Legislative issues to watch in 2022

Several issues at the Capitol this session could impact housing.

No deal on unemployment trust fund leads to higher taxes for businesses

The date was circled on the calendar for many months, March 15. This was the day that the legislature needed to pass a plan to repay the $1.3 billion in debt owed to the federal government and rebuild the unemployment trust fund.

Gov. Tim Walz and the Department of Employment and Economic Development Commissioner Steve Grove both indicated that the legislature should use $2.73 billion to stop tax increases on businesses. The Senate passed a bill doing just that with strong bipartisan support. Democrats in the House of Representatives had other plans, instead wanting to link the unemployment trust fund fix to frontline worker bonuses.

During the last legislative session, the legislature agreed to pay $250 million in bonuses to frontline workers. However, in the interim, they could not agree on the definition of “frontline worker.” Given the large surplus, Democrats in the House of Representatives wanted to expand the frontline worker pay to $1 billion to give bonuses to more Minnesotans.

Leaders of both chambers and Walz met numerous times to try to negotiate a broader package, but as of print, neither the unemployment trust fund nor the frontline worker pay has been fixed.

Legislature considers a new way to calculate residential building permit fees

For many years, the legislature has been discussing building permit fees and the vast differences in pricing that occur in many growing communities. This year, Rep. Steve Elkins (DFL-Bloomington) has introduced a bill that would direct the commissioner of the Department of Labor and Industry to establish a cost-per square-foot valuation of properties to set residential building permit fees.

When the bill was heard in the Local Government Division in the House of Representatives, Nick Erickson, director of regulatory affairs and research at Housing First Minnesota, testified. “Today building permit fees must be established based on valuation, as set by the building official,” said Erickson. “Interestingly, this value reference point is partially based on square footage. Yet, even with this table and valuation submissions from builders that, in many cases are updated weekly to reflect their actual construction costs, we see no consistency in the accepted valuation. HF 4271 removes the guesswork and inconsistent valuation practice.”

The bill passed out of both the Local Government Division and the State Government Committee with bipartisan support.

Legislation would mandate electric vehicle spaces in new multifamily construction

A bill that would change the State Building Code to add a provision requiring a minimum number of electric vehicle-ready spaces to new commercial and multifamily structures is advancing in the Democrat-controlled House of Representatives. House File 4066 is authored by Rep. Jamie Long (DFL-Minneapolis).

The bill was discussed in the Labor, Industry, Veterans and Military Affairs Finance and Policy Committee. During the hearing, many legislators voiced concerns about the bill, including Rep. Bob Dettmer (R-Forest Lake). “I’ve always felt that the free market will determine what the needs are for the public,” said Dettmer.

After discussion, the bill advanced out of the committee on a partisan vote. No action with the Senate companion has occurred.