St. PAUL - The 2014 Minnesota legislative session began in late February with goal of finishing by the Easter Holiday. As the regular session winds to a finish, area legislators offered their opinions, both good and bad on the State's progress.
Overall, Democratic legislators view the session in a positive light. A great deal of legislation has been passed through the various committees in a short amount of time. Rep. Kathy Brynaert (DFL-Mankato) said the major downside was the fast-paced nature of the session.
"The ramp up has not been very gradual," said Brynaert. Several of the early House meetings went as long 15 hours and continues to be the normal work day. Brynaert admitted there were concerns about the speed of the session taking time away from needed discussion on certain bills, but much has been accomplished. Brynaert specifically cited funding for Early Childhood programs.
The Senate side of the session has been equally high-pressured. Sen. Kathy Sheran (DFL-Mankato) is the current Chair of the Health and Human Service Committee, and has spent many long hours moving legislation through committee, much of which is only now coming to the floor. Sheran applauded the repeal of the B2B taxes, which was major concern in her district.
"I am pleasantly surprised how well things are proceeding," said Rep. Clark Johnson (DFL-North Mankato), commenting that fellow representatives had shown great discipline in the speed of the session. "I came in on a special election last year, so I am use to the hectic nature of the session." Johnson was confident that recent tax cuts would further increase Minnesota's economy and called the approval of the 5 Percent Campaign a "critical" step, which passed late last night in the Minnesota House.
This legislation would provide Minnesota's disabled community and their caregivers a five percent funding increase.
In terms of the 5 Percent Campaign, Rep. Paul Torkelson (R-Hanska) was in agreement with the DFL. The 5 Percent Campaign gain significant bipartisan support. Torkelson said that he was pleased with the Democratic leaderships decision to fully fund the legislation as it was one of his top priorities, but was disappointed that it was not a stand-alone bill. Torkelson felt that since the 5 percent legislation was included in the Democratic budget plan it forced Republicans into an all-or-nothing vote.
With the Easter break a few weeks away, the biggest unknown in the 2014 session is the Bonding Bill. The Bonding Bill is prepared to hit the floor, but the process is far from over.
The final days of the this session will likely be dedicated to negotiating on a final Bonding Bill. With numerous state projects in need of funding the process is expected to come down to wire.