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APA Minnesota Legislative and Law Committee

If you are interested in becoming a member, please contact the committee's co-chairs:

Paul Mogush
(612) 673-2074
Andrew Mack, AICP
(952) 249-4626

Legislative & Law Committee Planning and Zoning Reform Efforts Continue

The APA-MN Legislative and Law Committee in cooperation with Chapter District Directors, will host a series of focus groups in Greater Minnesota to discuss findings of the draft white paper, "Minnesota's Planning and Zoning Enabling Laws: Analysis and Options for Reform." The paper focuses on Minnesota's primary planning statutes, Chapters 394 and 462, as well as some of the other statutes that affect local planning and zoning. The APA-MN Legislative Committee has been working for several years to identify issues and problems with these enabling laws.

The white paper provides a brief history of Minnesota's planning and zoning laws, and analyzes the major differences between the two primary statues, Chapter 394, applicable to counties, and Chapter 462, applicable to cities and to townships that choose to exercise planning authority.

  • Both planning statutes are based on models from earlier eras, beginning in the 1920s, and neither has kept up with contemporary planning practice.
  • The statutes are structured differently, with many minor inconsistencies in wording, definitions and procedures. The cumulative effect of these differences is a pervasive lack of clarity for the non-expert reader.
  • The primary conflicts between the statutes, as they are expressed in local planning and zoning requirements, play out at the edges of jurisdictions, where city, county and township regulations meet or overlap. In these areas, related statutes governing annexation and other municipal boundary changes also come into play.
  • One significant gap in both statutes is between the comprehensive plan and the "official controls" - the zoning and other regulations - intended to implement the plan. The relationship between these official controls and the comprehensive plan is not clearly stated, creating ambiguity and uncertainty.
  • Another significant weakness is the lack of consistent guidance on the contents of a comprehensive plan. This results in great variation in the "comprehensiveness" and effectiveness of plans across the state.
  • Both statutes continue to be modified, often in tandem, with new requirements, in response to court decisions and emerging land uses or trends. These piecemeal updates create new inconsistencies and additional demands on local governments to keep pace with the changes.
  • The lack of integration between the land use planning statutes and other related statutes is equally pervasive. Topics such as water resources, shoreland and floodplain management, annexation, airport planning and zoning, platting and subdivision, and redevelopment all affect or are affected by local planning, and are governed by separate, sometimes inconsistent, statutes.

Additionally, in response to a survey by the APA-MN Legislative and Law Committee (drawing responses from about 10% of the professional membership), about 40% of respondents indicated that their work has been hindered by an outdated state statute or rule. Over 80% of respondents are somewhat or very interested in reform of Minnesota's planning and zoning enabling laws.

Links to the Committee's Enabling Law Reform Background Information
Purpose and Need (PDF File)
Final Draft White Paper: "Minnesota's Planning and Zoning Enabling Laws: Analysis and Options for Reform" (PDF File)
APA-MN Legislative and Law Committee Survey (PDF File)
Phase 2 Listening Outreach & Legislative Presentation (PDF File)

Legislative and Law Committee Update: July 2014

Courts Update

Minnesota Supreme Court

RDNT v. City of Bloomington: Case Number: A13-0310

RDNT has filed an appeal to the Minnesota Supreme Court. The Court has agreed to hear the case. APA MN has filed an amicus brief in support of the City of Bloomington. Click on the links below to link to the Chapter's amicus filing:
Brief and Addendum of Amicus Curiae American Planning Association - Minnesota Chapter

Minnesota Court of Appeals Unpublished Opinion Issued: December 23, 2013.

The Court of Appeals decision is summarized as follows:

RDNT had applied for approval under a conditional use permit to expand an existing assisted living facility. The City reviewed the proposal and determined that the development would conflict with the City's comprehensive plan. Consistency with the City's plan is one required criterion for evaluating whether or not to issue the permit. The District Court held for the project applicant. The City argued that the district court erred and appealed.

