May 22 is the final day of the 2023 Minnesota Legislature’s regular session. The push is on to reach agreement on omnibus bills and spending, and to get work done on time.
Many disability advocacy groups and individuals are putting in long hours, tracking bills and floor sessions. The biggest rallies for Minnesotans with disabilities are in the books for 2023. Committee testimony has largely wrapped up so the focus is on shepherding measures through.
Looming over everything is the state’s record surplus of $17.5 billion. The budget targets agreed on earlier this spring by Gov. Tim Walz and DFL leaders come in at almost $17.9 billion. In Minnesota’s disability community there have been many calls to use that surplus to address pent-up needs, including addressing the care crisis.
Several measures have already been signed into law. But many disability-focused measures are still in the mix. With hundreds of disability-related bills introduced this session, it’s inevitable that not everything will pass. While it is encouraging to see so many long-term issues considered, tracking everything has been a challenge with so much in play.
The crush of bills has also led to questions about the accuracy of some fiscal notes and even the lack of fiscal notes in a few cases. Fiscal notes are important because they inform elected officials of the financial impact that proposed legislation would have for state government. A fiscal note outlines costs, potential savings, and increases and decreases in revenues.
As Access Press went to press, many omnibus bills had passed the House and Senate, and had gone to conference committees. Conference committees are temporary groups, where members of the House and Senate work to resolve differences between their bills. Five House members and five Senate members are appointed to each conference committee. Knowing who the conferees are is crucial on every issue, including those disability community members follow.
Some smaller bills are still moving ahead outside of the larger omnibus processes. The situation with legislation is quite fluid so the best advice is to check disability advocacy service organization blogs and bill trackers on a regular basis. Some Twin Cities television stations offer bill trackers as well.
Another issue to keep in mind is that this is a budget session and that can add to the complexity of conference committees. Larger bills on jobs and economic development, health and human services, education, housing, public safety are key issues to follow. Keep in mind that smaller issues get wrapped up in those bills so take the time to look at bills carefully.
Several issues have been high-profile this session including abortion, marijuana and paid family medical leave. The leave proposal has had many hearings. The measure proposed would partially replace up to 12 weeks of wages in a year’s time to care for a sick family member or new child. An employee illness could be covered for up to 12 weeks. A payroll tax proposed to pay for this has raised objections from business groups.
An issue being watched closely in Greater Minnesota is the agriculture, broadband and rural development bill. For many Minnesotans with disabilities who live in rural areas, improved broadband service is a potential lifeline to education, work, health care and personal connections. One proposal in play is $100 million for broadband expansion.
While that form of infrastructure seems to be on track, there’s uncertainty about brick-and-mortar requests. 2022 was the bonding session but a bill failed to pass during the end-of-session meltdown. Requests for state hospitals and academies, and accessibility improvements for state buildings and parks are among the asks renewed this session. While the House approved a $1.5 billion bonding bill this spring and then added $4000 million in general fund dollars for additional projects, the effort was shelved in the Senate because it failed to gain the needed “supermajority” of votes to pass.