Minnesota lawmakers adjourned the 2014 session Friday night, a full two days earlier than their constitutionally mandated deadline.
The long, last day was packed with final votes on several key issues, including a bonding bill, tax bill, supplemental budget bill and medical marijuana.
The Minnesota Senate took final action on a $1.1 billion package of public construction projects that had already passed in the House. The projects were divided between two bills: an $846 million bonding measure and a $200 million cash appropriation from the state budget surplus.
DFL Senate Bonding Chair LeRoy Stumpf of Plummer said economic development was a key guideline for this session's bonding bill. "We tried to look at the bonding proposals in light of how would they move Minnesota forward, how would they help communities expand, how would they create more jobs," he said.
A large share of the funding goes to college campuses. The biggest single project is the $126 million needed to complete the state Capitol building renovation. The cash bill includes funding for several regional civic centers and the Lewis and Clark water pipeline.
In other last day action the House and Senate both passed a bill that would stop the Minnesota Lottery from offering online gambling and games at gas pumps, even though it could cost the state nearly $12 million.
Republican Senator Carla Nelson of Rochester said it was a case of overreach. "We had the lottery director overstep and set up this online gaming and gaming at pumps," she said. "I appreciate the fact that we as legislators are doing our job and saying no, this is the job of the Legislature, and we are not in favor of expanding gambling in this manner."
The House and Senate took quick action on a bipartisan bill to provide $103 million in tax cuts, including property tax reductions for farmers, homeowners and renters.
DFL House Tax Chair Ann Lenczewski of Bloomington said the session's second tax bill will bring total tax cuts to about $550 million. "You all know that we together have already passed a tax bill this year that's been signed by the governor that gave our constituents middle class tax cuts and business relief, tax relief," she said. "We're now going to add property tax to that list."
Lawmakers gave overwhelming final approval to a bill to legalize the limited use of medical cannabis.
DFL Senator Scott Dibble of Minneapolis said the compromise is more restrictive than he wanted. But he said it's a first step. "This is about getting something into the hands of people who now lack it, who have no other available options that are any good at all: people who are suffering, people who have been asking us to do this for many, many years," he said.
Republican Senator Branden Petersen of Andover voted for the earlier Senate bill but against the final version. Peterson said it will leave an estimated 33,000 patients behind, and he blamed Governor Dayton. "The governor never got out from behind his wall of special interests, law enforcement interests and others who he has listened to without fail throughout this and has demonstrated zero courage and zero leadership," Petersen said.
The session started with a projected $1.2 billion budget surplus. Lawmakers used a $283 million supplemental budget bill to spend the remaining, available slice of that pie. The money will boost home and community-based health workers, K-12 schools, road repairs, rural broadband and many other things.
But Republican Representative Steve Drazkowski of Mazeppa claimed the spending was excessive, and the result of DFL tax increases last session. "This money is accumulated and piled up here, and the decision rather than sending their money back to them is to spend, spend, spend and build more and more government." Drazkowski said.
Governor Dayton issued a statement after the adjournment, complementing the DFL-controlled legislature for its work. He highlighted tax cuts, an increase in the budget reserve, the eliminating outdated laws and a higher minimum wage.