Once again, elections bring great changes at the State Capitol with another turnover in majority control. Senate Republicans now have the majority and House Republicans increased their majority.
Before the election, Republicans controlled the House of Representatives by a margin of 73 to 61; they improved that margin by picking up four more seats to put the Republican majority at 77 members to 57 Democrats. The 2017 session however will start with only 133 members of the House due to a special election scheduled to take place in February of 2017 to replace outgoing Rep. Bob Barrett (R-Taylors Falls). The House is up for election every two years, so all 134 members will be on the ballot in 2018.
Before the election, Democrats controlled the State Senate with a maority of 39 seats to 28 for the Republicans. The Senate Republicans needed six seats to take control of the chamber — and they picked up exactly that number. The Senate will now be controlled by Republicans with a majority of 34 to 33. The Senate will be up for election in 2020, meaning the Senate Republicans will maintain a narrow majority for the next four years.
New Committee Structure
House and Senate majority will next decide on a new committee structure for the biennium, followed by appointing chairs to each committee. Once the committees have been established, both the Republicans and Democrats will determine which of their members will serve on each committee.
What to Expect Next Session
2017 will be the first year of the two-year biennial legislative cycle which means much of the focus for will be on passing a two-year state budget. The November forecast is the basis on which the Governor and Legislature will begin crafting the state budget. As of July, the Minnesota Management and Budget (MMB) economic outlook update showed the state’s general fund was estimated to be $230 million more than projected this past February. Recent updates however indicate that revenue is not coming in as expected.
Possible 2017 Session Issues
Below is a list of education issues we expect to come up in the 2017 session. This is in addition to the ongoing discussions we have with elected officials on the need for general education funding; including a per-pupil formula increase and special education funding.
- Universal Pre-K
- Agricultural land credit
- TRA sustainability
- Student discipline and school safety
- Educator licensing and teacher shortages
- Tax credits and deductions/private school vouchers
Capitol to Reopen!
After three years of construction, the Capitol is expected to reopen for the 2017 legislative session. The $310 million project will not be completed but the capitol will function for legislative business and be accessible to the public. •