After Long Debate, House Job Growth and Energy Omnibus Passes House

The House took up the Job Growth and Energy Affordability budget and policy omnibus bill (HF 843) on Wednesday.  As detailed in previous versions of The Capitol Letter, this bill contains the budgets of many state agencies, as well as numerous policy provisions related to energy and economic development (many of which are controversial).  The debate lasted almost eight hours, with amendments addressing a wide array of topics including tipped workers’ minimum wage, affordable housing, and bullion coin dealers.

Only a handful of the amendments offered pertained to energy.  In a strategic move to demonstrate support for the language allowing co-ops and municipal utilities to charge an additional fee to distributed generation customers for cost recovery, Rep. Garofalo offered an amendment to remove the provisions.  He had alerted MREA and MMUA of his intentions in advance, and asked us to help garner rural DFL votes in opposition to his amendment.  His goal was to provide a bipartisan position in support of net metering reform to take to the Senate in conference, which does not include such language in its omnibus bill.  As desired, the Garofalo amendment was defeated on a bipartisan 83-47 vote.  A big thanks to MMUA members who spoke to your legislators about the importance of net metering reform!

Several other amendments were offered by DFL legislators and defeated:  a wide-sweeping amendment removing the CIP sunset, Energy Fund, addition of large hydro to the RES, and various studies included in the bill; an amendment to add cost recovery restrictions to lifting the nuclear moratorium; and amendments to reinstate Minnesota’s greenhouse gas reduction goals and acknowledge that climate change is real.

The bill ultimately passed on a 73-56 vote.  Only one DFL legislator voted in favor of the omnibus—Rep. Kim Norton of Rochester—with the likely reasoning to secure a seat on the conference committee with the Senate.


Senate Environment, Economic Development, and Agriculture Budget Passes Floor

The Senate Environment, Economic Development, and Agriculture budget omnibus (SF 2101) continued on the fast track this week.  On Tuesday, it was heard in the Senate Finance Committee, where most of the very few policy provisions in the bill were removed by an amendment from Chair Dick Cohen.

On Wednesday, SF 2101 was discussed on the Senate floor.  During the debate, Senators took several votes to rein in the MPCA on its water regulations.   An amendment was offered—but defeated—to remove one of the few remaining policy provisions of the bill: limiting the application of the wild rice sulfate standards until the MPCA finishes rulemaking and identifies wild rice waters.  An amendment was added to reinsert the language taken out the previous day in Finance Committee to require a cost analysis on recently adopted or proposed water quality standards.  Finally, language was amended onto the bill that would require a peer review of proposed water quality standards if the cost impact to permittees would be over $50 million in the first five years.  Under the amendment, the TSS standards adopted last fall would also be suspended until this peer review is completed.

Finally, an amendment was offered and adopted to reinsert the EITE language that was removed in Finance Committee.  (This provision would allow IOU’s to establish competitive rate schedules for energy-intensive, trade-exposed, large industrial customers such as mines and paper mills).

The bill passed on a 37-22 vote.  Since the budgets of agencies included in SF 2101 are spread across three different House omnibus bills (economic development/energy, environment, and agriculture), it will be interesting to see how conference committees are established.


House Tax Omnibus Includes Refundable Sales Tax for Construction Materials

This week, the House Tax Committee assembled its omnibus tax bill (HF 848).  A priority of MMUA—making the sales tax on construction materials purchased for local government projects by contractors refundable—was included in the tax package.  The House will likely take up its tax bill after all budget bills are passed, probably early next week.


House Environment Omnibus on Floor Friday

Having passed out of the Ways and Means Committee earlier in the week, the House is scheduled to debate its omnibus Environment and Natural Resources budget and policy bill (HF846) on Friday.  As detailed in the last edition of the The Capitol Letter, this bill contains several pieces of policy beneficial to municipal water utilities.


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