2020

Legislative Year in Review

The arrival of COVID-19 on the global stage changed virtually every aspect of life, and the 2020 Minnesota Legislative session was no different. The tone of session shifted greatly as the novel coronavirus began to spread in Minnesota; legislators were forced to respond to COVID-19 and a rapid transformation of a state budget surplus into a budget deficit.

In a typical year, state legislators would finish their business in May or in a single special session, however, in this historic legislative year we expect legislators to return to St. Paul for multiple special sessions for the first time since 2010, all leading up to the November election.

Medical Alley will continue to update this page throughout the summer and fall as legislators return to the state Capitol to address emerging and lingering issues.

During the early morning hours on May 18, the final gavel struck, echoing in the empty halls of the Minnesota State Capitol as the 91st Legislature adjourned as scheduled. As the state’s constitution mandates, the Legislature cannot meet for more than 120 legislative days each biennium. The Legislature had to adjourn by May 18, even though many of this year’s big issues were left unresolved, forcing the Legislature into yet another a special session.

When Minnesota’s legislative session opened on February 11, legislators had plans for a robust bonding bill that addressed infrastructural needs, advanced elements of each party’s vision for the state, and made use — in one way or another — of the state’s $1.5 billion surplus. Little more than a month later, the reality of the COVID-19 pandemic set in, and the $1.5 billion surplus became a $2.4 billion deficit. The rest of their plans set aside, legislators were forced to focus on addressing the crisis at hand.


Legislators acted with a united front in the early days of the crisis, coming together to pass more than $550 million in appropriations in response to the growing pandemic.


Legislators acted with a united front in the early days of the crisis, coming together pass more than $550 million in appropriations in response to the growing pandemic. The bipartisanship, however, gave way to party-line disagreements in the final month of session. Legislators cannot pass any bills on the last day of the two-year budget cycle, so they needed to vote on any remaining legislation they wanted to accomplish by May 17 at midnight. But when the deadline arrived, Minnesota lawmakers had failed to reach an agreement on several big issues. Most notably:

Bonding Bill

Economic Aid and Tax Relief During the Pandemic

Legislative Oversight Over Federal Coronavirus Funding

State Employee Contracts

Public Safety Reform and Responding to Civil Unrest

While the pandemic dominated the final days of regular session, public discourse in the state and nation has changed dramatically since the murder of George Floyd on May 25, with the public now demanding state policymakers take action to reform police practices and address the damages from civil unrest in the Twin Cities.

The Legislature will have the opportunity to address these major items in special sessions throughout the summer. As the situation unfolds, we will keep you up to date on these developments through our advocacy newsletter and the special session section below. 

The Medical Alley Association put this recap together to show you the impact your voice has in St. Paul and to help you better understand the historic nature of the 2020 Minnesota legislative session. We hope this recap is helpful to you in understanding how actions taken during the 2020 Minnesota legislative session (and special sessions) impact Medical Alley, its companies, and the patients they serve. 

Special Sessions

Minnesota has experienced several special sessions in recent years, but the coming months are likely to be a series of many special sessions to respond to COVID-19 issues, budget volatility, and police reform. As a clearer picture of how the rest of the year will unfold, Medical Alley will keep you up to date on the developments.

1

June 12-19, 2020

The Legislature must be in session for the governor to extend his emergency authority. If they are not in session when the governor extends his emergency powers, they are automatically called back into the vote on the extension. This is the rule that triggered the first special session of 2020.

Legislators returned to vote on the extension of the peacetime emergency, address the four main issues remaining from regular special session, and to address public safety reform in response to the murder of George Floyd.

The special session started out contentiously as Republican leaders announced their plan to adjourn the special session after just a week. The divergence continued once both houses were in session, as the Republican-led Senate immediately voted to end Governor Walz’s peacetime emergency, but the Democrat-led House blocked the move. This first special session saw sides make minimal progress on most major policy items, but no final deals as the Senate Republicans’ Friday deadline passed.

Although lawmakers did not reach a deal on policing reforms, bonding, a tax bill or federal COVID-19 aid, they did come to an agreement on 10 other bills, including: 

  1. Small Business Relief: The Legislature approved a $62 million package of grants for small businesses impacted by the pandemic. This includes the Small Business Relief Grant Program, which will provide $10,000 grants to small businesses that have been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

  2. COVID-19 Health and Human Services Program Waivers and Modifications: The Legislature also passed agreement on an extension of human services program waivers and modifications made in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The authors of the bill highlighted how telehealth waivers in public programs supported continuity of care during the pandemic. The year-long extension will allow the state to understand which changes from the peacetime emergency should be made permanent. 

For a full session recap, visit our June At the Table.  


2

July 13-20, 2020

Governor Walz is required to call a special legislative session if he extends his 30-day peacetime emergency powers. This is the situation that triggered the first and second special session.


