With the 2022 legislative session just around the corner, things will start to pick up on the legislative and political front.
There were recent leadership changes in the Minnesota Senate in both the Republican and DFL caucuses. Notably, Senator Paul Gazelka stepped down as Majority Leader to run for Governor. Senator Jeremy Miller was elected to take his place. On the DFL side, Senator Susan Kent stepped down as Minority Leader because she decided to not run for re-election next November. Taking her place is Senator Melisa Lopez Franzen.
House to Operate Remotely in 2022
Stating ongoing concerns due to COVID-19, the Speaker of the House, Melissa Hortman, announced that the Minnesota House of Representatives will operate remotely during the 2022 legislative session. The State Office Building and space operated by the House in the State Capitol will remain closed to the public. There have been no similar announcements yet for the future of the Senate during the 2022 session.
Capitol followers have expected the legislature to be back this fall to pass legislation for frontline COVID worker pay but that has yet to come to fruition. However, it appears one might happen before the end of the year as a major barrier has been removed.
Throughout the fall, the Senate majority was holding firm on its right to take up commissioner appointments during the special session. Governor Walz was unlikely to call a special session over concerns the Senate might take up, and reject, the confirmation of the Commissioner of Health, Jan Malcolm. However, just before Thanksgiving, the Senate majority announced it was willing to set aside the issue so that talks on a special session move forward.
The working group responsible for putting together a proposal on frontline COVID worker pay met throughout July and August but was unable to reach an agreement by their self-imposed September deadline over two major sticking points – who should be eligible and the size of the bonus. Instead, they put forward two proposals for further negotiation between the House, Senate and the Governor. The Legislature and the Governor will need to find agreement on frontline worker pay for a special session to be called.
State budget update
Minnesota continues to receive positive economic news. The fiscal year 2021 ended with a preliminary budget surplus of 11.2 percent, $2.68 billion, over projection. Subsequent monthly budget updates show state revenues are coming in higher than expected. For the fiscal year 2022, year-to-date receipts are now 10.3 percent, $744 million, more than forecast. This is welcome news as we await the official budget update on December 7.