Late Monday evening, the 2019 Regular Legislative Session came to a close as required by the State Constitution. What did not come to an end, however, was the work on the biennial state budget. Since the state constitution requires a balanced budget be enacted into law every two years, the Governor must call the legislature back into a special session to finish passing the budget. That is expected to happen by the end of the week. That’s the short version; the path to that got us to this point isn’t nearly so tidy.
Earlier this session, leaders from the House, Senate, and Governor’s office agreed to a May 6th deadline for coming to an agreement on a budget framework. The idea behind this was to avoid the late-night, behind-closed-doors, smoke-filled-room negotiations that have become a hallmark of the end of Minnesota legislative sessions and the increasingly unavoidable special sessions that come with it. (Three of the last four budgets have been decided in special session.) That date came and went, but the leaders continued negotiating in the hopes of finding a breakthrough.
As last week came to a close, it became increasingly apparent that the legislature was once again headed for a special session to conclude their budget work. While negotiations lacked the bomb throwing and name calling of recent years, several consecutive days of hours-long, closed-door negotiations appeared to be fruitless. As recently as Sunday morning, the general sentiment was that not only was there going to be a special session, there was also a decent possibility of a state government shutdown.
Then, early Sunday evening, Governor Walz, Senate Majority Leader Gazelka, and Speaker of the House Hortman called a press conference to announce a deal on framework for the state budget, which can be seen here. The agreement outlined the overall spending amounts for each budget area and a few key items that had already been agreed to in each area. There were four keys to the agreement:
The leaders also agreed that the conference committees would have until 5 PM Monday to come to an agreement on their bills, or all remaining issues would be resolved by leadership. They noted that, due to process requirements, a special session would be required to finish passing all the bills.
Moving ahead to Monday at 5 PM, none of the budget bills had been agreed to. Two were eventually agreed to on Monday evening, Agriculture and Housing Finance bill and the Higher Education Finance bill, but only the higher education bill was passed by both bodies. This means that 10 bills are outstanding that compose the lion’s share of the state budget.
Legislators are continuing to meet behind closed doors to come up with agreements on the remainder of the bills. Legislative leaders have said they anticipate a special session on Thursday to process and pass the rest of the bills, though whether that becomes a reality or not remains to be seen. However the special session progresses, we will keep you up to date on the status of the overall budget and its impact on the health innovation and care community as details become available.
In recognition of Mental Health Awareness month, we’re highlighting Medical Alley Association member Learn to Live, a company that provides customized online programs to treat social anxiety, depression, stress, anxiety and more as they spoke with legislators about the importance of mental health awareness, diagnosis, and treatment.
Late Monday night before the end of session, the Minnesota House and Senate unanimously passed S.F 973, a standalone bill establishing The Chloe Barnes Rare Disease Advisory Council. This bill was originally part of the 2018 Health and Human Services Omnibus bill that was vetoed by the Governor. Medical Alley Association was a strong advocate for the creation of this council and provided a letter of support in committee. This bill establishes a council, housed at the University of Minnesota, that will provide families and individuals affected by rare diseases with resources for early diagnosis, guide them to appropriate treatment options, and catalyze research into new treatments and cures for these conditions.
In a session where very few bills with appropriations were sent to the floor as standalone bills, it is a huge accomplishment for S.F 973 to cross the finish line. Thank you to the bill authors, Senator Jeremy Miller and Representative Alice Mann for championing this bill and to the many advocates for their tireless work on the issue.
Medical Alley Association is happy to see this bill head to the Governor’s desk to be signed into law. Establishing the council is the first step toward showing the rare disease community that Minnesota cares and wants to make a difference in the lives of those living with rare diseases.
Well, ladies and gentlemen, we did it: We made it through the end of session. Don’t go booking any trips to celebrate just yet though! We may have adjourned regular session until February 2020, but we will be back in a few short days for special session. This year, the legislature passed one budget bill, which means the Governor has to call a special session — once there is an agreement with the legislative leadership on what will actually go into those budget bills — to finish the rest of the work.
Having been a staffer in the majority, I have seen the legislative bodies pass bills with minutes left, staff running on empty, with lobbyists circling around the capitol as we finished our legislative agenda. However, this year felt different, not that any session ever feels the same. This session there was little chatter, the cone of silence was in full effect, and very few leaks got out. Few lobbyists were buzzing around the capitol and, for the most part, staff and legislators were running on some sleep.
As we look at the week ahead, there is little to be known. Lobbyist, advocates, and some legislative members are unsure as to when we will have special session. MAA will be sure to report back on all the happenings… TBD
Until next time.