2020 Post Session and Pre-Special Session Status Report

A note from Public Policy Director Marie Ellis

Hello fellow policy nerds,

Many of us are used to frantically writing end of session reports in the week after adjournment, sharing with a variety of audiences our successes and work still to be done. I used to grumble and complain about those tasks, tired from the session and ready to move on. After seeing the alternative, I must say, I miss the old way
That alternative to those end of session reports, and this year’s reality, is that the end of the legislative session is more like a pause to the session. Governor Walz is expected to call a special session around June 12, assuming he renews the peacetime state of emergency. Knowing this, legislators did not feel the usual end of session urgency.  
And so, rather than a “Session Wrap Up,” we present to you “MCN’s Post Session, Pre-Special-Session Status Report” (really rolls of the tongue, doesn’t it?).
– Marie 

MCN’s Post Session, Pre Special Session Status Report:

  • At the beginning of the legislative session, MCN advocated for three provisions related to advancing equity in Minnesota through capital infrastructure (aka bonding and capital investment). We continue to advocate that a bonding bill include language requiring projects funded by state general obligation bonds proceeds to comply with human rights provisions related to gender and race equity in hiring. The other two provisions were $30 million to support capital projects from community-based organizations that are led by and serve communities of color and American Indians, and $235,000 annually to Minnesota Management and Budget to raise awareness about the capital budget process and provide assistance to nonprofits run by and for people of color and American Indians, and small communities. These provisions are unrealistic given current economic realities. We have laid a great foundation for this work, however, and will continue to build on it. 
  • Both the Minnesota House and Senate have positive provisions in their tax omnibus bills related to nonprofits, including an ongoing expansion of Minnesota’s non-itemizer charitable tax deduction (Senate), a mileage reimbursement subtraction allowed for volunteer drivers (House), and conforming to two provisions in the federal law:  a one-year “above the line” charitable tax deduction and increased charitable giving limits for individuals and corporations (House). Given the projected state revenue shortfall, and the fact that there is no requirement that the legislature pass a tax bill this year, we are maintaining realistic expectations about what may or may not happen.
  • MCN was instrumental in supporting a bill allowing state contracts to nonprofits to be extended if the organization cannot fulfill its contract deliverables due to COVID-19. The bill had a hearing in the House and we pushed for it to be considered in end-of-session negotiations. With no bills of that sort passed at the end of session, there was no mechanism to get this provision passed.  We will continue to advocate on this issue through special session(s).
  • We are educating lawmakers about nonprofits who are reimbursing employers for unemployment insurance claims, and the extremely burdensome bills some of them will soon be facing. We are pushing very hard at the federal level for Congress to increase relief for reimbursing employers, while working to ensure that state lawmakers understand the problem and the state’s potential role in relief, should Congress fail to act.
  • MCN was the leading voice advocating for privacy protections in the Presidential primary this past March, and such primary elections in the future. We had made enormous inroads on the issue at the legislature. Had there been two more days of session at the Capitol before the pandemic turned everything upside down, we may very well have changed the law. That did not happen, and the issue is much less urgent since the next Presidential primary is not for four years. We will be back at it next year.
  • Thank you to all of you who joined us in important advocacy at the federal level that relates closely to our state work. Earlier this month, MCN and Minnesota Budget Project sent a joint letter with over 250 organizational signatories to Minnesota’s Congressional delegation, urging more federal dollars to the states. The speed at which nonprofits signed on to the letter is a testament to the importance of the issue.