Capitol Update: Plenty Hanging in the Balance

As the legislature moves towards its planned adjournment in late May, several items remain in the balance of discussion and deliberation. Housing First Minnesota has had a successful session elevating awareness of the affordability crisis – which has reached a new level of interest among legislators. Beyond that core issue, several housing and business-related issues remain in the process, which will now begin to shift to floor discussions by the full House and Senate.

It is likely that we will be calling upon our housing industry members to reach out to their elected officials. If you aren’t already signed up for our grassroots network, CLICK HERE.

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Housing Affordability Commission – A key housing industry priority is the creation of a Legislative Commission on Housing Affordability. Under the bipartisan proposal, the multi-year Commission’s charge of reducing the cost of housing for all Minnesotans would be accomplished by identifying, analyzing, and ultimately recommending housing policies that balance safety, durability, local control and affordability. The commission would also establish Minnesota as a center of excellence in housing innovation and address racial inequities in housing.

Status: Passed onto the floor of the Senate; Awaiting Action in the House

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Municipal Consultant Fees - Cities and towns routinely use technical consultants to provide expertise in evaluating various development permits and approvals.  licenses or other applications in which special expertise is required. It would require municipalities (cities and towns) that use outside consultants in which the fee is passed through to the permit applicant, to annually conduct a Request for Qualifications (RFQ) to identify qualified technical consultants who could assist the municipality. 

This bill does not limit who municipalities hire as their consultants, nor the amount that such consultants are able to charge.  It only requires a competitive process that is transparent so that permit applicants are not surprised by the fees they are being charged and have some  level of recourse if they think a fee in a given case is excessive.

Status: Passed onto the floor of the Senate and the House

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Rulemaking Oversight – For the third consecutive year the legislature has advanced a proposal that would allow the legislature to conduct oversight on any housing policy-related rulemaking process which would impact homeowners by $1,000 or more.

Status: Advanced in the Senate, included in the Senate’s State Government Finance Omnibus bill.

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Contractor Continuing Ed Curriculum -  An initiative to require one hour of business management strategies training into the 14 credit hours required for Minnesota contractors within their two-year licensing period has been proposed. Housing First Minnesota testified in support of the measure.

Status: Advanced in the Senate and the House, included in the Senate’s Jobs Omnibus Bill.

 

Stretch Energy Codes – A bill was introduced which would allow local governments to adopt their own energy codes and exceed the statewide code requirements on commercial buildings and multi-family residential structures exceeding 10,000 sq ft. Housing First Minnesota testified in opposition to the measure, which would create a patchwork of energy requirements throughout the region and further threaten housing affordability.

Status:  Bill passed into the House Environmental Policy omnibus bill.

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Street Impact Fee – An initiative to create new local government authority to impose street impact fees on developments was introduced in both bodies. Following the recent Supreme Court decision striking down the use of impact fees in development contracts, this legislation would attempt to create this specific authority for local governments. Housing First Minnesota, along with many business groups, opposed the bill as introduced. The authors of the initiative have committed to convening stakeholders in the interim to discuss pathway forward.

Status: Bill not heard in the House or Senate.

Workforce -  Multiple bills were introduced to encourage construction and skilled trades into career counseling services, as well as studying or allowing ways to allow students on construction sites.

Status: One bill was heard in the Senate, but not in the House.

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Retainage – A bill is on the move in both bodies would amend the state’s retainage statute. Under the bill, public and private entities are required to pay out all retainage within 60 days of substantial completion. After substantial completion, the bill would allow for withholding of up 250 percent of the value for incomplete or defective work.

Status: Bill passed onto both the House and Senate floors.

Wage Theft – A bill creating administrative requirements and a penalty structure for employers for wage theft and unintentional errors on paychecks has been introduced and heard in the Minnesota House. 

Status: Bill under consideration in House Jobs Committee

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Paid Family Leave - HF5 creates an expansive state-administered paid leave insurance program. Financed through a new tax on employers and employees, the program will fund partial wage replacement benefits for 12 weeks of paid parental and family leave and 12 weeks of paid medical leave. This is different, and in addition to, a separate proposal mandating that employers provide paid sick leave for routine or minor illnesses.

Status: Passed through multiple House Committees

Immigrant Driver’s License – An initiative to address a state based public safety and employment concern by requiring immigrants to obtain Minnesota driver’s licenses is on the move in the Minnesota House. Given large immigrant employment presence in the housing industry, Housing First Minnesota is monitoring closely.

Status: Passed the House floor

Follow @HousingFirstMN for frequent updates from your Housing First Minnesota advocacy team.