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The Minnesota legislature has some work to do before they adjourn if they want to avoid the “do-nothing session” label

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As the Minnesota legislature headed into their Easter and Passover recess, the Pioneer Press took stock of what they had accomplished so far.  They rightly concluded not much, at least not much in terms of bills passed and sent to the governor.  The paper also rightly concluded that its “premature” to label it the “do-nothing session” as some have already done.

However, if the legislature picks up where they left off before the recess and push to adjourn ASAP, then the “do-nothing session” label may stick, and appropriately so.  To date, the legislature’s major accomplishments are limited to changing certain rules related to lawsuits (vetoed), streamlining environmental permitting (signed), paying back part of the K-12 payment shift (vetoed), addressing a serious problem from the 2008 health care reforms related to rating health care providers (signed), and putting a voter ID constitutional amendment on the next ballot. 

No one should be surprised that not much else has been accomplished so far.  Major policy initiatives tend to be wrapped into omnibus bills that tend to be passed in the final weeks of the session.  Nonetheless, it appears that a number of great ideas risk being left on the table as the legislature pushes to adjourn early. 

I’ve pulled together a list of policy initiatives that have been working there way through committee hearings this session that are nearly ripe for passage.  And I’ve included a few initiatives from the 2011 session that deserve a second look.  American Experiment has spent varying amounts of time and effort to develop and/or promote at least eighteen of these policy initiatives.  Some initiatives are conservative and some are non-ideological good government ideas that anyone should support.  Some initiatives have stalled and some have not.  It’s hard to understand why any of them should have trouble moving through Minnesota’s first conservative legislature in over four decades.

Education

  • End teacher lay-offs based on seniority (SF1690/HF1870)
  • Promote digital learning (SF1528/HF2127)
  • Expand postsecondary education options (HF2949/HF2025/SF1531)
  • Expand enrollment options for students at persistently low-performing schools through scholarships for nonpublic schools (SF0388/HF0273)
  • Allow individuals and corporations to take a tax credit against contributions made to nonprofit foundations that provide tuition grants to students (SF0388)
  • Allow tuition to qualify as an eligible expense in the Minnesota K-12 Education Tax Credit Program (SF0388)
  • Empower parents to petition for a school district to implement an intervention strategy to improve students’ educational outcomes and school performance (HF2580/SF2546)
  • Allow for mayoral control of Minneapolis and St. Paul school districts (HF2621/SF2306)

Health and Human Services

  • Facilitate and encourage Personal Health Premium Accounts that can pool financial contributions from multiple employers for employees to buy health insurance (SF2313/HF2683)
  • Consolidate health plan regulation under the Department of Commerce (HF2251/SF2093)
  • Allow competitive bidding for public health care program managed care contracts that incorporates performance data (HF2294)
  • Require a third party audit of Medicaid managed care health plans (SF2093/HF2412)
  • Repeal Rule 101 that requires HMOs to participate in public health care programs (SF2093/HF1166)
  • Adopt the nurse licensure compact to permit multistate practice for registered nurses (HF462/SF2093)
  • Repeal the moratorium on radiation therapy (SF2093/HF383)
  • Apply for a Medicaid block grant waiver to give Minnesota the flexibility it needs to reshape Medicaid (HF8)

Jobs, Taxes, and Economic Development

  • Reduce the corporate tax rate from 9.8 percent to 4.9 percent (SF0001/HF0600)
  • Phase out statewide property tax levy on businesses (SF1972/HF2337)
  • Convert the sales tax refund on capital equipment to an up-front exemption (HF2337/HF2688/SF1482)
  • Establish a Certified Capital Company (CAPCO) program to increase investments in venture capital firms (SF1774/HF1823)
  • Increase the limits on the angel investment tax credit (HF2337)
  • Reform prevailing wage laws (HF1476/SF1199)
  • Put a right-to-work constitutional amendment on the ballot (SF1705/HF2140)
  • Require legislative approval for new agency rules that impose high costs on businesses and individuals (HF0203/SF0261)
  • Allow one state agency to coordinate permitting when permits involve more than one state or federal agency (SF1957/HF2369)

Energy, Environment, and Natural Resources (Omnibus SF1830/HF2164)

  • Credit hydropower as renewable under the renewable energy standard (SF1906)
  • Restrict the Pollution Control Agency from adopting water quality standards that are more restrictive than federal standards (HF2164)
  • Exempt cooperatives from integrated resource planning requirements (SF2098/HF2098)
  • Remove certain authority over mineral leasing and timber sales from the Executive Council (HF2164)
  • Take greater advantage of school trust lands (SF1750/HF2214)
  • Add direction and accountability to spending from the Renewable Development Fund (SF2181/HF2650)
  • Repeal the moratorium on nuclear energy (SF0004/HF0009)
  • Repeal the moratorium on new coal power plants (SF0086/HF0072)

Government Operations

  • Require Minnesota Management and Budget to prepare a budget that ties state spending to outcomes (HF2720/SF2348)
  • Equalize government pay and benefits with the private sector (HF2033/SF2282)
  • Require local governments to report budget and spending data by spending type (HF1954/SF1741)
  • Require public pensions to lower their assumed rate of annual return

Transportation

  • Authorize the department of transportation to establish a pilot project that utilizes public-private partnership procurement methods (SF2321/SF1072/HF1284)
  • Provide the department of transportation with new contracting authority that includes terms providing for a set price, construction schedule and workmanship (SF2321/HF2685)
  • Expand MnPASS to the I-35E corridor (SF2597)
  • Expand the use of shoulders by buses (SF1072/HF1284)

Peter J. Nelson is director of public policy at Center of the American Experiment.

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