March 19, 2023
Dear MAT Board Members,
Wow, where has the time gone? We are more than half-way through the legislative session and the pace has never been this frenetic before! There are a lot of moving parts for the townships and it’s constantly changing by the day (sometimes the hour), so let’s jump right in!
The legislature continues its fast pace of passing large-scale bills that mostly adhere to DFL majority priorities. However, the first major bill to pass was a very bi-partisan tax conformity bill.
The semi-annual budget forecast came out several weeks ago and, after being adjusted for inflation for the first time in two decades, the biennial budget surplus is $17.5 Billion.
We are also in the middle of committee deadlines. That means legislators are rushing around the Capitol to have their bills heard as quickly as possible to continue through the legislative process and possibly be included in larger, omnibus bills.
Just a reminder, here are the key legislative deadlines and their meanings:
· 1st Deadline: Friday, March 10 (Committees must act favorably on bills in the house of origin)
· 2nd Deadline: Friday, March 24 (Committees must act favorably on bills, or companions of bills, which met the first deadline in the other house)
· 3rd Deadline: Friday, April 4 (Committees must act favorably on major appropriation and finance bills)
· Passover/Easter Break: April 5 – 11
· Final day of session: May 22.
Over the weeks (and now months) of the legislative session, MAT staff and Fredrikson & Byron lobbyists have met with and/or had more than 100 conversations with the Governor’s Office, state offices, state agencies, key legislators (committee chairs, ranking members, chief authors, caucus leadership, etc.), key stakeholders and legislative staff. We have also monitored the introduction of more than 6,000 bills and/or testified in a number of committees on a variety of issues including transportation, elections, annexation, local government, taxes, etc. The purpose of these meetings, testimony and communications has been to raise awareness of MAT legislative priorities and, if necessary, neutralize legislation which may be harmful to townships. Here’s a short sample:
· House Transportation Committee
· Senate Transportation Committee
· House Elections Committee
· Senate Elections Committee
· House State/Local Government Committee
· Senate State/Local Government & Veterans Committee
· Legislative Commission on Pensions & Retirement
· House Agriculture Committee
· Senate Agriculture, Broadband and Rural Development Committee
· House Taxes Committee
· Senate Taxes Committee
· House Capital Investment Committee
· Senate Capital Investment Committee
· House Sustainable Infrastructure Committee
· Governor’s Office
· Secretary of State’s Office
· Coalition of Greater MN Cities
· League of Minnesota Cities
· Association of MN Counties
· Minnesota Association of Small Cities
· Minnesota Public Employees Retirement Association (PERA)
· Minnesota Transportation Alliance (MTA).
– Generally, MAT’s goals are to increase town road funding with dedicated, ongoing funding of $40 million per year and to protect town roads from further wear and tear.
o To reach our $40 million funding goal, MAT has been working with transportation committee chairs Rep. Hornstein and Sen. Dibble, the Small Cities association, the MTA and several transportation committee legislators (Sens. Morrison, Jasinski, Howe; Reps. Olson, Petersburg, Brand) on a variety of proposals:
§ Motor vehicle registration tax
§ Delivery fees (eg; Amazon, etc.)
§ Auto parts/repairs taxes (12% v. 8% dedication to town roads).
o LRIP in Bonding – The legislature also recently proposed in the capital investment bill (HF669) setting aside for town roads a minimum of $6 million in the Local Road Improvement Program (LRIP). HF669 passed the House but failed to receive the supermajority of 3/5 votes for passage in the Senate. We will see if that is revived in another capital investment bill toward the end of the legislative session.
o Weight Limit Exemptions – Weight limit exemption legislation is back at the State Capitol and MAT has been successful in minimizing or neutralizing the impact of legislation on town roads for septic tank trucks, special forest product permits and qualifying agricultural products. In one way or another, the legislation had been very limited (eg; exceptions only for emergencies) or has been narrowly tailored to not change the weight of the vehicle but its size.
o Highway Sound Barrier – Every once in a while, a situation comes along that happens to be interest to key legislators and you have to take advantage of the opportunity. Sen. Howe and Rep. Demuth have legislation (HF2708/SF2678) which directs MnDOT to construct sound barriers along highways to abate noise impacting townships. Senate Transportation Committee Chair Scott Dibble has expressed an interest in this issue. It’s being heard in his committee this week and could continue forward in the legislative process.
– In order to protect current values of township land from future PILT payments, HF825/SF697 (Lislegard/Hauschild) proposes a number of items including preventing the appraised value of acquired natural resources land from decreasing. This bill looks promising for passage as it has bipartisan support and is being brought forward by the House Property Tax Division Chair.
– Various funding proposals from key legislators have been introduced. HF1564/SF1523 (Brand/Putnam) seems to have particular momentum, which exempts fiber and conduit used in broadband installation from sales and use tax provisions (GOP version is authored by Sen. Westrom and Rep. Paul Anderson). On the funding side, Rep. Pursell is pushing for $108 million per year for border-to-border development grants, increasing the award cap, extending the Low Population Density Program to 2026 and adding $30 million per year. The Governor, on the other hand, is proposing increased funds to the B2B grant program of $163 million in FY24 and $138 million in FY25.
– MAT continues to monitor/analyze and communicate with legislators, staff and the Secretary of State’s Office on numerous elections proposals. Thus far, proposals moving through the legislative process either don’t directly impact townships or allow local control of elections to continue as is.
– HF1669 (Anderson, Paul), HF2487 (Wolgamott) and SF2897 (Seeberger) have been introduced to allow formerly elected town officials, who are now appointed employees of the town, to continue and participate in PERA’s Deferred Compensation Plan. HF1669 will be heard this week with the intention of getting it included in the omnibus pension bill.
– Unfortunately, annexation reform is not progressing this year as we had hoped. MAT lost much bipartisan legislative support and momentum to legislative retirements and last year’s elections. This year, it is very clear that MAT has to start over again and educate many new legislators and many new committee chairs. During the interim, MAT will meet with and recruit the best chief authors when legislators can focus properly and are not working at a harried pace.
Here (https://www.mntownships.org/legislative-center/advocate) are MAT and MATIT bills of interest that F&B lobbyists are tracking for you. If you have specific questions about the bills included or if there is legislation that is not on this list that you have questions about, please let Jeff Krueger know.
Sr. Government Relations Specialist
Fredrikson & Byron P.A.
525 Park Street, Suite 225
St. Paul, MN 55103-2111