Last year, a cross-sector group of Medical Alley leaders put together a blueprint for realizing the vision of Medical Alley’s growth as the global epicenter of health innovation and care. Fully meeting this goal involves everyone getting a seat at the table and having a stake in Medical Alley’s success. Medical Alley Association’s 2019 State Legislative Agenda is inspired by these ideas.
Our agenda seeks to bring these ideas to fruition through a number of policy solutions, including initiatives aimed at improving access to capital for local entrepreneurs, expanding successful public/private partnerships for talent development and using their models to create new ones, and improving patient outcomes through better coordination of care and care delivery – particularly for those suffering from addiction. Through this agenda, we aim to solidify Minnesota as a hub of research, development and business expansion and to catalyze translational research to treat and cure rare diseases, while making sure families who battle these conditions get access to these advancements.
We invite you to read through Medical Alley’s 2019 State Legislative Agenda here. Throughout the legislative session, we will provide updates on our progress toward completing it. We’ll also be constantly reaching out to the Medical Alley community for additional thoughts and ideas about how we can build – together – Medical Alley as the global epicenter of health innovation and care.
On Tuesday, January 8, 2019 at 12 PM, the 91st Minnesota Legislative Session will be gaveled in. This legislature, in some ways, will look significantly different than its predecessor: The DFL has a sizeable majority in the House, there’s new Speaker of the House, there are more people of color serving, and there’s a new Governor for the legislature to negotiate with. In other ways, it will look the same as it did last session: The Senate is still Republican by a one-vote margin, the leaders of all four caucuses remain the same, and the new Governor is from the same party as his predecessor.
If you missed our 2018 election recap, now would be a good time to go catch up on how we got here. To visualize what the newly elected legislature looks like, take a look below. All 201 legislators in the House and Senate will be sworn in tomorrow.
The first year of each Minnesota legislative session is typically referred to as the “budget session.” First, a little background: The Governor is required to submit his biennial budget to the legislature by the fourth Tuesday in January of each odd year with one exception; when a new Governor takes office, he has until the third Tuesday in February to submit it. That will be Governor Walz & Lt. Governor Flanagan’s deadline for their first budget. The legislature then has until the first Monday after the third Saturday in May to consider the proposal, pass it through both chambers, and have the Governor sign a balanced budget – or trigger the need for a special session to do so.
For the above reasons, most of the 2019 legislative session will be focused around passing the state budget. The most recent Minnesota Economic Forecast showed the state has a budget surplus of $1.54 billion for the next biennium, with a smaller $456 million surplus in the following biennium. While this is generally positive news for the state, the lower number in the next biennium means that any spending or tax changes enacted in this biennium have to fit within that number or they could trigger a deficit.
This means there is the potential for a significant amount of one-time spending (on road & bridge repair, for example) or one-time tax cuts. Alternatively, the legislature and Governor could agree to use only part of the surplus, thus allowing the remainder to roll over into the next biennium, which would enable more on-going spending or tax cuts. One final complication: The next Minnesota Economic Forecast is due at the end of February and, if it shows slowing in the economy, could limit legislators’ appetite for using the surplus revenue — if there is any left at all.
One of the top issues for both parties during this past election was healthcare and, as a result, it will be a focus of the new administration and the legislature in the upcoming session. Issues such as establishing a MinnesotaCare buy-in, removing the inflator on the Provider (or Sick) Tax, providing for transparency of healthcare and drug pricing, regulating the price of drugs, instituting a new fee on opioid manufacturers and distributors, and continuing the Minnesota Reinsurance Program are only some of the healthcare issues that are likely to be addressed this legislative session. Many of these issues are impacted by changes at the federal level which, despite divided government there, are likely to continue through rule changes and court decisions. This means that some issues likely haven’t even surfaced yet, which complicates attempts to deal with those named earlier even further.
The legislature and Governor Dayton spent nearly the entire 2018 legislative session attempting to find a compromise on legislation conforming Minnesota’s tax code to the major changes made by the federal government in December 2017. They were unable to do so, and the result is that Minnesotans will have a complicated time filing taxes in 2019. While much of this was alleviated through a change in how Minnesota’s tax code is interpreted, federal conformity is still the top priority in the tax area for both the legislature and the incoming Governor. Other proposed tax changes are expected from the administration and each chamber of the legislature, but it is unclear how significant these will be.
Governor Walz and Lt. Governor Flanagan campaigned strongly on education. They focused heavily on fully and equitably funding schools, establishing universal Pre-K, and working to close the opportunity gap. Both the House and Senate majorities have indicated they will also make education a top priority, though it is unclear how their priorities will line up with those of the new Administration’s.
Another issue Governor Walz and Lt. Governor Flanagan campaigned on was securing a stable funding source for transit and transportation by increasing the gas tax. Gov. Walz has called previous efforts to raise the gas tax by 10 cents per gallon “a starting point,” but hasn’t committed to an amount he would like to see the tax increased by. While the new House DFL majority has expressed interest in cooperating in passing a gas tax increase, the same cannot be said for the Senate GOP. While Sen. Gazelka has acknowledged funding transportation is important, he has said that he doesn’t think new taxes are needed to do it. Making this issue even more of a must-follow is that the incoming MNDOT commissioner, Margaret Anderson Kelliher, was Speaker of the House the last time Minnesota raised its gas tax in 2008.
These issues alone would make for a busy and potentially dramatic session, but with a divided federal government, , an on-going trade dispute with China that deeply affects Minnesota’s two largest industries, and numerous other issues sure to be waiting in the wings, there will definitely be other pressing matters that make this session one to watch. Through it all, we are committed to advancing the legislative agenda that we have laid out. Keeping Minnesota as the global epicenter of health innovation and care will benefit not only the state in both the short- and long-term, but also the millions of patients who rely on the work done here to improve their lives.
Medical Alley Day at the Capitol is a great opportunity for MAA members to engage their local legislative leaders. 2019 will be an exciting time at the legislature—we have a new Governor, a new MN House of Representative’s majority and new committee chairs. Click the button below to register for this FREE event!