “clawing back” funds from other state agencies. Following the conference committee’s meeting Thursday morning, the Senate repassed the legislation early that afternoon on a 47-19 vote. The House of Representatives approved the measure a few hours later, 124-6. Gov. Dayton signed the bill into law Thursday evening.

House HHS Committee Considers Placing Work Requirements on Medicaid
The House Health and Human Services Reform Committee met until nearly midnight on Tuesday as it considered a highly controversial proposal from Rep. Kelly Fenton (R-Woodbury) to require some Medicaid recipients to work in order to keep their health coverage. The bill, HF 3722, would require “able-bodied adults” who receive health coverage through Medical Assistance (the state’s Medicaid program) to work or undertake certain “community engagement” activities totaling at least 80 hours a month. Proponents of the legislation argued that the work requirements would encourage “dignity” and decrease “dependence” on government programs and would not apply to seniors older than 60 or those deemed disabled according to the American Disabilities Act.

However, the committee also heard testimony from health care provider groups and advocacy organizations who expressed concern that many “able-bodied” individuals on Medical Assistance are still unable to work as a result of ongoing diagnoses. Representatives from the Association of Minnesota Counties expressed concern over the difficulty and high cost of monitoring work activity on a monthly basis. The vast majority of Minnesota’s Medical Assistance spending goes toward the long-term care needs of seniors and the physically or developmentally disabled.

After multiple hours of public testimony and debate, the bill was eventually passed on a party-line 14-8 vote and re-referred to the House Health and Human Services Finance Committee. The Senate companion, SF 3611, authored by Sen. Mark Johnson (R-East Grand Forks) awaits possible action in the Senate Health and Human Services Finance and Policy Committee..

Legislative Calendar and Committee Deadlines
The 2018 Minnesota Legislative calendar, complete with announced committee deadlines and holiday recesses, is below:

 March 29 Second committee deadline (The second deadline is for committees to act favorably on bills, or companions of bills, that met the first deadline in the other house.)
 March 30-April 8
Legislative recess for Easter/Passover holidays 
 April 20 Final committee deadline (The third deadline is for committees to act favorably on major appropriation and finance bills.) 
 May 21 Constitutional deadline to adjourn sine die 


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Larkin Hoffman provides counsel to a wide variety of ‎organizations, from ‎small businesses and nonprofits to  Fortune 500 companies, in ‎many areas of practice including ‎corporate and governance matters, litigation, real ‎estate, government relations, labor and employment, intellectual property, ‎information technology, ‎franchising and taxation. The firm also serves the needs of individuals in many ‎areas ‎including trusts and estates, personal injury and family law.


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