The Court of Appeals reversed the district court decision and issued an unpublished opinion on January 4, 2014, concluding that the city had a legally and factually sufficient reason to determine that RDNT's proposed expansion would conflict with provisions of the city's comprehensive plan concerning larger traffic generators, low-density character of the surrounding neighborhood, and would also be injurious to the surrounding neighborhood or otherwise harm the public health, safety and welfare.

Ethan Dean, et al., Appellants, vs. City of Winona, Respondent: Case Number: A13-1028

Ethan Dean and other property owners have filed an appeal to the Minnesota Supreme Court. The Court has agreed to hear the case.

In 2005, in order to control what was characterized as attempt to mitigate an overconcentration of rental residential properties, the City of Winona enacted a change to its residential zoning ordinance by restricting homes within each block to a 30 percent rental use cap. Rental properties were allowed and controlled by use of a lottery process. At the time of its adoption, the City grandfathered all existing rentals in blocks that exceeded the 30 percent threshold.

In 2011, litigation was filed in district court in 2011. The City's rental use restrictions were upheld. In May 2013, the property owners (Ethan Dean, et al) filed an appeal of the district court' decision upholding the City's adopted ordinance to the Minnesota Court of Appeals. In February 2014, the Court of Appeals upheld the ordinance. In May 2014, the property owners filed a petition for further review by the Minnesota Supreme Court, which was granted.

The following parties have filed amicus briefs to the Minnesota Supreme Court:

On behalf of the appellants

  • American Civil Liberties Union of Minnesota
  • Cato Institute and Minnesota Free Market Institute as the Center of the American Experiment
  • Minnesota Association of Realtors
  • Minnesota Vacation Rental Association

On behalf of the respondent

  • The League of Minnesota Cities
  • The City of Mankato
  • The City of Rochester
  • The City of Saint Paul

Congressional Update (113th Congress)

Laws of Interest Passed by Congress and Signed by the President in 2014 to July 1:

  • Water Resources Reform and Development Act of 2014 (Public Law No: 113-121)
  • Homeowner Flood Insurance Affordability Act of 2014 (Public Law No: 113-89)
  • Agricultural Act of 2014 (Public Law No: 113-79)
  • Temporary Debt Limit Extension Act (Public Law No: 113-83)
  • An Act to allow the Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa in the State of Minnesota to lease or transfer certain land (Public Law No: 113-88)

2014 Legislative Regular Session Update

88th Session Minnesota Legislature Adjourns Sine Die on May 16th:

2013-14 Regular Session Totals

2013 Regular Session

  • 1,860 House Bills and 1,683 Senate Bills
  • 144 Laws
  • 2 Vetoes (2 Line Items)

2014 Regular Session

  • 1,534 House Bills and 1,309 Senate Bills
  • 169 Laws
  • 2 Vetoes ( 1 Full Bill, 1 Line Item)

88th Session Legislative 2014 Regular Session Highlights

169 Session Laws passed in 2014 resulted in 4,257 changes to Minnesota Statutes

Several "Unsession" bills were passed that intend to result in streamlining government and removing obsolete statutes and laws.

Supplemental budget bill (Chapter 312): The Legislature passed a $283 million supplemental budget bill. The supplemental biennial budget makes modifications to appropriations made in the biennial budget.

2 tax bills were passed (Chapters 150 & 308):

  • Chapter 150 amends Minnesota's individual income and corporate franchise taxes retroactively to tax year 2013 in order to conform to most federal changes enacted since April 14, 2011.
  • Chapter 308 increases various state aid, credit, and refund programs.

Capital Budget (Chapters 294 and 295): The Legislature approved a combined $1.2 billion capital budget in authorized funding. Minnesota Management and Budget (MMB) indicate the capital budget legislation has a total fiscal impact of $200 million in the FY 2014-15 biennium and $23 million in the FY 2016-17 biennium.

