Legislature Reaches Final Committee Deadline
Friday, March 28, was the final committee deadline for the legislature, where all bills are supposed to have passed through all policy committees in the House or Senate and have either reached the floor, the Finance Committee, or the Tax Committee. For the most part this rule is honored, although legislators can always bring up defeated bills as amendments on the floor. Below is a brief update on issues NFIB is involved in.
Huge Tax Victory!
HF1777 Rep. Lenczewski (Bloomington)/Sen. Rod Skoe (Clearbrook)
As you likely heard the legislature rushed a tax bill through that repealed our new gift tax, repealed all the new business sales taxes, and even made some significant progress on the general estate tax issue. They had a provision in the bill that raised the exemption by $1 million over the next four years. It is rare to see a major tax bill rushed through the legislature this quickly without even a conference committee. Next up tax bill two?
Minimum Wage Remains Stalled
HF92 Rep. Ryan Winkler (Golden Valley)/SF3 Sen. Chris Eaton (Brooklyn Center)
We have quite an interparty fight going on with the minimum wage issue, which is in conference committee; it is very stalemated and appears to be going nowhere. NFIB is watching it closely, though, because things can change quickly. Hopefully majority party Senators will hang in there and continue to oppose any type of an automatic escalator and will demand that significant parts of their favorable bill, such as a very low small business wage and a 48 hour overtime requirement are part of the final package. Unfortunately, they agreed to a three-year phase-in to $9.50 per hour recently for employers covered by the federal law.
A new development occurred on Friday, March 28, when the Senate Jobs committee passed a poorly drafted proposed constitutional amendment that would raise the wage to $9.50 per hour, add an escalator to it and then put it before a vote of the people as a constitutional amendment in the 2014 election. NFIB joined with other business representatives and representatives of unions in opposition to the measure. The bill appears to be a negotiating measure for the Senate leadership, but a constitutional amendment would be a bad outcome and is guaranteed to cause a multi-million dollar ad campaign. The proposed constitutional amendment was sent to the rules committee where the leadership can quickly deploy it for a floor vote if they choose.
Several Bad Employment Law Bills Stalled for Now
Wednesday, March 26, we had a very encouraging day in the Senate Jobs committee where committee members led by chairman Dan Sparks (Austin) stalled or significantly revised several new bad employment law bills that placed mandates on employers and most inappropriately creates a new right to sue employers under the state Human Rights Act. Below is an update on these new negative issues for employers.
Mandated Sick Leave
HF2461 Rep. John Lesch (St. Paul)/SF2105 Sen. Sandra Pappas (St. Paul)
This dramatic new mandate appears to be stalled and hopefully for the rest of the 2014 session. At the moment, it is stalled in both houses, and hopefully it remains in that condition.
Adding Familial Status/Caregiver to the Human Rights Act
HF2300 Rep. Carly Melin (Hibbing)/SF2006 Sen. Melissa Wiklund (Bloomington)
As previously mentioned this is one of the major bills that was stalled in the Senate Jobs committee last week. The Senate author completely dropped her proposal and substituted language that would allow people to use their sick leave to care for extended family members and others. This was a huge victory for employers, private or public, and would have dramatically increased the number of lawsuits with the assistance of the Human Rights Act against employers. In these types of cases not only can a plaintiff receive the assistance of the department in bringing their claim against a business or a public employer, but they also get their attorney’s fees reimbursed, which always provides an incentive for plaintiff lawyers to take cases they otherwise might not and they also can receive double or triple damages.
Unfortunately the bill is still moving in the House and NFIB is co-leading the coalition to defeat one of the worst lawsuit-related bills we’ve seen in a long time.
Protection for Employees to Provide Wage Disclosure
HF2274 Rep. Sandra Masin (Eagan)/SF1999 Sen. Barb Goodwin (Columbia Heights)
We also had a significant victory on this issue when the right to file a human rights claim, complete with attorney’s fees and potentially additional damages was also defeated in the Senate Jobs committee. They passed the bill out after making some significant changes but most importantly substitute the new right to sue with a regulatory action by the Department of Labor and Industry against a business or other employer who violates the new law.
Nursing Mothers, Lactation Bill
HF2259 Rep. Barb Yarusso (Shoreview)/SF2000 Sen. Kathy Sheran (Mankato)
A similar action occurred on this legislation when the Senate Jobs committee deleted the new right to sue and replaced it with a regulatory action by the Department of Labor and Industry if employers refuse to comply.
Comparable Worth Required for Some State Contracts
HF2373 Rep. Rena Moran (St. Paul)/SF1806 Sen. Sandra Pappas (St. Paul)
A radical measure that would have required some businesses to completely change their compensation systems and adopt a government imposed comparable worth system appears to be defeated for the legislative session. This was another measure that bit the dust during the Senate Jobs committee hearing of last week. Senate author Sandy Pappas (St. Paul) placed a delete everything amendment on the bill that now requires anyone who has an affected state contract to be scrutinized by the state for their compliance with various equal work for equal pay laws. The revision by Senator Pappas was a huge defeat for the advocates of this radical measure, which exempted all contractors of any type and the vast majority of small businesses, those with 40 or less. Despite those broad exemptions NFIB still joined with others in opposition to this measure.
State-Sponsored Retirement Plan Defeated
HF2419 Rep. Patti Fritz (Faribault)/SF2078 Sen. Sandra Pappas (St. Paul)
An inappropriate and unworkable proposal to have the state get into the retirement business finally was defeated when the language was substituted with a study on the issue. The state has enough problems managing its current pension obligations and there’s no justification for them to jump into a very competitive business that currently offers individuals many options and retirement plans.
Rule Making Revision
HF2724 Rep. Mike Nelson (Brooklyn Park)/SF2467 Sen. Sandra Pappas (St. Paul)
Legislation that attempts to streamline the administrative rule making process and is a priority for Governor Dayton is advancing. NFIB is opposed to a provision that changes the number of parties that must request a hearing from 25 to 50 on a new proposed rule in front of an administrative law judge. In testimony in committee we expressed a practical concern that some business groups or professions may not be able to find 50 people to respond quick enough to trigger the full hearing in front of the administrative law judge where people can come in and actually testify and share their concerns about a new proposed rule. NFIB will continue to push to retain the current 25 requirement.
HF2576 Rep. Carly Melin (Hibbing)/SF2214 Sen. Bobby Joe Champion (Minneapolis)
A bill to make it easier to expunge records for some non-violent offenders is advancing, although an effort will likely be made to increase the amount of time an individual would need to be law-abiding before requesting an expungement. NFIB will likely join with legislative allies and push for a longer period, where a person has been completely law-abiding before an expungement can be requested.