Minnesota Legislature begins short session

The 2016 Minnesota Legislature convened on March 8 with a later start date than usual due to the construction on the State Capitol. It is anticipated to be a quick, ten-week session. Additionally, this is an election year with all 201 legislative seats up for re-election this fall.

Legislative leadership would like to narrow the number of issues the Legislature takes up this session to avoid controversy leading into the election cycle. The state budget will be a main point of discussion as Minnesota has a lower-than-expected budget surplus of $900 million. Officials had been counting on $1.2 billion for the session.

Energy

It is expected to be a quiet session for energy issues. The State Implementation Plan (SIP) of the Clean Power Plan (CPP) should have been a topic of discussion; however, with the stay of the CPP imposed by the U.S. Supreme Court, focus on the SIP should be minimal. The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) must still submit a progress report on the SIP to the Legislature. The relevant committees may hold hearings on the report.

The 2015 Omnibus Energy Bill remains in conference committee, so issues contained in that bill remain alive for 2016.

State of the State

On March 9, Gov. Mark Dayton (DFL) gave his sixth State of the State address in which he outlined a number of priority issues for the 2016 session. However, Dayton’s No. 1 priority is to protect the fiscal integrity of the state.

Dayton made quick mention of the Clean Power Plan in his address. He indicated that reducing global warming is an important priority for his administration. Despite the U.S. Supreme Court stay, the administration continues to move forward on a plan to reduce emissions. “Developing clean energy has never been about satisfying federal bureaucrats,” Dayton said.

Though he gave no specifics, Dayton stated he wants to grow Minnesota’s clean energy economy.