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Legislative session will be all about dollars

By Janet Kubat Willette

Date Modified: 12/27/2012 8:43 AM

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BLOOMINGTON, Minn. – The next legislative session is going to be all about dollars, Chris Radatz told Farm Bureau members gathered Dec. 1 for the Minnesota Farm Bureau Federation 94th annual meeting.

Radatz, MFBF public policy director, said the November budget forecast will give legislators the first idea of what they face. Gov. Mark Dayton will base his budget on the November forecast. Legislators will wait until the February forecast to make their budget decisions.

The Office of Management and Budget released its state budget forecast on Dec. 5. The forecast says that the state has a $1.1 billion projected deficit for the 2014-15 biennium. Money exists to begin repaying the school shift. The state borrowed money from schools to fill its financial gap and as a result several school districts had to borrow money because anticipated state funds were shifted.

Property taxes will also likely be discussed. Property taxes have risen and increasing agricultural land values have accelerated the shift, Radatz said. Water quality, drainage, tiling and animal care may also come up. Any bills introduced last session are dead and will have to be re-introduced.

The Legislature's makeup has been transformed as a result of the election and that means a different party has control of which bills are heard. Democrats have taken over the House and Senate. There are 73 DFLers in the House and 61 Republicans. The magic number to pass legislation is 68, Radatz said. There are 34 first time legislators and 28 committees.

In the Senate, there are 39 DFLers and 28 Republicans. The magic number is 34, he said. Twelve members are serving for the first time and 18 committees.

Minnesota had its largest voter turnout in state history in the 2012 election. A total of 2.95 million people cast ballots, for a 76.1 percent turnout. On Election Day, 528,000 people registered. In the 8th District alone, voter turnout increased 34 percent.

In the 8th District, Republican incumbent Chip Cravaack was defeated by Rep.-elect Rick Nolan, a DFLer.

Minnesota Farm Bureau's PAC had a good year, with more than 80 percent of the candidates it endorsed winning election in the state Legislature and Congress.

Radatz asked Farm Bureau members to reach out to their lawmakers and try to sit down with them yet this year to build relationships. He also asked members to consider receiving text alerts on their phone. The alerts will be sent when an ag-related bill needs immediate attention.

Farm Bureau also has an Adopt-A-Legislator program in which rural districts "adopt" urban lawmakers to educate them about agriculture. The program has been going on for about 10 years, Radatz said.

The legislative session starts Jan. 8.