By now, the last-minute passage of the vetoed Jobs and Energy omnibus bill (HF1437) is fodder for pearl-clutched and ruminations about What's Wrong With The Process.
A new issue with the bill emerged Friday; ""a substantial loss of revenue to the Highway User Tax Distribution Fund and to the Driver and Vehicle Services funds," according to a "Dear Colleague" email by Senator Scott Dibble (DFL-Minneapolis). Bluestem obtain the email early Friday evening; a second source filled in the circumstances of the issue's discovery.
Did Minnesota representatives need a chance to read and debate the 93-page conference committee report on the Jobs and Energy Finance and Policy Omnibus Bill?
Apparently not in the eyes of Minnesota House Speaker Kurt Daudt (R-Crown), who refused to recognize any House members as he railroaded the bill through the end of the legislative session, which had to end at midnight on Monday, May 18.
Here's Daudt speed date legislative moment, all one minute and 33 seconds of it, via The Uptake . . .
Governor Dayton had more time to read the bill, prompting the state's chief executive to veto the bill for not funding or underfunding various agencies, as well as gutting the net metering provision in state law that has allowed solar and wind energy to flourish. Moreover, Dayton thought the bill woefully unfunded the Border-to-Border Broadband Development Fund. [PDF of letter here].
A source tells us that sharp-eyed deputy registrars spotted another flaw in the bill, and their concerns were made known to Senate Transportation Committee Chair Scott Dibble (DFL-Minneapolis). Bluestem is not disclosing the identity of the deputy registrars in order to prevent potential retribution against them.
In the "Dear Colleague" email, Senator Dibble details how a last-minute provision in the bill would have created "a substantial loss of revenue to the Highway User Tax Distribution Fund and to the Driver and Vehicle Services funds."
Here's the email:
In just the last day it has come to my attention that a provision in the Jobs and Energy omnibus bill (HF1437) as passed by the House and Senate in the final hour of session modifies a provision discussed at length in the Transportation and Public Safety Committee—both in the Senate Committee and in the subsequent Conference Committee, creating a substantial loss of revenue to the Highway User Tax Distribution Fund and to the Driver and Vehicle Services funds.
A proposal came before the Transportation Committee this year to allow for a three-year registration cycle option for towed recreational vehicles. It was suggested in the course of committee deliberations that the three-year registration cycle option be also extended to the trailers that normally tow these recreational vehicles. The Deputy Registrars Association testified with concerns that a three-year registration cycle would hurt their revenues—which can’t be compensated for in other ways since the State sets the filing fees that comprise their revenue. After careful and lengthy deliberation, the Senate Transportation Committee voted to triple the filing fee to prevent a loss of revenue to the Deputy Registrars of roughly $500,000 annually. They testified that this loss would put their businesses at risk of closure. We carried this measure in our SF1647 conference committee report as passed by the full House and Senate.
Contrary to those committee discussions and decision, a provision was inserted into the Jobs bill, HF1437 conference committee report that permits lifetime registration for trailers—not just a three-year option. The filing fee remains unchanged from the original $6. This will cause an annual loss of $1.3M to the Highway User Tax Distribution Fund starting in 2017—a loss the state cannot afford, given the constantly diminishing returns on our transportation dollars with this year’s lights-on bill. Further, the Driver and Vehicle Services account will also lose $88,000 annually in filing fees—dollars that are essential to their operations. This subsequent action by the legislature on HF1437 superseded and overturned our conference committee’s work.
Aside from the loss to the HUTDF and DVS, I am deeply troubled by the blatant disregard for the work of the Senate Transportation and Public Safety Committee, and utter lack of respect for an open, fair, transparent process that takes into account our own rules. I and my fellow committee members, take our responsibility for overseeing and being held accountable for transportation policy and funding very seriously—so to see a last minute maneuver create a hole in our budget area that puts businesses and road funding at risk is disturbing.
I am certain that had I simply slipped in measure that spends $1.388 million, or creates a $1.388 million hole in another Chair’s budget, with absolutely no discussion or communication of any kind, that would not be tolerated. I’m extremely bothered that some members of this caucus feel like they have some special powers reserved only to them and can do whatever they want -- that rules, fair play, transparency and accountability don’t apply to them. It is particularly galling to know that I voted for HF1437, having not been informed of the provision and being rushed to approve such the measure. It is important to recall that this bill passed by a vote of 34-29. Despite the other highly objectionable provisions in the bill and my desire to vote against it, I was taking my role as a team player seriously. I’m sorry that accord was not returned.
I request that this provision remains out of the special session legislation we will work on in the coming weeks. I would hope in the future that any matter pertaining to the jurisdiction of the Transportation and Public Safety policy and finance are brought to me and my committee members directly so we do not need to learn about losses to businesses, the HUTDF and the Driver and Vehicle Services fund accounts after the fact.
Let's hope that the re-do doesn't include this provision; the money may seem like a drop in the bucket, but it's clearly a hit to the services and offices that rely on the revenue.
Photo: House Jobs and Energy chair Pat Garofalo (R-Farmington). We know that falm-palm feeling all too well.
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