  • Chapter 294 includes $846 million in general fund-supported general obligation bonds, $39 million in user-financed bonds, and $8 million in trunk highway fund appropriations.
  • Chapter 295 appropriated $199 million in general fund cash for FY 2014 and authorizes $80 million in Housing Finance Agency bonds that are backed by an ongoing general fund appropriation of $6.4 million beginning in FY 2016.

The Legislature also passed other major policy initiatives, including:

  • a minimum wage increase;
  • the Women's Economic Security Act; and
  • legalization of medical cannabis to treat certain classifications of defined conditions.

Minnesota Management and Budget (MMB) reported "Approximately 87 percent of the capital projects funds were appropriated for projects in three main policy areas: Economic Development, Environment and Natural Resources, and Transportation."

2014 Session Reviews by Topic

During 2013-2014, the Legislative and Law Committee monitored legislative proposals that focused primarily on:

In 2014, most proposals monitored by the committee related to the capital and supplemental budget legislation, taxes, and bills of interest that did not pass in 2013. The following information highlights some of the 2014 actions and is arranged by topic.

Land Use, Zoning, and Annexations

Annexations: Originally proposed and considered in 2013, the new law (Chapter 220), as passed in 2014:

  • amends section 414.011, subdivision 5, by amending the definition of "property owner" to mean the owner of any fee interest in land, as opposed to the fee owner of the land;
  • adds a new subdivision to section 414.011 by modifying the definitions of "property description" or "boundary of the area" to mean the legal description of the property;
  • amends section 414.033, subdivision 2 by prohibiting annexation by ordinance of property contiguous to property that either proposed to be annexed or has already been annexed if the property is, or was, owned by the same owners at any point during the 12 months before the proposed annexation if the cumulative total annexed is over 120 acres.

Lower St. Croix Shoreland Zoning Review and Certification by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources Did Not Pass: The bill (HF 714/SF 2272) would have established a review and certification process for the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) to review and certify local ordinances issued for the Lower St. Croix Wild and Scenic River. A similar provision had been a part of the DNR's rules for the Lower St. Croix Wild and Scenic River, but was overturned by the Minnesota Supreme Court in re. Hubbard, 778 N.W. 2d 313 (February 11, 2010). The court ruled that the DNR did not have express or implied statutory authority for the rule. Enacting the legislation would have granted express authority for the rule.

School Siting and Landfills Did Not Pass: The bill (HF 957/SF 775) would have prohibited a school (and any of its athletic fields) from being located within a quarter mile from land that was formerly used as a dump or landfill. Existing schools already located within a quarter mile of a landfill would have been required to provide information to students and employees about the landfill.

Lot Splits In Counties With Zoning Authority Did Not Pass: The bill (HF 3032/SF 2684) intended to clarify the county auditor's authority when property is subdivided and the subdivision is controlled by a countywide zoning ordinance, under section 394.25. The bill was supported by the Association of Minnesota Counties (AMC) and the Minnesota Association of County Planning and Zoning Administrators (MACPZA).

Partial Discharge of Easements Obtained through Eminent Domain Did Not Pass: In 2010, the Minnesota Supreme Court ruled that section 177.225 allows for the discharge of an entire easement that is acquired through a condemnation process. In response to the Court's decision, the bills amend section 177.225 by allowing the property owner to petition for the discharge of the portion of the easement that is not being used for the purpose it was acquired. Similar legislation was introduced in the 87th Legislature. In 2013, no action was taken on either HF 752 or SF 480. In the first week of the 2014, a similar proposal (HF 2154 / SF 2089) was introduced. Another bill, HF 2765 was introduced on March 6, 2014.

Economic Development and Housing

Heating Assistance: Chapter 145 provided $20 million in state funding to supplement the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance (LIHEAP) program. The deadline for using the funds was June, 2014 (end of SFY 2014).

Broadband Funding: The Supplemental budget bill (Chapter 312) created a broadband fund with $20 million for grants to fund acquisition and installation of infrastructure supporting high-speed service.