The second special session, like the first, started with a debate of the peacetime emergency authority extension. In both cases, the Republican-led Senate voted to end the governor’s emergency authority, but the Democrat-led House approved the extension. His executive emergency orders stand unless both bodies overturn it.

We expect to see special sessions called every 30 days for the rest of the year to vote on emergency powers extensions. These short special sessions also give legislators the opportunity to address emerging issues like police accountability and health inequities. 


During the second special session, after two months of negotiations and debate sparked by the murder of George Floyd, the Legislature approved a police accountability package, which the governor signed on July 23. Here is a summary of the agreement. This bill and a driver’s license bill were the only two proposals to make it across the finish line during the second special session. The Minnesota House of Representatives also passed a resolution (82-40) declaring racism a public health crisis in the state; the Senate and governor are receiving pressure to pass similar resolutions.


The Legislature is still at an impasse on the major policy items: taxes, bonding, and distribution of federal COVID-19 aid from the CARES Act.


There was an agreement between the House Democrats and Senate Republican leaders on a combined tax bill and bonding bill. However, bonding bills require a three-fifths majority, which means the bill would need minority votes to be successful, and the agreement did not include the minority leaders in either body. The House Republican minority did not support the proposal because they want to limit the governor’s emergency powers and are using their bonding votes as leverage. The Senate Democratic minority did not vote for the proposal, arguing the Legislature should focus their attention to public safety policies.

For a full session recap, visit our July At the Table.  


3

August 12, 2020

The third special session was a short one, lasting only one day. As in the previous two special sessions, the Republican-controlled Senate voted to end the governor’s emergency powers. Again, the Democrat-controlled House reaffirmed the governor’s emergency powers, this time by rejecting a move to bring up a resolution aimed at ending them.


Minnesota Management and Budget (MMB) is now in the middle of a $1.2 billion bond sale from previous bonding authorization. According to MMB, this initiates a “quiet period” and precludes the Legislature from passing a bonding bill or any bill that would impact the General Fund or the state’s indebtedness.


The Legislature was able to take action on a few items that did not involve the General Fund or borrowing, including providing economic relief to disability service providers. They passed SSHF1/SSSF1, which would appropriate more than $30 million from the coronavirus relief fund for grants to those businesses. Legislators also used the one-day special session to make modifications to the police reforms passed in July; They pushed back the deadlines for officers to receive some types of mandated training, gave more time for law enforcement organizations across the state to submit data to the Peace Officer Standards and Training (POST) Board, and extended the time frame for the first meeting of a POST Board advisory council.


As part of the bond sale, MMB issued financial updates for the next biennium. MMB is now forecasting $4.7 billion deficit for fiscal years 2022/2023 and a $2.3 billion deficit for the current biennium of FY 2021/2022. The state has a budget reserve of $2.3 billion.


For a full session recap, visit our August At the Table.  

4

September 11, 2020

The most recent special session marked the first time there have been four special sessions in a calendar year. Just like the last three special sessions, the House voted against bringing up a concurrent resolution that would end Governor Tim Walz’s peacetime emergency powers. While the House continues to uphold the Governor’s emergency powers, the Senate again voted against the emergency powers extension.


In addition to the debate over the emergency powers, Senate Republicans are holding confirmation votes on several agency heads appointed by the governor. The Senate voted not to confirm the Department of Labor Industry Commissioner Nancy Leppink in the third special session and the Department of Commerce Commissioner Steve Kelley in the fourth special session.


For a full session recap, visit our September At the Table.  

Sign up for our At The Table newsletter to stay up to date with all special session news 

5

October 12-15, 2020

The highlight of this fifth special session was the passage of the capital investment bill. After one regular Legislative session and five special sessions, full of lengthy debate and two failed attempts to pass similar legislation, the Minnesota Legislature ultimately passed a $1.87 billion bonding bill.


Throughout all these negotiations, the Medical Alley Association tirelessly advocated for three bonding projects on behalf of our members:


  • The University of Minnesota Clinical Research Facility Design Financing
  • Runway Improvements at Rochester International Airport
  • City of Maple Grove / Hennepin County – Highway 610 Improvements 

We ensured these projects were included in the final version of the omnibus capital investment bill.


Sign up for our At The Table newsletter to stay up to date with all special session news 

Medical Alley's Response to COVID-19

Throughout this pandemic, the Medical Alley Association bridged the gap between our members and policy makers.

Provided Guidance on Emerging Legislation 

We worked with members to provide guidance on executive orders and rules and worked closely with the state to ensure necessary exclusions and designations for our members during the stay at home order. 

Connected Policymakers with Industry Experts to Address Supply Chain Issues 

We launched Resource Connect to help align the resources of Minnesota’s health technology community with the needs of our community in the fight against COVID-19. We continue to share available resources to the State and stay in close contact to address their most immediate identified needs. Medical Alley also established the MAA Supply Chain Group to assist the state in procuring necessary supplies.

