Body Divided- Conference Committees in Inaction in St Paul

As we come to the end of the MN legislative session, bills that have been proposed and passed in the DFL controlled House, meet those proposed in the GOP controlled Senate.  The result?  Conference committees that meet with DFL and GOP members of each house meeting to look at the large omnibus bills and try to find a compromise on the budgets for provisions/policies within each.

What’s at stake? Funding our schools, roads, election security. Moving forward on protecting our environment, reducing gun violence, providing driver’s licenses for all.  Protecting healthcare funding, paid family leave, redistricting reforms, fighting fraud, and so much more.

Find the omnibus bill (below) that has provisions that are important to you and contact the members of the committee and let them hear you. These committees are different, as you don’t need to be a constituent to have your voice count. So contact committee members along with calling your own reps for when the final version of these bills goes to the respective floor votes.

As you learn about these omnibus bills you will see a distinct divide between the MN House and Senate in terms of how they approach policy that impacts Minnesota residents. Elections have consequences. Do you want representatives that are moving forward in providing for our residents, our infrastructure, our planet- or representatives that block progress?  Send a message to your representatives now, during their campaigns, and at the ballot box in 2020.

Get a little taste of what these hearings look like by watching our Atty General and Secy of State having to beg the Senate to release funds so that they can do the important work they do on our behalf.  There was lots of public testimony as well, but that went into the wee hours of the night.

Thanks to our friends at Indivisible Minnesota Legislative Action for the following information: Get contact information for MN State Senators here and MN State Representatives here

HF2209/SF2314 – Environment and Natural Resources Omnibus

The Energy and Natural Resources omnibus increases funding for a variety of environmental agencies including the Department of Natural Resources and the Pollution Control Agency. The Session Daily has a good summary of the funding levels here The bill also reinstates the Citizens Board at the Pollution Control Agency.

The Senate environment omnibus contains several provisions that make it harder for the Pollution Control Agency to do their job including requiring that every single county in the state has to adopt a resolution approving new water quality standards before the PCA can implement them (basically guaranting the PCA can never increase water quality standards) and limiting the ability of the agency to increase fees to cover costs. Additionally, it eliminates any position at the Department of Natural Resource, Pollution Contorl Agency, or the Board of Soil and Water Resources if the position is open for more than 6 months. In a tight labor market, finding qualified resources can take time. This proposal is arbitrary and meant to decrease the ability of these agencies to do their jobs. The Minnesota Center for Environment Advocacy has come out against this bill. They have a fact sheet on thieir twitter account

Committee: Conference Committee on HF2209/SF2314
Chair: House: Hansen. Senate: Ingebrigtsen
Members: House: Hansen; Persell; Fischer; Becker-Finn; Nelson, M. Senate: Ingebrigtsen; Ruud; Eichorn; Johnson; Tomassoni

HF2414/SF2452 – Health and Human Services Omnibus

This is the Health and Human Services Omnibus, which is massive. A few of the big ticket items are a MinnesotaCare buy-in option, raising the legal age for tobacco to 21, helping with insulin and other prescription drug prices, and a plethora of additional changes. You can read the summary (fair warning, it’s 189 pages) here The Session Daily produced a much shorter write up you can read here

Being the health and human services omnibus, there’s a lot in here.. including a ban on abortions after 20 weeks, and makes performing an abortion after that time a felony, which makes this bill a complete non-starter. It also has $700 million fewer dollars for healthcare than the House version.

