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Minnesota lawmakers take strides to avoid government shutdown

(The Center Square) – The Minnesota Legislature took strides last weekend to avoid a government shutdown starting July 1. They have two days left before 38,000 state workers could be thrown out of work.

The Senate on Monday unanimously passed the $115 million housing bill.

“Ending the Governor’s Emergency Powers and the Eviction Moratorium has been the top priority for the Senate, and this bill is the key piece of our agenda to recover from the COVID pandemic,” Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka, R- East Gull Lake, said in a statement. “This balanced approach includes support for housing providers and connects those who need financial help with resources available.”

The bill includes an off-ramp to phase out the moratorium 105 days after bill enactment.

Renters can only be evicted for “seriously endangering” another tenant or property or who is eligible for renter’s assistance but won’t apply. Landlords must provide written notice to tenants with outstanding rent 15 days prior to eviction. Renters with an outstanding rental assistance claim cannot be evicted and will have that protection until June 1, 2022.

Key provisions include:

  • $100 million in Housing Infrastructure bonds, $18.33 million for single-family homes, and $15 million for improving manufactured home parks
  • $20.5 million for family homeless prevention fund
  • $3.25 million to develop and affordable homeownership projects statewide
  • $10 million in one-time funds for fiscal year 22-23, with $12 million to cover the debt service for $100 million in Housing Infrastructure bonds
  • $8.6 million in rental assistance for the mentally ill

The Housing bill is one of 14 budget bills. Here’s the status of the rest:

  • Five have been signed by Gov. Tim Walz: Agriculture, Commerce/Energy, Higher Ed, Transportation, Legacy
  • Three are headed to Walz: Health and Human Services, Environment, and Housing.
  • House has yet to hear: State Government (passed by Senate), Taxes, Public Safety
  • Senate has yet to hear: K-12 (passed by House), Bonding Technical fix (passed by House) Taxes, Public Safety,
  • In Conference Committee: Jobs

Minnesota State Auditor Julie Blaha welcomed an apparent police reform agreement, including forfeiture reforms to limit forfeitures under $1,500 and expand public forfeiture and expenditure data. In 2019, law enforcement seized $7.5 million via forfeiture, with the average forfeiture in the category of $1,500 or less amounted to $473. About 75% of the forfeitures in the $1,500 and under category averaged $473.

Blaha said small forfeitures only accounted for .4% ($1.5 million) of 2019 police and sheriff spending of $1.7 billion, calling it a “manageable” change to the state compared to the loss of $500 to someone with a low income. State law allows for forfeiture before someone is convicted.

The House approved the K-12 education budget on a vote of 105-20.

The legislation aims to boost public school spending, preserve 4,000 pre-K slots, investments in increasing the number of teachers of color.

The agreement doesn’t include Education Savings Accounts, which was a GOP priority to boost school choice. Instead, the compromise bill aims to boost a 2.45% increase to the general formula in 2022 and another 2% in 2023.

“All Minnesota students deserve a world-class education,” House Speaker Melissa Hortman, DFL-Brooklyn Park, said in a statement. “Our final budget makes significant investments in education to help our students recover from challenges brought on by the pandemic and reach their full potential. House DFLers remain committed to closing the opportunity gap and ensuring our children have every opportunity to succeed.”

Key programs include:

  • $5m per year for Grow Your Own programs
  • $3m in one-time funding for the Sanneh Foundation
  • $2.25m per year for teacher mentorship programs
  • $750k in one-time funding for Black Men Teach
  • $250k per year for a teacher recruitment marketing campaign
  • $200k per year for hiring bonuses to recruit teachers of color from outside Minnesota

 Walz said Friday he will end his emergency powers on Aug. 1, but Gazelka wants it sooner.

The GOP added language to a state government budget bill that aims to end the powers on July 1 and limit the fines imposed on businesses for violating COVID-19 restrictions to $1,000 and misdemeanors. If there’s no deal, the state government shuts down on July 1.


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