Week 2 Session Briefing
This week began the second full week of session and featured the release of the 2018 February Budget and Economic Forecast. Minnesota’s $329 million surplus was announced Wednesday. As recently as November the state was predicting a significant deficit.Factors contributing to the state budget surplus include the continued economic strength of the state, the federal tax reform that included a corporate tax cut and the funding of the children’s health insurance program. Of course, there will be conflicting approaches to managing the surplus. Governor Mark Dayton is worried about a future recession, Legislative Leadership may seek additional tax relief, and others point to new programs such as school security enhancements that may consumer the majority of the surplus. Perhaps the biggest story from last week (Week 1) was lawmakers passing a necessary bill to fund the legislature for roughly nine months. Many House committees hit the ground running this week, with the House Taxes Committee beginning to focus on the issue of Minnesota conforming to the new federal tax law.
On Thursday, February 22, BAM, along with its’ members, attended the 2018 Day at the Capitol. Many members had the ability to meet with their district representative(s) and provide information regarding BAM’s 2018 Legislative Session priorities.
BAM’s 2018 Priorities
For the 2018 Minnesota Legislative Session priorities, BAM will focus on two primary topics: construction careers being essential for the economy and unlicensed builders hurt consumers.
In addition to these primary topics, BAM will seek to establish criteria for appraisers to use when they are evaluating new construction that recognizes construction and energy codes cost drivers, as well as modern techniques such as green building. BAM will also ensure that state and local governments are prohibited from adopting, by ordinance, which allows expensive stretch energy codes. Finally, BAM looks to require codes that increase the cost of housing to be reviewed by the legislature.
Construction Careers are Essential for the Economy
In partnership with Build Minnesota, BAM seeks to empower young individuals to view construction as a life-long career choice. In order to best accomplish this goal, BAM seeks to secure $500,000 to support programs that build the construction workforce. Additionally, BAM stresses required high school career counseling that emphasizes careers in residential construction. Finally, BAM seeks to identify methods allowing minors to work on construction sites. Currently, minors are banned from this line of work unless the work is done for a parent’s business, done by a 17 year-old high school student graduate, or work done outside the area of hazardous operation, materials, or equipment.
Unlicensed Builders Hurt Consumers
Unlicensed contractors deprive consumers from statutory protections. Additionally, this increases an unfair business practice that puts licensed contractors at a significantly competitive disadvantage. To counteract this practice, BAM seeks to introduce legislation providing homeowners with the ability to sue unlicensed contractors to recover payments. This legislation also seeks to prevent unlicensed contractors from being eligible for work requiring a license and would increase penalties for unlicensed activities from a misdemeanor to a gross misdemeanor. Further, BAM supported legislation seeks to require the DLI to dedicate all fines to enforcement of unlicensed activity and require lenders and insurers to verify licensure before issuing mortgages and insurance general liability of workers compensation policies.
Although this will be a very short and hectic legislative ra BAM remains hopeful to execute these priorities during the 2018 Session.