Greater Minnesota Business Development Infrastructure Program: The supplemental budget bill provided $2.2 million for grants to design, construct, prepare, and improve infrastructure for economic development.

Angel Investment Tax Credits: Chapter 150 authorizes the program's extension for two tax years. The statute also modifies the definition of qualified small businesses which intends to allow credits to investors of otherwise qualified small businesses. The new law also adds definitions for "qualified greater Minnesota business", minority group member", "minority-owned business", "women", "women-owned business", "officer" and "principal." Other changes to section 116J.8737 describe the process a business must go through to be certified as a "greater Minnesota business for taxable years occurring after December 31, 2014.

Sales taxes, Greater Minnesota Business Expansions: Session Laws, chapter 308, adds to the definition of businesses that can qualify for the sales tax exemption for Greater Minnesota business expansions and was amended to also exclude businesses primarily engaged in lobbying, gambling, entertainment, professional sports, political consulting, leisure, hospitality, and the professional services of attorneys, accountants, business consultants, physicians, or health care consultants.

Public Facilities Authority (PFA) Bonding: The GO bonding bill (Chapter 294, Article 1, section 22: The law includes $12 million as a state match for federal grants and $18.333 million for the PFA's wastewater infrastructure funding program.

Local Sales and Use Taxes, Lewis and Clark Water System: Chapter 308 allows the City of Worthington to extend its general 0.5 percent sales tax through 2039 and use the revenues for the Lewis and Clark water system project. Session law allows the City of Luverne to impose by ordinance a 0.5 percent general sales tax to finance its portion of the project. Any revenues collected by Luverne that exceed what is needed to meet the debt service may be used for other city capital projects. Both Nobles and Rock counties are authorized to impose up to a 0.5 percent sales tax to fund the water system project without voter approval.

State Aid, Lewis and Clark Water Project: Added a new section of Minnesota Statues, section 477A.20, in order to provide the commissioner of revenue authorization to pay state aid to the Lewis and Clark Joint Powers Board to pay the debt service on the local bonds issued to finance the project. The aid paid must equal the payments of principal and interest on the bonds due in the next year less, 1.5 percent of the combined adjusted net tax capacity of Rock and Nobles counties, and 50 percent of any federal grants and aids received for the project. The aid will be paid in July and December along with local government aids and county program aids. Any aid received in excess of the local payment obligation must be repaid to the commissioner of revenue. The changes are effective beginning with aids payable in 2015.

Bonding, Lewis and Clark Water Project: Added a new section of Minnesota Statues, section 469.194 in order to provide the cities of Luverne and Worthington, and the counties of Rock and Nobles, the authority to issue up to $45 million in bonds for the completion of the construction of the Lewis and Clark Regional Water System Project. The bond limit and the responsibility of repaying the bonds shall be allocated among the governmental units through the Lewis and Clark Joint Powers Board. Chapter 295 (General Fund Cash Bonding appropriated $22 million for the project and requires securing at least $5 million in federal funds.

Soils Deficiency Tax Increment Finance (TIF) District: Article 6 of the second 2014 omnibus tax bill (Chapter 308) authorizes a new use for TIF. The districts are permitted to collect 21 years of increments and would be limited to spending increments on land acquisition, soils correction, and the higher cost of public improvements that result from the soils conditions, and administrative expenses. In general, a district can be created if 80 percent of the area has soils or terrain issues that cause estimated correction costs that exceed the fair market value of the property. Certain public infrastructure development costs that can be subject to landowner assessments are not eligible activities.

Redevelopment TIF District Changes: Article 6 of the second 2014 omnibus tax bill (Chapter 308) includes the following changes for redevelopment districts:

  • Increments are no longer subject to blight correction requirements if they are used for infrastructure improvements anywhere in the defined project area.
  • With limitations, the pooling percentage is increased from 20 percent to 40 percent for redevelopment districts where the increment is used within the defined project area as it is defined within the new law.
  • The five-year rule is extended to eight years for redevelopment districts that were created between April 20, 2009 and June 30, 2012.

