Legislative update, week 20: Lawmakers race to finish work on final day


And then there was one. Monday is to be the final day of the Legislative session – legislators have until midnight – and lawmakers squeezed a lot of work out of the last 72 hours in a mad dash to finalize their last remaining pieces of business.

Lawmakers on Monday still have to put the final touches on the state's $38 billion two-year budget. Work that remains for Monday includes votes on legislation that sets funding levels for state agencies.

Very early Monday, the Senate unanimously passed a $132 million borrowing bill for Capitol restoration and a capitol area parking facility, the Star Tribune reported. But the House had not approved the measure as of early Monday, so the measure's fate was unclear.

In other action, the Senate also approved a proposed constitutional amendment that would let a bipartisan panel make decisions about lawmaker salary increases, instead of letting lawmakers themselves vote on it, the Star Tribune reports. Voters in 2016 would have to approve the amendment for it to take effect.

Over the weekend, senators approved a $15.7 billion school funding bill on a 41-26 vote. The Associated Press reports the bill accounts for about 40 percent of what the state will spend over the next two years. The House approved the same measure.

Among the other issues that were settled Sunday: the House unanimously approved a bill that contains protections for Minnesotans facing foreclosure.

As part of the broader tax debate, Minnesota is edging closer to raising income taxes on the highest-earning 2 percent of residents. Fox 9 spoke with tax analysts who said that while the tax hike will raise money to balance the budget and increase school funding, there are also some risks in looking to such a small slice of the populace to beef up state funds.

The incomes in that highest tax bracket tend to be more volatile since they're subject to fluctuations in the stock market and the variables of running a business. Some of the 40,000 households in that bracket may also find ways to shelter income or may move out of state, experts say.

The tax increase on the state's high-salary earners is in a broader tax bill, which also included a new $1.60 per pack cigarette tax. (Taxes will not be raised on alcohol, which was part of a previous debate.) Also in the tax bill is a backup funding plan for the state's $348 million share of the Vikings stadium. The plan puts a one-time, $24.5 million cigarette tax windfall into a stadium account and closes a corporate loophole, which would generate roughly $20 million a year in future years, the Pioneer Press reports.

Also expected Monday is a House vote on the highly contentious issue of whether child-care and elderly-care workers should be allowed to unionize.

Among the casualties of the end-of-session rush is a school anti-bullying bill that would have broadened the state's law on bullying. Supporters of the measure said it offered students more protection than the current law. But a vote on it is unlikely before the end of the session, the Star Tribune reports.

Meanwhile, MPR talks to one lawmaker about how he and others manage end-of-session sleeplessness.

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