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Historically slow start to 2021 session

Friday, March 19, 2021


By Rep. Shane Mekeland

We are around 11 weeks into the 2021 session and there is no sugarcoating the fact this has been a historically slow start in the Minnesota House of Representatives. 

The House has given final approval to just five bills to date – none of them of great magnitude – marking the fewest at this point of a session since at least the early 90s. According to a report from House non-partisan staff, the House also recently had processed just 333 committee reports, the fewest at this point in an odd-numbered session since 2011. 

While it is true major issues typically are resolved during the latter stages of any given session, it also is true these are different times and urgent action is needed on several time-sensitive matters. So far, legislation to address those issues has plodded along at a snail’s pace, adding to the stress and concerns Minnesota businesses and families already were facing. 

Legislation to correct tax problems for businesses and workers, provide funding for our law enforcement and help children who need to catch up in school should not be partisan. Here is a look at four bills that warrant prompt approval: 

  • The SAFE Account sets aside $35 million for mutual aid agreements for anticipated law enforcement response for the Derek Chauvin trial and other major public safety events. That bill has been on hold since the majority’s proposal failed twice weeks ago on the House floor. A common-sense compromise worthy of strong, bipartisan support has been put forward and has been endorsed by the Star Tribune Editorial Board
  • Currently, Minnesota is the only state in the upper Midwest that has yet to exempt forgiven PPP loan payments. Without approval of a bill, businesses could owe hundreds of thousands of dollars or more in state income taxes simply for using the PPP funds as intended by the federal government. (Note: The guidelines for these forgivable loans were so prescriptive that businesses could not simply sock 10 percent aside to cover a state tax liability, even if they had the foresight to anticipate a state charge nobody told them would exist.) The Senate already passed a PPP tax relief bill with a veto-proof majority on a 55-12 vote but things remain at a standstill in the House. 
  • A bill exempting $10,200 in Unemployment Insurance income, the same exempted by the federal government, to eliminate a surprise tax bill for people who have been out of work.
  • A bill has been authored which applies federal funds the state is receiving toward defraying costs of in-person summer school learning to help struggling students get back on track after a year of distance learning. The bill also provides funding for student mental health, as well as early learning scholarships. 

Each of these bills easily could pass the House with broad, bipartisan support in a matter of days, not weeks or months. Opportunities to do so are being presented on the House floor, but so far have been unsuccessful. In fact, a motion to take up legislation preventing tax hikes on Minnesota businesses who received PPP loans was denied on March 15, which happens to be the deadline to file business taxes.

Failure to act means businesses now will be forced to file extensions, burdening them with unnecessary added costs and headaches. There is no legitimate reason to delay taking approving these bills; they are popular ideas. Also, the state has a $1.6 billion surplus and it continues receiving one-time federal dollars.

The need is there, and Minnesotans want the House to deliver results. Time is of the essence and the House needs to act now. 


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