Session 2015: Where issues stand with work done

Published 10:23 am Tuesday, June 16, 2015

ST. PAUL — The Legislature wrapped up its 2015 work in a flurry, with lawmakers working nearly a month late to finalize a $42 billion budget.

Transportation and taxes were put on hold and Gov. Mark Dayton’s hopes for offering preschool statewide were abandoned in the budget, which was finalized during a one-day special session that ended early Saturday morning.

But lawmakers also tackled other major issues over the last six months, ranging from the state’s health insurance exchange to Minnesota residents’ ability to buy alcohol on Sundays.

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Here’s a look at some of the state’s new laws, some that failed, and what may be on the horizon:


The state’s next two-year budget takes effect on July 1, and includes about $42 billion in general funds to keep the state’s government running through fiscal year 2017. But that doesn’t include more than $850 million that lawmakers left in the state’s coffers. Legislative leaders hope to use the extra money next year to tackle tax cuts and transportation repairs.


The governor ditched his hopes for a statewide preschool initiative in the name of more money for public schools. Rather than funding a specific preschool program, House Republicans agreed to add another $125 million to the $400 million already slated for public schools.

Tax cuts

The prospect of tax cuts in 2016 got a boost in special session dealing. In exchange for allowing the final budget plan to be approved, Republican leaders in the Democratic-controlled Senate got a commitment from Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk that a considerable portion of the $850 million that lawmakers didn’t allocate to various programs or state agencies this year will go toward tax cuts.

Teacher qualifications

Republicans briefly revived their proposal to bar a policy that many school districts use to layoff newer teachers first. Lawmakers declined to include it in the final education budget, but the issue will likely be revived in 2016.


After high hopes of a major deal, a plan to fix Minnesota’s road and bridge system failed because of deep disagreements among Democrats and Republicans over where to get billions of dollars needed for the projects. The impasse means the issue will be a big issue next year, either during the legislative session, elections — or both.

Minimum wage

A Republican-backed plan to allow employers to pay lower wages to tipped workers, such as restaurant waiters and waitresses, if tips bring their pay above $12 an hour was among the measures left behind in budget negotiations.

College tuition

Tuition rates will likely increase for many Minnesota college students. The amount of state money allocated for The University of Minnesota and the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities systems was less than what university leaders said they needed in order to freeze tuition for the next two years. Some two-year colleges, however, may see tuition cuts.

Nursing homes

Under a plan pushed by House Speaker Kurt Daudt, an additional $138 million in funding for nursing homes and a revamped formula to disburse the money will mean more money for rural nursing homes. Daudt calls it one of the bigger wins of the 2015 session.


MNsure, the state’s health insurance exchange, will move into 2016 largely intact despite a handful of suggested changes, ranging from abolishing its governing board to scrapping the exchange altogether. The Legislature ultimately sided with Dayton, agreeing to study Minnesota’s health care systems over the next year instead of making any major changes.


The final budget didn’t include Republican-backed measures that would have blocked state funding for abortions through public programs and imposed higher licensure standards for abortion clinics.


Minnesota Lottery games at gas pumps, ATMs and on the Internet will be a thing of the past by late September. In a repeat of last year, the Legislature passed a bill restricting those platforms for lottery games. But unlike in 2014, when Dayton vetoed that bill, the governor let it become law without his signature.

Sunday liquor sales

Cities can now allow Sunday sales of 64-ounce craft beer growlers, and bars can serve hard liquor before 10 a.m. on Sundays, because lawmakers made two small changes to Minnesota’s old “blue laws,” which dictate how alcohol can be sold statewide.

Police techniques

Lawmakers imposed a 60-day limit on how long police can keep data collected by license-plate readers, unless the information is relevant to a criminal case. But legislators couldn’t agree on boundaries on body cameras used by law enforcement, and access to the video data they produce.

Commissioner pay

Dayton faces a July 1 decision whether to give raises to the leaders and directors of state agencies. Dayton issued raises in January, angering lawmakers who thought they should have signed off. In a compromise, both sides agreed that the governor could decide on July 1 whether to issue raises before the power officially falls to legislators.

Rail safety

A plan to impose additional taxes and fees on railroads for safety upgrades never gained steam, and the Legislature approved just $5 million for railroad crossing improvements. Given the state’s large surplus, House Democrats labeled it one of the biggest failures of the session.

Sports push

No state money or tax breaks went toward a proposed major-league soccer stadium. Without a tax bill, exemptions sought by Super Bowl organizers also stalled out for now.

Buffers strips

In a win for Dayton, the Legislature finalized a plan to require larger buffer zones between crops and public waterways. The compromise plan, approved during the special session to include crucial funding, requires most farmers to install 50-foot buffers along public lakes and rivers, with smaller strips along ditches.