Compact Development TIF Districts Repealed: Article 9, section 85 of the second omnibus tax bill (Chapter 308) eliminates compact development TIF districts. The authority to establish these districts expired in 2012.

Fiscal Disparities Option Added for Economic Development Districts: The second omnibus tax bill (Chapter 308) permits cities to elect to make the fiscal disparities contributions for economic development districts in the same ways that are available for other types of TIF districts.

Special TIF Provisions Authorized: The second omnibus tax bill (Chapter 308) also provides special law tax increment financing authority for the cities of:

  • Baxter
  • Bloomington
  • Eagan
  • Edina
  • Maple Grove
  • Mound
  • North St. Paul
  • Savage
  • Shoreview

Workforce housing pilot program grants: The second omnibus tax bill (Chapter 308) appropriated $2 million in SFY 2015-16 for the purpose of creating a workforce housing grant pilot program. The law directs the Department of Employment and Economic Development to manage the program. The grants are limited to ten percent of the project cost or $400,000, whichever is less. Funds will be available until the end of SFY 2018. The program will issue grants to cities with more than 1,500 people and located in either Pennington or Roseau counties. To qualify for grants, cities must also have:

  • an average rental housing vacancy rate of 5 percent or less in the city or any other city within 15 miles for at least the last two years.
  • an employer or employers in the city or within 15 miles of the city with 20 more full-time equivalent employees that stated, in writing, that the lack of available rental housing has impeded their ability to hire employees.
  • fewer than five market rate residential units per 1,000 residents constructed in each of the last ten years.
  • certify that grants will be used to construct workforce housing and will be matched by city, private, or nonprofit funds.

Ramsey County Housing and Redevelopment Authority: The second omnibus tax bill (Chapter 308) allows the Ramsey County Housing and Redevelopment Authority (HRA) to establish housing improvement areas.

Dakota County Community Development Agency: The second omnibus tax bill (Chapter 308) authorizes the Dakota County Community Development Agency to fund up to three housing projects under its allocation of federal low income housing credits.

Public Housing Rehabilitation Bonding: The 2014 Omnibus Capital Investment Act (Chapter 294) authorized $20 million in GO bonds for public housing rehabilitation. These funds will be awarded by Minnesota Housing to public housing authorities across the state through a competitive application process. Public housing authorities will be able to use the funds for health, safety and energy efficiency upgrades to aging public housing stock. Minnesota Housing expects more than 3,000 units of public housing could be rehabilitated with this funding.

Housing Infrastructure Bonds: Chapter 295 amends Minnesota Statutes, section 462A.37 to authorize up to an additional $80 million of housing infrastructure bonds. The Act includes an appropriation from the state's general fund to pay the debt service for the life of the bonds. The appropriation totals $6.4 million per year for 22 years. Housing infrastructure bonds can be used to finance the acquisition, construction, and rehabilitation of supportive housing, and federally assisted rental housing. The bonds may also be used to finance acquisition of land to be leased by community land trusts to low- and moderate-income families. Minnesota Housing will award the Housing Infrastructure Bond proceeds through its annual competitive request for proposal process. The agency has estimated that at least 1,500 units of housing will be constructed or preserved with the bond proceeds.

Housing Project Grants: 2014 The Supplemental budget bill (Chapter 312) appropriated $2.2 million to Minnesota Housing for up to two grants for housing projects in communities that have low vacancy rates and education and training centers for jobs in the natural resources or aviation maintenance fields. Funds not committed by the end of calendar year 2015 may be transferred to the Minnesota Housing's Economic Development and Housing Challenge program.

Economic Development and Housing Challenge Program Set Aside: $500,000 is set-aside from existing funds within the Economic Development and Housing Challenge program for creating homeownership opportunities for families with children with disabilities who have faced eviction because of the child's disabilities.

