Thursday, May 30, 2019

Recap of the 2019 MN State Legislative Session from the 100% campaign

    Written by Chris Conry

"Much like the session as whole, the energy bill was a stalemate.

The Jobs & Energy Bill (SF 2) was passed off the Senate floor at around 3:30am on Saturday (with no amendments) after at a relatively short debate on Friday afternoon.  The same bill (HF 2) passed off the House floor at around 2:30am on Saturday after presentations from the authors and four ‘gotcha’ amendments on: the Prairie Island Net Zero Project (Garafalo), the Anti-Protestor bill (Zerwas), an RDA freeze (Swedzinski), and a statement of support for pipelines (Fabian).  (None passed; none garnered a Democratic vote.)

Republican members in each body also introduced a stand-alone energy bill (SF 13/HF 15) compromised of items from the GOP wishlist for the year.  During the Senate floor debate, Chair Osmek made reference to ongoing negotiations that were happening as late as Friday.   SF 13/HF 15 appear to include the items he was seeking.  He indicated that, as part of the deal, he offered to allow the House to spend $36m from the Renewable Development Account (RDA) on the House’s priorities over the next four years.  However, SF 13/HF 15 would spend $75.2m over the same four years on the Senate’s priorities.

The bill that was agreed to and passed was net positive.  Though very modest, it did not include any concessionary proposals.  The four highlights were:
- It created a new Diversity in Utility Workforce Stakeholder Group (more in that later). 
- It spent $150,000 from the RDA for the Department of Commerce to do a cost-benefit analysis on energy storage technology.
- It permits public utilities to request cost recovery for pilot projects on energy storage.
- It amends PACE in way should create the opportunities for an additional roughly $29.5m of efficiency improvements to be financed by qualifying businesses. If you want to know more about it, the House hearing documents from February 21st are hereAnd, in particular, you should check out this PowerPoint from the Saint Paul Port Authority on the reach of the MinnPACE program. Thanks Gregg Mast for heads up and for all the work Clean Energy Economy Minnesota did to make this happen.  It’s one of the bright spots of the session.  It’s going to mean more good jobs and less ongoing energy use all over Minnesota.

The Diversity in Utility Workforce bill was authored by Sen. Torres Ray and Rep. Richardson.
The Energy Storage Pilot Project & Study was authored by Sen. Osmek and Rep. Claflin.
The Commercial PACE bill was authored by Sen. Pratt and Rep. Long.

Third, a quick analysis: This was a frustrating, though not entirely surprising, outcome for the session. 

The House and Governor were willing to work on a large, medium, or small deal this year.  In fact, they floated at least three or four significant variations of large & medium deals until the last day of regular session and (it appears) all the way to up to the Friday of Special Session.  The Senate Energy Chair David Osmek made it clear early and consistently that he was not interested in any kind of large or medium deal, period.  No to 100%.  No to Clean Energy First.  In his comments, he was clearly frustrated that the House continued to press for its version of Clean Energy First throughout.  In the end, Chair Osmek offered a lopsided deal, to split up the RDA with rough 2/3rd going to the Senate and 1/3rd for the House.

The House and the Governor worked till the end, got creative with their proposals, and scaled back their offers, but they had an unwilling partner in the Senate.

It is entirely reasonable to expect more from the Minnesota Senate.  Given the climate crisis we face & the public’s demand for action, doing nothing is not an option.  Unfortunately, it was the Senate’s preferred option.

Finally, the recently created Diversity in Utility Workforce Stakeholder Group met on Tuesday.  It was noticed here.  The agenda was here.  

Chris Conry
Campaign Director
100% Campaign
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