Short Legislative Session Priorities Take Shape

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

The 2024 Legislative Session has been markedly different from last year’s historic session.

Lawmakers did not gavel in the year until mid-February, as opposed to starting right after the new year in 2023. With the same adjournment date for both years, this has meant a much more condensed schedule for 2024 with only six weeks from the start of session to the first and second committee deadlines. This artificially short session has significantly lessened the scope and ambition of lawmakers from what we saw in 2023. 

The two-year state budget has already been set, and with a potential structural imbalance projected in the coming years, legislative leaders are urging restraint on additional spending. While we are still waiting to see what, if any, joint budget targets are agreed to between House and Senate leadership, conventional wisdom indicates new spending will be somewhere between extremely limited to nonexistent. 

With limits on new spending, there have been a couple of session priorities that have already been addressed. First and foremost, a technical fix to last year’s omnibus tax bill quickly advanced through both House and Senate tax committees and was signed by the Governor in late February. A drafting error in the bill inadvertently used the 2019 standard deduction amount, which did not take the last four years of inflation into account. This error would have caused married joint filers to lose out on approximately $3,400 of tax-deductible income, costing Minnesotans over $350 million. The legislative fix passed off the Senate floor on a vote of 66-0, an increasingly rare sight in our divided political environment. 

The second bill to receive the full legislature’s attention was another fix to legislation passed during the 2023 session, this one having to do with constraints on the use of force that school resource officers are legally allowed to utilize in schools. There was ambiguity in the new requirements passed last year, which resulted in several school districts being left without officers in their schools, but a bipartisan group of lawmakers were able to hash out an approach that appears to have threaded the needle in satisfying law enforcement as well as school districts. 

Those minor fixes, along with the traditional second year of the biennium task of assembling a bonding package to fund public infrastructure projects, were the stated goals of this session, so how much other legislation gets enacted remains to be seen. Unlike the first year of the biennium when lawmakers must pass a two-year budget, nothing else is required to be done this year and lawmakers appear to be happy with the amount of work done in 2023. While there have been hearings on policy issues in various committees, how robust those committee omnibus bills will be in the end is still very unknown. 

As for AASP-MN’s legislative efforts to clarify and strengthen the Regulations of Claims Act: Minnesota Statute 72A.201, our lobby team and executive director have had productive meetings with rank and file lawmakers, as well as the relevant committee chairs, and remain hopeful in making meaningful progress this legislative session. We know change in this area of state statute is an iterative process and think we have made progress with our updated language dealing with Minnesota Statute 72A.201. We will continue to push until session adjourns in mid-May. 

Want more? Check out the April 2024 issue of AASP-MN News!