Minnesotans will feel legislative session impact
ST. PAUL — Legislative sessions have consequences, and 2013’s version will be felt by many Minnesotans.
Republicans say Minnesotans of all stripes will pay higher taxes. Democrats claim residents will receive better service.
Assistant Senate Majority Leader Katie Sieben, DFL-Cottage Grove, spelled out how this year’s session, especially the budget Democrats passed, would produce "real, tangible results."
"My neighbors won’t pay $2,600 for all-day, everyday kindergarten," Sieben said. "That is real money being put back in people’s pockets."
Sieben said her baby sitter "won’t see a tuition hike at the University of Minnesota after she enrolls there as a freshman this fall."
The senator said her city will benefit from a tax change: "Cottage Grove will save over $200,000 on not having to pay sales tax on their purchases."
Here is a look at when some of the new laws take effect:
Schools will begin getting more money from the state in time for the next school year, but other education provisions may not be seen right away.
The state will pay for all-day kindergarten beginning in the fall of 2014. Each school district will be able to decide whether to offer it.
Parents do not have to enroll their children in all-day programs. In fact, state law does not force parents to send children younger than 7 to school.
Also beginning in the fall of 2014, poor families with 3- and 4-year-olds will be able to apply for scholarships to attend preschool.
The Democrat-controlled Legislature overturned a Republican law that required high school students to pass a test proving they understood several subjects before they could graduate. In its place will be a system beginning in middle school that is supposed to prepare students for careers or college.
However, students who started high school when the so-called graduation test was the law still may pick it instead of the new system. The new system will be phased in during the coming years, with a goal of beginning the phase-in this fall.
For those out of high school, state-run colleges and universities will freeze tuition for the next two years.
Cigarette taxes increase $1.60 per pack, making total state taxes $2.52 per pack, on July 1. Other tobacco taxes also go up.
Products called "little cigars" will be taxed like cigarettes beginning July 1.
For taxes payable next year only, most property tax levies may not be increased in counties with populations smaller than 5,000 and cities smaller than 2,500.
Satellite television service and digital downloads also will be taxed starting July 1.
Some tax provisions do not begin until next April, such as ones rural Republicans said they are concerned will affect farmers: sales tax on equipment repairs and on warehouses such as those storing fertilizer.
Income tax returns next year will change for couples earning more than $250,000 in taxable income and individuals receiving at least $150,000. Their taxes will increase to 9.85 percent of their income, 2 percentage points more than under current law.
Work on the Minnesota Capitol will continue after the Legislature approved selling $109 million in bonds to finance it.
Scaffolding already is around the northeast corner of the building, and it will expand as work progresses on the marble walls. Most of the basement is to be gutted this summer, displacing people who work there, and beginning next year the renovation will move into areas used by the public. While the building will remain open during legislative sessions from January to May, some parts of the Capitol will be closed and access to other parts will be restricted.
Some home-based child care providers and personal care attendants won the chance to join unions if certain requirements are met.
The two unions involved must collect signatures from enough providers to call an election, then there will be a vote to see if enough agree to join unions. While all that could happen fairly quickly, opponents of the plan pledge to take the law to court, which could delay its implementation for months or more.
Minnesota will launch MNSure, a way to buy health insurance, on Oct. 1.
For the first three months, Minnesotans may compare insurance policies online with the help of people who can navigate the system, with policies to take effect Jan. 1.
Same-sex couples will be allowed to apply for marriage licenses Aug. 1.
However, unless a judge grants a couple a waiver, couples must wait five days for a wedding.