Advocated for Tax Items that would Aid Innovation

Throughout the 2020 Legislative Session, our association advocated for tax items that would aid innovation during the pandemic. We testified before both the House and Senate Taxes committees for provisions that would support businesses (e.g., funding the Angel Tax Credit Program, making the first tier of R&D tax credit refundable, fully conforming to federal equipment expensing, and delaying tax payments for individuals and businesses), while also helping legislators understand the deficiencies in several other polices that would have hindered our business environment and the state’s competitiveness amidst the pandemic.

Shared Your Story with Policymakers

We frequently communicate with legislators about how Medical Alley companies are leading in their respective arenas and helping combat this pandemic.

Medical Alley's Response to COVID-19

Throughout this pandemic, the Medical Alley Association has worked to bridge the gap between our members and policy makers.

Providing Guidance on Emerging Legislation
Medical Alley is working with our members to provide guidance on executive orders and rules and worked closely with the state to ensure necessary exclusions and designations for our members during the stay at home order.

Connecting Policymakers with Industry Experts to Address Supply Chain Issues 
Medical Alley launched Resource Connect to help align the resources of Minnesota’s health technology community with the needs of the state in the fight against COVID-19. Medical Alley also established the MAA Supply Chain Group to assist the state in procuring necessary supplies. Medical Alley continues to share available resources to the State and stay in close contact to address their most immediate identified needs.

​Advocating for Tax Items to Support Innovation
Throughout the 2020 regular legislative session, our association advocated for tax items that would aid innovation during the pandemic. We testified before both the House and Senate Taxes committees in support of provisions that would support businesses (e.g., funding the Angel Tax Credit Program, making the first tier of R&D tax credit refundable, fully conforming to federal equipment expensing, and delaying tax payments for individuals and businesses), while also helping legislators understand the deficiencies in several other polices that would have hindered our business environment and the state’s competitiveness amidst the pandemic.

​Sharing Your Story with Policymakers
Medical Alley frequently corresponds with legislators about how our members are leading in their respective arenas and helping combat this pandemic.

Medical Alley Day at the Capitol

February 24 was Medical Alley Day at the Minnesota State Capitol, bringing together legislators with the health technology and care organizations that power Minnesota’s economy and make it The Global Epicenter of Health Innovation and Care™.

Delegates from Medical Alley Association companies met with legislators throughout the day to discuss the challenges facing the industry, and ways that businesses and policymakers can partner together to drive stronger economic growth for the state. Delegates also had a luncheon with Speaker of the House Hortman, House Majority Leader Ryan Winkler, and Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka. Legislators had the opportunity to engage with our members at the Medical Alley Showcase in the Capitol Vault. The exhibition featured:

Senator Carla Nelson speaks with POPs Diabetes at Medical Alley Day at the Capitol.

Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka and Representative Hunter Cantrell hear from Medtronic.

Medical Alley Board Chair Sheri Dodd speaks with Senate Chair of Health and Human Services Michelle Benson.

Representative Raymond Dehn speaks with EcoLab.

Healthcare Transformation

Solving healthcare’s greatest challenges requires bringing every stakeholder to the table. With a diverse cross-sector membership, Medical Alley is uniquely positioned to facilitate conversations regarding healthcare solutions. During the 2020 state legislative session, Medical Alley demonstrated this leadership position through the following events:

The Value of Clinical Trials for Cancer Patients in Minnesota

We cohosted the first of a series of talks that bring together representatives from across the healthcare spectrum with legislative leaders to discuss healthcare issues from a holistic standpoint. This first event covered the value of clinical trials for cancer patients in Minnesota and was led by a panel that represented the wide range of stakeholders involved in clinical trial access and effectiveness:

  • Senator Michelle Benson, Chair Senate Health & Human Services Finance and Policy Committee
  • Monica Theis, Breast Cancer Survivor, ACS-CAN 
  • Nancy Torrison, Executive Director, A Breath of Hope Lung Foundation 
  • Dr. Michaela Tsai, Martha Bacon Stimpson Chair of Breast Oncology and Medical Director of Oncology Research, Virginia Piper Cancer Institute 
  • Ping Yeh, Cofounder and CEO, StemoniX

Senator Benson and Representative Hunter Cantrell were our special guests for this panel. While our plan had been to host several more of these sessions throughout the year, we are now organizing digital town halls to connect legislative leaders with innovative members of our community.

Medical Alley Healthcare Ecosystem Hearing: Powering the Evolution of Healthcare

Four early stage Medical Alley companies testified in the Senate Health and Human Services Finance and Policy committee on the evolution of healthcare in Minnesota. Representatives from Miromatrix Medical, Nightware, Nuvaira, and StemoniX described the process of developing their patient-centric innovation and answered questions from the committee. We are grateful for the unique opportunity to highlight the health technology and care industry in a legislative committee.

