- Associated Press - Sunday, May 22, 2016

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) - As a midnight Sunday deadline looms, lawmakers are racing to wrap up major deals and loose ends to handle the state’s $900 million budget surplus.

Among the marquee items still unfinished Sunday evening was a $260 million package of tax cuts and a compromise to fund road and bridge repairs. But even smaller items were in doubt as time ticked away.

Here’s a look at some of the work legislators have finished, what they’re aiming to complete and what may get left behind:


The House passed the compromise package of tax cuts Sunday afternoon, a mix of property tax relief to farmers and businesses, a new tax credit for college graduates with loan debt and expanded aid to Minnesota parents with childcare costs.

A smaller item that triggered Democratic criticism would remove the automatic, annual tax hikes to cigarettes and other tobacco products that lawmakers approved as part of a major tax increase in 2013.

The legislation is awaiting action in the Senate. Gov. Mark Dayton has said his support will hinge on whether the Legislature funds some of his priorities.



Dayton is finally poised to get one of his top prizes. A spending bill in the works would provide $25 million for a phased-in preschool program, targeting impoverished school districts without early education options. It’s expected to allow about 3,700 more 4-year-olds to attend preschool.



Lawmakers were planning to check other boxes on Dayton’s wish list - sort of. The $35 million in extra grants for broadband Internet development fell well short of the $100 million request Dayton made. So did the $35 million lined up for programs meant to tackle longstanding racial disparities.

Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk and House Speaker Kurt Daudt both hoped they had come close enough to satisfying the governor and gaining his approval.



With just hours of work to go Sunday evening, a transportation funding deal was the biggest question mark.

Legislative leaders were still tussling over how to fund a decade’s worth of transportation fixes, with a gas tax increase, license tab fee hikes, borrowing and surplus money all in the mix. As the deadline approached, some lawmakers were floating a last-ditch option to provide some one-time funding for road and bridge repairs.

Daudt told reporters Sunday afternoon he was confident something would come together, but he wouldn’t elaborate on any details. Bakk put lower odds on a deal materializing.



Goodbye, caucuses.

The Legislature passed a bill scrapping the presidential caucus voting system for 2020, opting for a presidential primary format after long lines at polling locations frustrated voters and party officials alike. Dayton signed the bill Sunday evening.



Will the Legislature have enough time to finish a plan to upgrade driver’s licenses?

Federal officials say they’ll start requiring Real ID-compliant licenses at domestic flight gates in 2018. Lawmakers were largely in agreement to start issuing new licenses in 2018, but other, smaller details were still in the works into Sunday evening.



It took two years, but the Legislature finally passed a bill setting ground rules for police use of body cameras.

The legislation makes most footage private. It required some last-minute maneuvering to gain Dayton’s approval, as the governor demanded that lawmakers remove a section that allowed officers to review videos before submitting a written incident report. They relented.

That was one of many provisions open government advocates complained would make body cameras a tool for law enforcement rather than a window for public transparency. Still, Dayton has said he’ll sign it.



It came down to the wire, but lawmakers approved a broad set of reductions to prison sentences for most drug offenders. It supplanted the more drastic changes set in motion late last year by the Minnesota Sentencing Guidelines Commission, which law enforcement and county officials complained would offer lighter treatment to drug dealers. The commission’s actions would have taken effect in August had the Legislature not stepped in.

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