Housing Needs Assessments for Homeless Veterans: The 2014 Supplemental budget bill appropriated $250,000 to Minnesota Housing for up to five housing needs assessments for veterans in communities across the state. The studies may examine the need for scattered site housing for veterans who are homeless or have experienced homelessness.

Safe Harbor Initiative: The 2014 Supplemental budget bill appropriated $500,000 appropriation to DHS for the Safe Harbor initiative in addition to the $2.7 million the initiative received in the original FY2014-15 budget. Safe Harbor is an effort to raise awareness of and prevent sexual exploitation of youth. The program includes housing and shelter for sexually exploited youth, funding for a statewide director of child sex trafficking prevention.

Housing Opportunities Made Equitable (HOME) Program Established but without New Funding: Chapter 188 established the HOME pilot program requires Minnesota Housing to implement the pilot if funds are available. Chapter 188 and the supplemental budget bill (Chapter 312) do not include program funding. Minnesota Housing has stated it is in the process of creating a Targeted Mortgage Opportunity Program, which was approved by the Minnesota Housing Board in April 2014. Similar to the HOME program, the purpose of the Targeted Mortgage Opportunity Program is to find ways to reduce the homeownership disparities between households of color and white households. The HOME pilot program allows Minnesota Housing to support local nonprofit service providers to provide homeownership education. If funds are available, the Legislature provides those funds may be used to make mortgage financing available to homebuyers who have the financial resources to pay a mortgage but cannot obtain a mortgage due to credit constraints.

Homeownership Gap, Households of Color and White Households: The 2014 Supplemental budget bill included a provision requiring Minnesota Housing to notify the Chairs of Committees with jurisdiction over the Agency of its Affordable Housing Plan and requiring the Agency to report to the Legislature on its efforts to reduce the homeownership gap between households of color and white households.


Comprehensive Transportation Funding Did Not Pass: HF2395/SF2107 would have raised an estimated $550 million annually through a new wholesale fuel tax and expanded metro area transit sales tax. The bill would have supplemented the state's per-gallon gas excise tax with a gross receipts tax on wholesale fuel purchases and would have increased the quarter-cent, transit-oriented Twin Cities-area sales tax to 1 cent and expanded it to all seven metro counties in order to fund new transit projects across the metro area. Scott and Carver counties do not collect the tax. Another provision of the bill reallocated $32 million in annual revenue from collection of the state's motor vehicle lease tax to road projects in the metro area and for Greater Minnesota transit programs. The bill was similar to a plan put forward by Move MN, a transportation advocacy group comprised of 150 mayors, cities, counties and business leaders that lobbied for new funding and funding sources.

Street Improvement Districts Did Not Pass: HF 745/SF 607 would have authorized cities to create street improvement districts in order to finance street repair, construction, and reconstruction.

No New Funding for Transportation Economic Development (TED) Program: Although the governor's recommendation of $5 million for the Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED) for the TED program, jointly administered by DEED and the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT), did not pass, the supplemental budget bill (Chapter 312) authorizes TED projects to be funded from the trunk highway fund until expended. MnDOT has previously received appropriations for the Transportation Economic Development Program (TED). Of the appropriations that have been previously approved, MnDOT notes one appropriation is available for the current biennium, and another is available until expended. MnDOT proposes having all TED appropriations be available until expended. The agencies note that TED projects are typically multi-year projects, which may extend from one biennium to another. MnDOT has indicated that the TED program has state trunk highway funding set aside for state fiscal year (SFY) 2016 (which began on July 1, 2015) and also for SFY 2017.

Corridors of Commerce: The program received an appropriation in the supplemental budget bill (Chapter 312) of $31.5 million to improve capacity on current bottlenecks across the state. The appropriation totals $6.5 million in SFY 2014 and $25 million in SFY 2015.

