Current city leadership — all 13 City Council members and Mayor R.T. Rybak — has never experienced a state government under complete DFL control.
So when the 2013 legislative session ended on May 20, city leaders were happy with how many of the items on the city’s wish list were given.
Council Member Elizabeth Glidden (Ward 8) is the Council’s point person on state matters and praised lawmakers for tackling all sorts of major issues, including property tax relief, legalizing same-sex marriage and allowing the city to use its own funds for streetcars.
“I am really proud, both of our legislators and of our intergovernmental relations team, that there was a truly tremendous amount accomplished in the session,” Glidden said.
Here’s a rundown of some of the major issues pertinent to Minneapolis residents.
The 2013 legislative session will likely be best remembered as the year Minnesota legalized same-sex marriage. The legislation, championed by Minneapolis lawmakers Sen. Scott Dibble and Rep. Karen Clark, will go into effect Aug. 1. Minnesota is the 12th state in the country to legalize gay marriage. Clark, who represents south Minneapolis neighborhoods, was honored by the White House as a “Harvey Milk Champion for Change” on May 22. Clark was first elected to the Legislature in 1980, making her the longest-serving openly gay legislator in the nation.
The Legislature gave Minneapolis the authority to use property tax revenues from land near Nicollet and Central Avenues to fund a streetcar line on the corridor. The city, if it chooses, will have the ability to capture taxes from five parcels of land along the corridor where projects are underway, including the Magellan Tower near Loring Park, the Whole Foods mixed use project on Hennepin and Washington and the 4Marq apartment tower on Nicollet Mall and 4th Street.
The city already received a federal grant to study a nine-mile streetcar line and it’s also applying for federal transit funds to help pay for the line. The authority to capture tax revenue from the corridor will help the city get federal funding, Glidden said.
The city will get $32 million over nine years starting in 2017 to pay down debt it still owes on the Central Library. The city is scheduled to pay about $79 million in principle and interest on the Central Library through 2025. By dividing the $32 million over nine years, the city will see annual property tax savings of $3.5 million a year.
Vikings stadium funding
A year ago, the Legislature and governor were confident that revenue generated from electronic pull-tab devices in bars across the state would pay the $30 million annual debt payments on a new Vikings stadium. Early returns show a huge gap in funding.
Gov. Mark Dayton pushed for and got a tax hike on cigarettes, raising the tax from $1.23 a pack to $2.52 a pack, which will go into the general fund and will be used if pull-tab revenues continue to fall short.
Minneapolis will get a $12 million boost to the Local Government Aid it receives from the state. The city will get $76 million in 2014, compared to the $64 million it got in 2013.
The Legislature changed the formula and added $80 million to the LGA program statewide.
City departments under spent by $7 million in 2012, and the City Council put that money into a property tax relief fund. Coupled with the $12 million LGA boost, the city property tax forecast looks good for 2014.
“Until we actually do the budget and go through that process, it would certainly be premature for me to guess exactly what’s going to happen (with property taxes), but I certainly can see there’s a huge desire to keep those property taxes low and be able to fund the necessary services the city does,” Glidden said.
No local bonding projects
Needing 60 percent of the votes in the House, a bonding bill failed on a 76-56 vote. That bill would have allowed the state to borrow money to fund capital projects across the Minnesota. Several Minneapolis projects were included in the bill: A transit station at 35W and Lake Street; $7 million for renovating the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden and Cowles Conservatory, a $1.8 million grant for Cedar Lake Trail construction; and money for trail designing on the Grand Rounds.
A project to redesign Nicollet Mall did not receive funding.
Park dedication fee
Correction: The park dedication fee bill passed in an omnibus bill.
A bill carried by Minneapolis lawmakers would have allowed the Park Board to collect $1,500 from developers for each residential unit they build. That money would — which would have been a couple million dollars per year, could have been used to build new parks or improve old parks in growing neighborhoods like the North Loop and Lyn-Lake. That bill never got a vote in the Senate after Republicans successfully added a provision to the House bill that wouldn’t allow the money to be used to build new parks in areas near where sex offenders live.
Bike lane rules
Vehicles will not be allowed to park in bicycle lanes and motorists making right hand turns across bike lanes will have to yield to bicyclists. Those two traffic law changes were added to the omnibus transportation policy bill passed late in the session.
The city of Minneapolis asked for those changes. Another request to give cities more authority to lower residential speed limits never became a bill.
The budget deal approved by Gov. Mark Dayton and the DFL-controlled Legislature raises taxes on the state’s top 2 percent wage earners by 2 percent. The move is designed to reduce the state’s budget deficit and allow state leaders to authorize $441 million in property tax relief. Property taxes have risen sharply throughout the state in the past decade. The state’s wealthiest 2 percent earn $617,000, on average, according to the governor’s office. All told, the plan calls for $2.1 billion in new taxes, according to Session Daily.
Homeowners Bill of Rights
The legislation requires banks to offer loan modifications to all eligible homeowners; forbids banks from proceeding with a foreclosure when the homeowner is seeking a loan modification; and makes banks disclose all options available to homeowners when facing foreclosure. More than 150,000 homeowners in Minnesota have faced foreclosure since 2006, according to ISAIAH, a nonprofit coalition.
The budget bill will allow state leaders to make several investments in education. For the first time in the state’s history, every child will have access to all-day kindergarten. Tuition will also be frozen for the next two years at the University of Minnesota and the MnSCU campuses, according to the governor’s office. The budget also calls for another $485 million to be invested in the state’s E-12 education system.
The Legislature approved $33 million for housing and homelessness-prevention.
Cathy ten Broeke, the state director to prevent and end homelessness, said $26 million will be used for a variety of housing programs and $7 million will go to the Department of Human Services for emergency shelter funding, supportive services and programs for homeless youth.
The Safe and Supportive Schools Act — legislation designed to fight bullying in schools — did not pass this session. The Senate tabled the bill after hours of debate the last day of the session. The act would have repealed the current law related to bullying and replaced with legislation requiring all school districts to adopt an anti-bullying policy with clear definitions of bullying and protections for students often the object of bullying, including GLBT youth, among others.
A coalition working on fighting the sex trafficking of youth in the state secured $2.8 million to fund the Safe Harbor for Sexually Exploited Youth legislation. The original funding request was for $13.5 million.
Lee Roper-Batker, president and CEO of the Women’s Foundation of Minnesota, called the funding a “good start,” but a far cry from the amount needed to provide adequate housing and treatment for victims of sex trafficking.
“We achieved what I’m calling an ‘underfunded and incomplete victory,’” she said.
Of the $2.8 million received, $2 million will go toward housing and services for sex-trafficked youth and the rest will create a training fund for law enforcement and others to help identify trafficking.
Gun background checks
The Legislature passed a scaled-back gun bill that fills in some gaps in the background check database to include mental health and civil commitment data.