Committee: Conference Committee on HF2414/SF2452
Chair: House: Liebling. Senate: Benson
Members: House: Liebling; Moran; Schultz; Halverson; Hamilton. Senate: Benson; Abeler; Utke; Jensen; Marty

HF2400/SF7 – Education Finance Omnibus

This is the K-12 Education Finance omnibus bill. Among other things it increases funding for general education, makes higher funding for native american schools permanent, lowers the age of mandatory education to 6, establishes a grant for full-service community schools, support to increase the number of teachers of color and native american teachers, improves funding for special education, increases mental health resources in schools, improves testing for lead in the water at schools including charter schools, fighting hunger in schools, and makes the recent expansion of the voluntary pre-K program permanent. This is a very large bill and you can read a summary at and a write up from Session Daily here

The Senate education omnibus majorly short changes schools with funding increases of 0.5% year over year, lower than the rate of inflation. It includes no increases for special education, pre-K, or money for full service community schools. Education Minnesota has come out against this bill. This paltry budget will require schools to continue staff layoffs and ask for more money from local property tax referendums

Committee: Conference Committee on HF2400/SF7
Chair: House: Davnie. Senate: Nelson
Members: House: Davnie; Youakim; Pinto; Sandstede; Urdahl. Senate: Nelson; Weber; Eichorn; Jasinski; Wiger

HF1555/SF1093 – Transportation Finance and Policy Omnibus

The House Transportation Finance and Policy omnibus increases the gas tax and some fees to create a stable source of revenue dedicated to fixes our roads and bridges. This bill also includes funding for transit in the metro area and directs metro transit to use low emission vehicles in poor neighborhoods which are disproportionately effected by pollution. You can read more from Session Daily at While the foundations of this bill are good, we would like to see increased funding to ensure our transportation systems support an overall greenhouse gas reduction plan, are environmentally just, and fully support people with disabilities.

This senate transportation omnibus contains several provisions to decrease the funds available to the commissioner of transportation to create bike lanes. It also allows cars that do not meet occupancy requirements to use the restricted lanes if they pay more; the whole point of those lanes is to increase car pooling not as a fast lane for rich people. Additionally this bill increases fees on electric vehicles from $75 to $250 (the highest in the nation) and imposes a fee of $150 on hybrid vehicles. It also bans autonomous vehicles from the state, cuts light rail funding, and eliminates any position in the department of transporation and the department of public safety that can’t be filled within 6 months.

Committee: Conference Committee on HF1555/SF1093
Chair: House: Hornstein. Senate: Newman
Members: House: Hornstein; Tabke; Richardson; Torkelson. Senate: Newman, Jasinski, Hall, Rarick, Dibble

HF2200/SF2226 – Agriculture and Food Omnibus

The House agriculture and food finance omnibus reduces pesticide impacts on pollinators and increases fines if pesticide use damages nearby state lands, improve industrial hemp use, tightens regulations on deer farms to try and prevent the spread of chronic wasting disease,

This omnibus bill combines agriculture, rural development, and house policy. Like most omnibus bills, there is good and bad in here but the House bill is much better. This bill does not account for inflation, leading to cuts in real dollars to important programs, massively underfunds rural broadband initiatives, and has cuts to several housing programs.

Committee: Conference Committee on HF2200/SF2226
Chair: House: Poppe. Senate: Westrom
Members: House: Poppe; Hausman; Pelowski; Vang; Gunther. Senate: Westrom; Weber; Goggin; Draheim; Dziedzic

HF2208/SF2611 – Jobs, Energy and Climate, and Telecommunications Omnibus

The final version of this Omnibus bill will combine jobs and economic development, energy and climate, and telecommunications policy and finance. Contains paid family medical leave, earned sick leave, wage theft prevention, and net neutrality provisions. This bill is also packed with policies we need to address climate change: a goal of 100% carbon free electricity by 2050, electric buses, electric vehicle infrastructure, community solar access for all income groups, extension of solar incentives, solar on schools, energy storage pilot projects and a clean energy first policy for any new plants.

