Legislature wraps up work, close to adjournment

Minnesota lawmakers moved closer to adjourning the 2014 legislative session on Friday with a last-minute work list that included a final Senate vote the $1.1 billion package of public construction projects the House passed about six hours earlier.

The Senate vote on a bill that would fund $846 million in projects was 47-17, well above the required a three-fifths super majority needed for passage. The Senate also approved by a comfortable margin a $200 million cash appropriation from the state budget surplus for construction work.

Waiting in the wings late Friday afternoon were a supplemental budget bill and a conference report on House and Senate bills to legalize the limited use of some forms of medical marijuana.

Economic development was a key guideline for this session’s bonding bill, said state Sen. LeRoy Stumpf of Plummer, chairman of the Capital Investment Committee, said economic development was a key guideline for this session’s bonding bill.

“We tried to look at the bonding proposals in light of how would they move Minnesota forward, how would they help communities expand, how would they create more jobs,” said Stumpf, DFL-Plummer.

A large share of the funding goes to college campuses throughout the state. The biggest single project is the $126 million needed to complete the state Capitol building renovation.

The cash bill includes funding for several regional civic center projects and the Lewis and Clark water pipeline.

In other last-day action, the House and Senate both passed a bill that would stop the Minnesota Lottery from offering online gambling and games at gas pumps, even though it could cost the state nearly $12 million.

State Sen. Carla Nelson, R-Rochester, said the bill was as a case of overreach.

“We had the lottery director overstep and set up this online gaming and gaming at pumps,” Nelson said. “I appreciate the fact that we as legislators are doing our job and saying no, this is the job of the Legislature, and we are not in favor of expanding gambling in this manner.”

Gov. Mark Dayton has not said whether he plans to sign the bill.

The House and Senate both took quick action on a bipartisan bill to provide $103 million in tax cuts, including property tax reductions for farmers, homeowners and renters. State Rep. Ann Lenczewski, chair of the House Tax Committee, said the session’s second tax bill will bring total tax cuts to about $550 million.

“You all know that we together have already passed a tax bill this year that’s been signed by the governor that gave our constituents middle class tax cuts and business relief, tax relief,” said Lenczewski, DFL-Bloomington. “We’re now going to add property tax to that list.”

Dayton said earlier in the session that he would sign the bill, even though he was disappointed that it did not include his proposed expansion of the child and dependent care credit.

Final votes are still needed on $283 million in supplemental spending and the bill to legalize the limited use of medical cannabis by people with serious illnesses.

During one the day’s lulls, legislative leaders were already reflecting on the session. House Majority Leader Erin Murphy said the prospect of an early adjournment was largely due to getting an early jump on key issues at the start of the session.

“I think it is one more measure of this Legislature that we are determined to do the work of the people of Minnesota,” said Murphy, DFL-St. Paul. “We’re not going to hold back. We’re going to lean into the work and get it done.”

The end of the session marks the start of this year’s re-election campaign for House incumbents. Senators won” face voters until 2016.

While Murphy works to keep control of the House, her Republican counterpart will try to take it away. House Minority Leader Kurt Daudt said single-party control hasn’t served Minnesota well.

“There are a lot of policies that Democrats have been pushing that we think are going to be damaging to Minnesota families, to job creation, to job growth, to job opportunities In Minnesota,” said Daudt, R-Crown. “Frankly, we’ve been pretty cooperative in trying to get out of here quickly. The quicker we get out of here, we think the less damage the Democrats can do to Minnesotans.”

Candidates can begin filing to run for office on Tuesday.