Pace of Policy and Politics to Pick Up Promptly

November 15, 2017

Fall of an odd-numbered year tends to be the slowest time for action at the Minnesota Legislature, as it is the one season over the two-year cycle when they are rarely in session and not campaigning. However, the pace is likely to pick up quickly after Thanksgiving, leading up to the start of the 2018 legislative session.

As you are keeping track of the action, there are a few dates worth circling on your calendar:

December 1. If past history is any guide, the November state budget forecast will be released on the first Friday in December. This document will provide the first glimpse at the expected budget surplus (or deficit) that will be awaiting legislators at the start of the 2018 session. It will also make long-range projections about tails, those pesky spending commitments that put pressure on the Fiscal Year 2020-21 state budget. A subsequent forecast in late February will provide legislators with the final data they need to decide if they will make any major changes in the spending bills from the 2017 session.

February 6. Precinct Caucus Day in Minnesota, when party activists gather throughout the state to elect local officers and delegates to endorsing conventions. Incumbent legislators will likely find out if they have any intra-party challengers, as well as learn of any new issues that are on the minds of some of their most passionate constituents.

February 20. The first day of the 2018 legislative session, assuming that funding is available for legislators and staff to gather in St. Paul. As of press time for this newsletter, the long dispute between Governor Dayton and legislative leaders over the veto of the biennial appropriation for the Legislature has not been resolved. However, there is still confidence that some agreement – permanent or temporary – will be reached to allow the state’s business to resume on the 20th.

April 1. Important for three reasons: It is Easter Sunday, April Fools’ Day, and, probably, the last long weekend at home for legislators. Caucus leadership may want a quick close to session after the Easter holiday, accelerating the consideration of key legislation (such as the bonding bill) during early April. But with divided government in Minnesota, it is just as likely that April 1st will be the start of the second half of the legislative session.

April 16. Tax filing day. If Congress is successful at passing tax reform in 2017, the Legislature is likely to pass a bill conforming to some or all of the federal changes. They will want that bill signed by the Governor well before Tax Day.

May 21. According to the Minnesota Constitution, this is the last day the Legislature can meet in regular session in 2018. According to state law, it is also the last day before filings open for candidates for state offices, such as Governor and the Minnesota House. So legislators running for re-election won’t get much rest, as they will learn the names of the candidates opposing them over the next two weeks.

June 1-3. The Democratic-Farmer-Labor and Republican parties will hold their state conventions on the same weekend, in Rochester and Duluth respectively. Candidates who are not endorsed for Governor or other constitutional offices will have roughly 48 hours to decide whether they will challenge their party’s candidate in the August primary.

August 14. Statewide primary election. Early voting will begin on June 29th, just in case you are ready to vote.

August 23. Start of the State Fair. Many experts consider this to be the launch date for the fall campaign and the end of summer diets.

November 6. Election Day. Only 63 more internet shopping days until the Minnesota Legislature reconvenes on January 8, 2019.