Realizing The Vision: Minnesota Competitiveness

The four pillars created as a result of our Realizing the Vision report serve as key guides for our activity at the Capitol. In both the regular and special sessions, we are focused on delivering value for our members wherever we can, but with special attention paid to these four categories.

Early Stage Ecosystem
Startups are critical to the continued leadership and renewal of the Medical Alley community, but far too often Minnesota companies struggle to raise capital and find support. This is why we testified in support of the Angel Tax Credit Program (ATCP). The ATCP is a key part of cultivating Minnesota’s startup ecosystem and generating growth for decades to come. We also shared with policymakers how ATCP are giving back in the fight against COVID-19.

Although the 2020 Session ended without any agreements on a tax bill, we will continue to advocate for funding for the Angel Tax Credit, strengthening the R&D credit, and federal equipment expensing during the impending special session.

Talent
Minnesota must significantly increase its attraction of talented people and better prepare its existing workforce to impact the future of healthcare. Minnesota needs a robust supply of new talent to retain its healthcare leadership position, which is why we support the financing of a Clinical Research Facility at the University of Minnesota. The facility would help facilitate high-quality, innovative interpersonal training of Minnesota’s next generation of health technology and care workers. The financing of the Clinical Research Facility is in both the House and Senate bonding proposals.

Capital Investment
Throughout the 2020 regular session, Medical Alley advocated for capital investment projects that strengthen Minnesota’s competitiveness. In addition to the Clinical Research Facility at the University of Minnesota, Medical Alley supported the runway improvements at Rochester International Airport. The airport is an important local asset with a global impact, providing faster and safer transportation for patients seeking care from all over the world and key components for the Mayo Clinic’s world-class researchers. We also advocated for the Highway 610 Corridor Project, as the health technology and care industry has a strong presence along this corridor and these firms rely on high quality transportation networks to transport their life-saving product. 

The Legislature has not yet reached an agreement on a bonding bill, but these three projects are included in both the House and Senate proposals. We will continue to seek aid for projects that strengthen Minnesota’s competitiveness during special session. 

Realizing The Vision: Minnesota Competitiveness

The four pillars created as a result of our Realizing the Vision report serve as key guides for our activity at the Capitol. In both the regular and special sessions, we are focused on delivering value for our members wherever we can, but with special attention paid to these four categories.

Early Stage Ecosystem
Startups are critical to the continued leadership and renewal of the Medical Alley community, but far too often Minnesota companies struggle to raise capital and find support. This is why we testified in support of the Angel Tax Credit Program (ATCP). The ATCP is a key part of cultivating Minnesota’s startup ecosystem and generating growth for decades to come. We also shared with policymakers how ATCP alumni are giving back in the fight against COVID-19

Although the 2020 Session ended without any agreements on a tax bill, we will continue to advocate for funding for the Angel Tax Credit, strengthening the R&D credit, and federal equipment expensing during the impending special session.

Talent
Minnesota must significantly increase its attraction of talented people and better prepare its existing workforce to impact the future of healthcare. Minnesota needs a robust supply of new talent to retain its healthcare leadership position, which is why we support the financing of a Clinical Research Facility at the University of Minnesota. The facility would help facilitate high-quality, innovative interpersonal training of Minnesota’s next generation of health technology and care workers. The financing of the Clinical Research Facility is in both the House and Senate bonding proposals.

Capital Investment
Throughout the 2020 regular session, Medical Alley advocated for capital investment projects that will help Minnesota’s remain competitive with peer states long term.

In addition to the Clinical Research Facility at the University of Minnesota, Medical Alley supported the runway improvements at Rochester International Airport and the Highway 610 Corridor Project.

Rochester International Airport is a key local asset with a global impact, providing fast and safe transportation for patients seeking care from all over the world and for key components for Mayo Clinic’s world-class researchers. Similarly, we advocated for the Highway 610 Corridor Project, since the health technology and care industries have a strong presence along this corridor and these firms rely on high-quality transportation networks to transport their life-saving products. 

Legislators negotiated the bill for over a year. Throughout all these negotiations, we reminded them of the importance of these three projects for the health technology and care industries. We tirelessly advocated for the inclusion of these projects, highlighting the importance for our supply chain and future innovation, and ensured they were included in the final passage.

Key Takeaways

  • Medical Alley ensured passage of all three capital investment priorities.
  • Despite the truly historic disruptions that have shaped the 2020 legislative session, the Medical Alley Association worked diligently to connect the skills and expertise of our health technology and care industry with Minnesota’s policy makers. 
  • Throughout the health and economic crisis, Medical Alley continues to advocate for policies that support your business, and helped legislators understand the deficiencies in policies that would have hindered our business environment and the state’s competitiveness amidst the pandemic.

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