Legislative Update: Major Bills are Moving!

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On and Off the Floors - Legislative Update 4/27/2018

This week, the Minnesota House and Senate moved this year’s major spending and policy bills forward, with the Senate taking up their version of the omnibus finance bill on the Senate floor on Thursday where it passed along party lines 34-31.

Taking a slightly different approach, the House will create one, large finance and policy package on the House floor early next week, doing a full floor vote on each individual bill as an amendment to a larger bill.

Where Things Stand in the Senate

All energy provisions in the Senate omnibus supplemental budget bill are located in Article II. The final Senate bill included a number of positive provisions, including a last-minute amendment for community solar gardens:

Energy Storage

Energy storage remains a key part of the Senate bill, with Senator David Osmek (R-Mound) highlighting it during his floor speech as an important, bipartisan initiative. This provision requires public utilities to include energy storage in their Integrated Resource Plans, incentivizes public utilities to develop energy storage pilot projects through the recovery of costs during their rate-cases at the Public Utilities Commission, and instructs the Department of Commerce to conduct an energy storage study that examines the overall costs and benefits of implementing energy storage in Minnesota.

Solar on Schools

Two million dollars for Solar on Schools was added to the bill on Monday in the Finance Committee, prior to its referral to the Senate floor. This appropriation would create a new grant program for public schools to put solar installations on their properties. This new program received broad bipartisan support with members highlighting the cost savings school districts would have on their energy bills.

Contiguous County Requirement for Community Solar Gardens Removal

During Thursday’s Senate floor debate, Senator Kent Eken (DFL-Twin Valley) offered an amendment that would remove the existing requirement that community solar gardens be located in the same county, or a county contiguous to a solar garden’s subscribers--as long as the solar garden has a 100-foot setback from the nearest neighboring residence. The amendment received strong, bipartisan support, passing with an overwhelming 49-18 vote.

Where Things Stand in the House

This week, the House Ways and Means Committee heard each of the individual spending and policy proposals during public hearings at the Capitol. Unlike the Senate, the House passed these bills individually to the House floor where each bill will be debated and voted on as individual amendments to H.F. 4099. H.F. 4289contains all the energy provisions. The bill has not changed much from last week and still includes: Xcel Energy’s nuclear facilities advance funding approval by the PUC; Restructuring payments to the Renewable Development Account with a $20 million per year lump-sum cap; Solar Rewards program increase for eligible projects from 20kW to 40kW; and $1.1 million for the a Residential Biomass Heating Grant Program for high efficiency wood burning heating systems.

Next Steps

With the Senate omnibus finance bill passing off the Senate floor on Thursday, the bill is sent as a message to the House. The House, who will have its own version of the bill, will not concur with the message, creating the need for a conference committee to work out the differences between the two bills.

The House will likely begin debating all omnibus finance bills on the House floor early next week. Conference committees will be chosen shortly after floor debates and will start meeting by the end of next week.

Soon, Governor Dayton will begin meeting with the Senate Majority Leader and Speaker of the House to establish a plan to end session successfully. The Governor has already outlined his wishes in a letter to legislative leaders last week.

3 Weeks to Go!

The last three weeks of the 2018 legislative session will be quick. As always, our team at CEEM will keep you up-to-date on what is happening. If you have questions, don't hesitate to reach out to our Policy Director:

Logan O'Grady | Director, Policy & Public Affairs

Email: logrady@cleanenergyeconomymn.org
Phone: 715-821-2113