Notices

Should Minnesota Have a Full-Time Legislature?

For the first time since 2003, a bill has been introduced that would ask Minnesota voters to remove a 120-day limit and required May adjournment date from the state’s Constitution.

Anyone who watched the Minnesota Legislature in the months following the declaration of the COVID-19 pandemic might have thought that the state House and Senate were full-time institutions.

In addition to the regular sessions that spread out from January to May, the Legislature returned to St. Paul monthly due to provisions of state law governing declarations of peacetime emergencies. Lawmakers met in session for at least one day a month between January 2020 and May 2021.

But it wasn’t full-time then and it isn’t full-time now. Regardless of the time spent in session, the annual salary of $48,250 doesn’t change. Under a constitutional provision, the Legislature can meet in regular session for just 120 “legislative days” over the course of two years. Each year, the House and Senate must adjourn regular sessions on the Monday following the third Saturday of May (May 23 this year). Special sessions don’t count against the 120-day cap.

But for the first time since 2003, a bill has been introduced to change that. The proposal, (House File 4840) introduced by Rep Jamie Long, DFL-Minneapolis, along with a companion bill in the Senate by Sen. Lindsey Port, DFL-Burnsville, would ask voters to remove the 120-day limit and the May adjournment date from the Minnesota Constitution.

“We are losing a lot of good people every single cycle who aren’t able to make it work with the demands of having another part-time job,” Long said. “A number of my colleagues see the downsides of having a full-time executive and a full-time court system and only a part-time Legislature.”

Lawmakers aren’t able to be a counter-balance to the chief executive when only present in St. Paul less than half the year, he said. Long also blamed the increase in large omnibus bills on the pressure for lawmakers to act on a lot of legislation in a relatively short period.

“It’s not a very good way of legislating,” Long said.

Amending the Constitution in Minnesota is relatively easy — majority votes in the House and Senate and a majority vote of the public. But there is a quirk in that an amendment must receive a majority of all votes cast in the election, which means not voting on an amendment is the same as voting ‘no.’ 

Still, it’s not going to be on the ballot this fall. There are two reasons. First, Republicans who control the state Senate pretty much hate the idea. 

“Moving to a full-time legislature is an absolutely terrible idea and would move us more toward Washington, D.C.-style politics,” said Senate Majority Leader Jeremy Miller, a Republican from Winona. “It’s important to maintain the current citizen-legislature to ensure we don’t have a legislature full of career politicians.”

In addition, Long says he won’t try to move the bill this session. Instead, he introduced it to spur a conversation among legislators. And while private conversations with Republicans reveal some openness to the idea, it is not a position any are willing to take now, Long said.

“My goal is to start the conversation and see if we can build bipartisan support for next year,” he said. “We’re just starting to have the dialogue about it, but I’m hoping this will give the public a chance to weigh in and force members to think hard about whether the way we do it now is the right approach.”

Not an outlier

The National Conference of State Legislatures doesn’t measure the 50 state Legislatures in terms of strictly being full-time or part-time. Instead, it breaks states down along a gradient, from full-time with large staffs that spend many days in session to part-time with small staffs and few days in session.

The 10 states with full-time legislatures tend to be the most populous — but also include Alaska and Hawaii.

Minnesota is among the states that have what the NCSL considers hybrid legislatures, which spend more than two-thirds of their time doing legislative work and have professional staff but aren’t paid enough for most to avoid having other income.

(National Conference of State Legislatures)

Finally, the NCSL analysis has a list of states that are paid the least, spend half or less of their time doing legislative functions and have smaller staffs. These 14 states — which include North and South Dakota — tend to have lower populations and are more rural.All of which brings up another question: Would lawmakers get a pay raise if Minnesota went to a full-time Legislature? A previous constitutional amendment in 2016 turned over legislative salary setting to an independent commission. That group looks at legislative pay in other states and would likely propose increases to match other full-time legislatures such as those in Wisconsin, Ohio, Michigan and Illinois.

“Being a legislator should not require you to be independently wealthy,” said Senate prime sponsor Port.

(MinnPost)

NAHB Legal Action Fund Guidelines and Application

Because it is important to influence legal precedent that is of national significance to the housing industry or that has the potential for meaningful impact on housing industry issues, the Legal Action Fund helps defray litigation costs for builders, developers and state/local associations involved in these types of cases. It is administered with three goals:

  • The fund must support litigation that will benefit the housing and building industry nationwide. The fund should not be viewed as a member service, instead the fund should be viewed as an industry service.
  • The two types of cases that take priority over all others are nationally significant cases or those that address issues commonly faced by builders or developers. Where possible, cases should be brought to the committee early in the litigation process.
  • The fund should be used primarily in a proactive role, encouraging and supporting the filing of high-quality litigation that addresses major industry issues.

The Legal Action Committee considers applications during each of the NAHB Board of Directors meetings and makes recommendations for grants for NAHB Executive Board approval.

Deadlines

Applications for the next round of funding are open now.
Applications are due by May 16, 2022, for consideration at the next Board of Directors meeting.

