Clean Energy and Electric Vehicles Center Stage at Legislature

by Sam Richie & Shannon K. Mitchell, AASP-MN Lobbyists

Clean energy was a priority for the Walz administration during the first term, and now with Democrats in control of both chambers, the renewed focus has more momentum.

To that end, during the first five weeks of the legislative session, the House and Senate passed the “carbon-free electricity by 2040” bill, which was signed by the Governor. The new law requires the state’s electric utilities generate all their electricity from carbon-free sources by 2040, moving up the previous deadline by a decade.

This legislation becoming law coincides with a new report finding that Minnesota is on track to meet its goals for reducing greenhouse gas emissions that were set back in 2007. While this is overall positive news, there are many caveats – a glaring one of which is transportation emissions which account for the largest source of greenhouse gas emissions in Minnesota. And while overall greenhouse gas emissions from transportation recently decreased, this reduction is likely attributable to the impact Covid-19 had on overall transportation demand and is not likely repeatable.

Given that electric utilities have made significant progress in decreasing emissions since 2007 and recent legislation provides even more regulations and assistance, many expect attention to turn to the transportation industry as lawmakers continue to look for ways to decrease carbon emissions. A shift in focus has already been happening as both the state and federal government are increasingly speaking out and making spending proposals to increase the use of electric vehicles. Vice-President Harris spent time in St. Cloud this past month promoting EVs and supporting EV infrastructure. At the state level, Governor Walz’s proposed budget includes a variety of EV proposals as well, from funding for charging stations to programs to support job training in clean economy occupations. Stay tuned as more legislation moves through the process!

Another issue that has been top of mind for many shops with employees is the paid family and medical leave legislation making its way through the Legislature. There are a variety of opinions about the proposal. Regardless of support or opposition, it’s important for members to have a basic understanding of the components included in the draft bill moving forward. The state will use one-time surplus funds to get the program up and running, meaning benefits would be available from the beginning (2025). Then employers and employees would pay a new payroll tax to keep the programming running into the future. Money paid into the state fund by employers and employees would vary depending on an employee’s salary. Employees could take anywhere from seven days to 12 weeks off for a qualifying family or medical issue, with a maximum of 24 weeks in a year.

Paid family and medical leave is a priority for the DFL, which controls both chambers of the Legislature and the Governor’s office, so it will most likely become law in some form. What is less certain is what the final version will look like. Watch for updates as the draft legislation is amended and works its way through each chamber and on to the Governor.

Want more? Check out the March 2023 issue of AASP-MN News!