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May Policy Update

MN Legislature adjourns, but work is left unfinished

The Minnesota Legislature’s session ended on Monday of this week, but without a two-year budget in place. While Gov. Tim Walz, Speaker of the House Melissa Hortman, and Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka had reached a deal on the size and scope of the state budget, they had not come to agreement on how exactly that money would be spent or on any of the policy issues that are still unresolved.

An extension of the Minnesota Historic Tax Credit is one of those unresolved issues. Both the House and Senate included an extension in their taxes bills, but they are miles apart – the House approved an 8-year extension, while the Senate approved a one-year extension with a $14 million pro rata cap, which would be a significant departure from the uncapped credit that has helped generate so much economic activity in Minnesota since 2011.

The Senate’s provision doesn’t seem to indicate a lack of Legislative enthusiasm, however. In fact, the HTC received a record number of twelve co-authors in the Minnesota House of Representatives and five in the Minnesota Senate. Legislators representing literally every corner of the state and from three political parties signed on to the bill introduced by chief authors Rep. Cheryl Youakim (DFL, Hopkins) and Sen. Jeremy Miller (R, Winona). If your Legislators are among them, please send them a quick email to thank them for their support!

So what’s next?

The Legislature’s conference committees will be reconstituted as “working groups” as the chairs of the House and Senate committees put deals together. Spreadsheets that outline the planned budget in more detail are due to Legislative leaders on May 28, and policy provisions have to be worked out by June 4 to give time for Legislative staff to write the bills. The Governor is expected to call the Legislature into special session on or before June 14 – and hopefully everything will come together in time for a new budget to be in place by June 30, the end of the state’s fiscal year.

This is the most critical time to advocate for an extension of the Historic Tax Credit! Click here to send a brief letter directly to your legislators, like/share/retweet the RevitalizeMN coalition’s posts on Facebook, Instragram and Twitter, and help spread the word. Your actions can make a difference!

A bonding bill also in limbo

The MN House and Senate have not been able to reach an agreement on a capital investment bill in 2021. Bonding bills are typically passed during even-year sessions, but last year’s bill took until the October 2020 special session to gain the required two-thirds majority votes in both House and Senate. That record $1.7 billion bill didn’t address all the capital investment needs, though, and the House sought to supplement with another $1 billion bill this year. Ultimately, three different capital investment bills – one of which would direct $300 million to areas of St. Paul and Minneapolis that are still trying to recover from last summer’s civil unrest – passed the House Ways and Means committee, but were not brought to the floor for a full vote.

What do we know about the SHPO?

A Senate committee proposal that would transfer management responsibility for state-owned historic sites from the Minnesota Historical Society to the State Historic Preservation Office is another lingering policy issue that has yet to be resolved. Rethos Executive Director, Dr. Heidi Swank, submitted a letter opposing the transfer and endorsing the work that both SHPO and MNHS do to protect and interpret historic places for all Minnesotans.

The Legislature did manage to accomplish one item of business important to preservation supporters: technical changes to the State Government Operations and Finance bill (HF1952) were agreed to that will clarify language relating to the responsibilities and operations of the SHPO. We fully expect that those agreed upon provisions will be included in the final bill.

Old buildings are green – so let’s keep them out of the trash

Earlier this session, Rethos submitted a letter of support for the Landfill Responsibility Act, which would create a new program to fund projects that seek to reduce the environmental impacts from all aspects of solid waste and to prioritize the expansion of waste reduction or source reduction activities across the state. At Rethos, we love to see buildings repurposed, restored, and reimagined, but demolition is too often the default decision. According to Hennepin County, about 85% of the materials from a demolished building could be reused or recycled, which is why Rethos and its program partners have been working to promote deconstruction as one alternative to demolition. Deconstruction means carefully dismantling buildings to salvage materials for reuse and recycling. Like rehabilitation, deconstruction can create new jobs and spur economic activity.

The Landfill Responsibility Act was included in the omnibus Environment and Natural Resources Policy and Finance bill that passed the House of Representatives in late April, but is not included in the Senate version of the bill. This innovative program remains one of the policy provisions that is still unresolved.

Make your voice heard

Over the next several days and weeks, many of the decisions that most impact the lives of Minnesotans will be made behind closed doors. It has never been more important to let the people who represent you at the State Capitol know where you stand on issues – whether related to preservation and building reuse, tax policy, environment, or any of the myriad other issues we face as a state. Contact your Legislators and let them know what is important to you!


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