Both individual members and state and local HBAs may apply to the Legal Action Fund. Applicants must submit the application form and a cover letter that includes a concise statement explaining the following points:

  1. A summary of the facts of the case;
  2. The legal issue(s) and the relief being sought in the case;
  3. The status of the case (what court it is in; if appellate, what the trial court’s decision was; a rough timetable for current or projected court plans);
  4. How the case concerns an issue of national significance or an important problem common to the shelter industry;
  5. Past, current and rough-estimated future costs of the litigation;
  6. The financial (and participatory, if any) commitment of the local and state HBAs or a statement explaining the reason(s) why funding was denied;
  7. Whether there has been prior NAHB assistance for this case; and
  8. The amount of money being requested from NAHB.

All of these points must be addressed in full to constitute a complete application. Only complete applications will be placed on the agenda of the Legal Action Committee.

In addition, the following must be included, as applicable:

  • Copies of the substantive pleadings or other legal filings of both sides, and
  • Copies of any court decisions to date.

You may also include any other pertinent papers that would be helpful to the staff and committee in better assessing the case or understanding its background, including newspaper articles, letters from counsel, etc. The best applications are those that explain the facts, the legal issues and the importance of the case to the national housing industry in as clear and concise terms as possible.

Please note that under Guideline 18, if a case is settled or discontinued prior to getting a court’s judgment, the funds must be returned to NAHB because their purpose is to try to establish case precedent helpful to the industry as a whole. The committee’s recommendations as to financial assistance in any amount must be approved by the NAHB Executive Board.

The committee prefers to have someone present at the meeting to argue for the case receiving financial assistance and to answer any questions that the members may have. However, it is not usually necessary to send counsel to this meeting, which should save legal fees and expenses.

Staff at NAHB is available to make this simple application process as easy as possible. If you have any questions about the funding process, the particular litigation in question or need information about approved cases and specific grants, please feel free to contact us.

Thomas Ward
tward@nahb.org
(202) 266-8230

Minneapolis Fed Webinar on Construction Survey Results – Friday, May 6, 9-930 am

 

Hello Construction Partners—

I am in the analysis part of this effort, but wanted to let you know that I’ll be hosting a webinar on Friday, May 6, from 9-930 to discuss results. You should all be getting  more formal looking invite, and we’re hoping you will forward information on the event to your members so they can join. All of our webinars are always free.

https://www.minneapolisfed.org/events/2022/regional-economic-conditions-construction-sector-activity-may

Somewhere around the May 6 (+/-) I will also be sharing more detailed results with all of you.

Let me know if you have any questions. Hope everyone is well, and your members gearing up for a great spring and summer season.

Best, Ron

Ron Wirtz
Regional Outreach Director

FEDERAL RESERVE BANK OF MINNEAPOLIS
Pursuing an economy that works for all of us

W 612-204-5262     M  612-430-4917
@RonWirtz I minneapolisfed.org I LinkedIn I Twitter

Walz Blasts Legislature Over Unemployment Insurance Dispute

Gov. Tim Walz sharply criticized the Minnesota Legislature on Wednesday for failing to break its impasse over an unemployment insurance tax increase that businesses are already starting to pay.

The Democratic governor blamed both the Senate Republican and House Democratic majorities, saying it’s “absolutely ridiculous” that they didn’t reach a deal soon after the legislative session began in January. He said they need to pick up the pace with the May 23 adjournment coming up in just over four weeks, and said he’ll propose a path forward in his State of the State speech on Sunday.

Employers across Minnesota started getting bills for higher first-quarter unemployment insurance taxes soon after legislative leaders failed to agree by the March 15 deadline for heading off an automatic increase.

The increase kicked in because the state must replenish its unemployment insurance trust fund, which has been depleted by the pandemic. The state can tap over $1 billion in federal COVID-19 relief money and the state’s $9.25 billion budget surplus to raise the necessary $2.7 billion. But House Democrats have made a tax rollback contingent on Senate Republicans agreeing to $1 billion in “hero pay” for frontline workers instead of the $250 million target all sides set last year.

Walz said lawmakers could have settled it all back in January.

“This should have been the easiest deal in Minnesota political history,” Walz said during a visit to a Cub Foods supermarket in north Minneapolis to talk about his tax rebate proposal.

Doug Loon, president and CEO of the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce, told reporters at the Capitol that his group shares the governor’s frustrations.

Democratic House Speaker Melissa Hortman has said the real deadline is April 30, when the first tax bills reflecting the increase come due.

Walz and Loon both said some companies have already paid those bills. And Walz said he hopes the frustrations of those employers prods lawmakers into a deal.

Loon said the businesses he represents are universally reporting double-digit or higher increases in their unemployment insurance tax bills when they’re already struggling to be competitive.

“Other states have fixed this. And Minnesota as an outlier state needs to be competitive,” Loon said. “If we don’t fix this, Minnesota businesses are at a disadvantage.”

Walz spoke as the Chamber coincidentally held its annual lobbying day at the Capitol. Loon said around 100 of his members fanned out to meet with their local lawmakers and tell them how the tax increase was affecting them.

(Associated Press)