Widely different than the House version. Solar energy incentives, energy efficiency programs (cut back for smaller co-ops and mini utilities) and community solar garden programs (basically only utilities would own and run them) would be heavily modified. There would be some grants for solar for schools and a way for utilities to recover costs for energy storage. The Commerce Line 3 lawsuit would be defunded and increased felony charges levied for protesters against critical infrastructure (oil refineries, RR yards, bridges, etc) and pipelines. Preemption is also back. This bill would make it illegal for cities to set their own minimum wage and worker protections and would roll back hard won increases in the min wage in the metro area. The needs of workers differs across the state and local governments must maintain the ability to set regulations that work for them. A minimum wage that is sufficient in some parts of Minnesota leaves people in poverty in others.

Committee: Conference Committee on HF2208/SF2611
Chair: House: Mahoney. Senate: Pratt
Members: House: Mahoney; Wagenius; Stephenson; Long; Hassan. Senate: Pratt; Dahms; Osmek; Housley; Simonson

HF2125/SF5 – Tax Omnibus

The omnibus tax bill raises revenue by closing loopholes (like overseas tax havens) and decreases taxes on homeowners, renters, and farmers. It also increase local government aid which should help decrease property taxes, increases the working family tax credit, and decreases taxes on social security. Additionally, it mostly conforms the MN tax code to the federal changes which should make filing taxes a bit easier next year and increases funding for schools. Session Daily has a good write-up on this bill here

While the Senate tax conformity bill cuts taxes (especially for businesses and the wealthy) and does it by taking away from every other program in the state including a $700 million cut to healthcare and an education budget that doesn’t even keep up with inflation (which will cause increased property taxes to make up the difference).It also takes $80M away from public schools to support deductions for contributing to “scholarships” for private schools.

Committee: Conference Committee on HF2125/SF5
Chair: House: Marquart. Senate: Chamberlain
Members: House: Marquart; Loeffler; Lislegard; Davids. Senate: Chamberlain; Senjem; Dahms; Howe; Rest

HF2544/SF2415 – Higher Education Omnibus

The Higher Education Omnibus increases funding for state schools and implements a tuition freeze to help control costs at University of Minnesota. It also expands access to grants for things like child care and work study programs. And it establishes an affirmative consent standard for state schools. You can read a write-up of this bill at

Does not include language found in the House bill to help increase the number of teachers of color or for fighting hunger on color campuses. It does include a veterans to agriculture pilot not found in the House bill. It also has a provision to require schools to offer a zero-textbook-cost associate’s degree called a Z-degree. It also prevents schools from charging more for online classes then they do for on-campus classes. Overall, this version of the bill provides fewer funds for higher education, but include some good provisions.

Committee: Conference Committee on HF2544/SF2415
Chair: House: Bernardy. Senate: Anderson, P.
Members: House: Bernardy; Pryor; Lien; Klevorn; Nornes. Senate: Anderson, P.; Draheim; Jensen; Relph; Clausen

HF1935/SF2227 – Government Operations Omnibus

The House’s state government finance bill increases spending in a number of areas including support for an accurate census count, the state’s 4 ethnic councils, and the office of inclusion and equity. Additionally, it has a few provisions to improve elections including restoring the vote, automatic voter registration, ranked choice voting for local offices, releasing the full federal funds to secure our election systems, redistricting reform, and true early voting. The Session Daily created a great overview of the bill you can read here

Like all omnibus bills, this State Government Finance bill is a mix of good and bad, but a few provisions move this into the oppose category: Makes it harder for state employees to get their collective bargaining agreements ratified, implements zero-based budgeting (where the budget starts at 0 for each department and every expense has to be justified as if it’s a new item) which requires more resources to create the budget but is unlikely to lead to savings, and freezes the number of employees in any agency to the 2019 levels. This change is arbitrary and removes the flexibility agencies need to meet changing demands.. this change is extra annoying since they added a bunch of new reporting requirements to those same agencies.

Committee: Conference Committee on HF1935/SF2227
Chair: House: Nelson, M. Senate: Kiffmeyer
Members: House: Nelson, M.; Freiberg; Ecklund; Dehn; Kiel. Senate: Kiffmeyer; Anderson, B.; Koran; Mathews; Carlson

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