Local Road Improvement Program: The funding that was authorized provides assistance to local governments for construction, reconstruction, or reconditioning projects on local roads with statewide or regional significance and will assist in paying the costs of rural road safety capital improvement projects. The total amount of $54,356,000 in funding enacted for the program to use for authorized capital projects includes $24,356,000 in GO Bonds (Chapter 294), $30,000,000 General Fund Bonds (Chapter 295) and Trunk Highway Fund Cash (Chapter 295).

Local Government Road Wetland Replacement Program: The program was authorized in Chapter 294 for $2 million. The program replaces wetlands lost as a result of local public road improvement projects.

Safe Routes to School Program: $1 million in general fund cash (Chapter 295) was authorized for infrastructure projects. $250,000 is added to the existing base from the supplemental budget bill for non-infrastructure projects in the supplemental budget bill (Chapter 312).

Transportation Alternatives Program Federal Authorization Calculation Change: The supplemental budget bill (Chapter 312) changes the calculation for the total amount in federal authorizations for reimbursements on transportation alternatives projects (TAP) to be equal to or greater than the annual average of federal authorizations on transportation alternatives projects as calculated over fiscal years 2010 to 2012. The previous calculations used the preceding four federal fiscal years for determining the total authorization amounts for TAP projects. The new averages will apply to authorizations for federal fiscal year 2015 and subsequent federal fiscal years.

Excess MnDOT Rights-of-Way: Chapter 287 (HF 2214) amends section 161.44, subdivision 1a by allowing MnDOT to sell excess land that is identified if the property uses are protected for bicycle or pedestrian purposes by deed restrictions, easement, or other means.

Greater Minnesota Transit: The supplemental budget bill provided an appropriation from the general fund for Greater MN Transit ($ 6.5 million in FY 15), and to fund 2014 Election Day free transit rides ($32,000 in FY15)

Metropolitan Council Transit Capital Improvement Program: Chapter 294 provided an appropriation of $15,000,000 in GO Bonds

Alternative Minimum Taxable Income Subtraction for Transit Pass and Van Pool Expenses: Chapter 150 amended section 290.091, subdivision 2 to provide the same subtraction in computing alternative minimum taxable income as is allowed in computing taxable income under the subtraction allowed under section 290.01, subdivision 19b, for employer provided transit passes and van pool expenses.

Rail Service User Account Change (TIGER Program Match): The supplemental budget bill (Chapter 312) authorizes MnDOT to use the Rail Service User Account to pay the state matching portion of grants under the federal Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) program for any expenditures made before July 1, 2017.

Rail and Pipeline Safety: New law will add to state and local resources that will be available to respond to incidents. After initial funding derived from the general fund as authorized by the supplemental budget bill (Chapter 312), this effort will be funded by the rail and pipeline companies. $104,000 is deposited into a newly created Railroad and Pipeline Safety Account annually for new activities related to railroad and pipeline preparedness and for spill response. The account is created with base funding from the General Fund and with a three-year assessment (during SFY2015-SFY2017) of railroad and pipeline companies.

Additional State Rail Safety Inspectors Authorized: The supplemental budget bill (Chapter 312) authorizes three state rail safety inspector positions. The previous authorization allowed for one state rail safety inspector.

Highway-rail grade crossing study: The supplemental budget bill (Chapter 312) requires MnDOT to complete a study on highway-rail grade crossing improvement for oil and other hazardous materials transported by rail, and on rail safety. At a minimum, the study must: (1) provide information that assists in risk management associated with transportation of oil and other hazardous materials by rail; (2) develop criteria to prioritize needs and improvements at highway-rail grade crossings; (3) consider alternatives for safety improvements, including but not limited to active warning devices such as gates and signals, closings, and grade separation; (4) provide findings and recommendations that serve to direct accelerated investments in highway-rail grade crossing safety improvements; and (5) analyze state inspection activities and staffing for track and hazardous materials under Minnesota Statutes, section 219.015. MnDOT is required to submit an interim update on the study by August 31, 2014, and a final report by October 31, 2014, to the chairs and ranking minority members of the legislative committees with jurisdiction over transportation policy and finance.

Oil Spill Emergency Response and Safety Preparedness Reports: The supplemental budget bill (Chapter 312) requires the Department of Public Safety to submit two reports. The first report relates to emergency response preparedness in the public and private sectors for incidents involving transportation of oil. The second report is an evaluation of safety preparedness and funding related to incidents involving transportation of oil. Both reports are required to be made to the chairs and ranking minority members of the legislative committees with jurisdiction over transportation and public safety policy and finance. Both reports are due by January 15, 2015.

Lighting status reports submitted by railroad common carriers: The supplemental budget bill (Chapter 312) requires annual reports from each Class I and Class II railroad common carrier that operates one or more railroad yards in this state, where, between sunset and sunrise, cars or locomotives are frequently switched, repaired, or inspected, or where trains are assembled and disassembled, shall submit to the commissioner of transportation a plan that:

  1. identifies all railroad yards operated by the railroad where the described work is frequently accomplished between sunset and sunrise;
  2. describes the nature and placement of lighting equipment currently in use in the yard and the maintenance status and practices regarding this equipment;
  3. states whether the lighting meets or exceeds guidelines for illumination established by the American Railway Engineering and Maintenance-of-Way Association;
  4. describes whether existing lighting is installed and operated in a manner consistent with energy conservation, glare reduction, minimization of light pollution, and preservation of the natural night environment; and
  5. identifies plans and timelines to bring into compliance railroad yards that do not utilize and maintain lighting equipment that meets or exceeds the standards and guidelines under clauses (3) and (4), or states any reason why the standards and guidelines should not apply.

Required Railroad Yard Lighting: The supplemental budget bill (Chapter 312) requires railroad common carriers to establish lighting at each railroad yard where: (1) between sunset and sunrise: (i) locomotives, or railcars carrying placarded hazardous materials, are frequently switched, repaired, or inspected; or (ii) trains with more than 25 tanker railcars carrying placarded hazardous materials are assembled and disassembled; and (2) the yard is located within two miles of a petroleum refinery having a crude oil production capacity of 150,000 or more barrels per day. Lighting requirements will need to be met by December 31, 2015.


Metropolitan Airports Commission Airport Noise Monitoring (HF3219/SF2855) Did Not Pass: The bill would have required the Metropolitan Airports Commission (MAC) to perform aircraft noise monitoring and analysis, with a report to the Legislature and cities due December 1, 2014.

Environmental Justice (HF2614) Did Not Pass: The bill would have required state agency environmental justice policies to ensure that environmental decisions are made with the involvement of all people regardless of race, color, ethnicity, religion, and income or education level. This includes holding quarterly meetings with interested parties for input on developing the environmental justice policies.

County Recycling and Waste Reduction Grants: The supplemental budget bill (Chapter 312) authorized $4 million (Environmental Fund) in FY2015. Of this amount, $3 million will be for annual base funding for SCORE (Select Committee on Recycling and the Environment) grants to assist counties with waste reuse, reduction, and recycling. Half of the new funds received by metropolitan counties must be used for composting activities.

Commercial Building Recycling: Chapter 225 requires recycling opportunities to be available to employees, tenants, and customers by businesses in commercial buildings located within the seven-county metropolitan area that produce more than 4 cubic yards of solid waste per week. The law takes effect in 2016.

Toxic Reduction: Chapter 277 is primarily intended reducing the sale, use, and improper disposal of lead and mercury-containing products, and improving tracking of disposal methods. The law also prohibits the sale and use of mercury or lead containing wheel weights starting in 2016 and requires that the MPCA to distribute education materials about the ban to industries subject to it. Beginning in 2015, the sale and use of mercury containing balancing, dampening and weight/counter weight equipment will be prohibited.

Flood Hazard Mitigation Funding: A total of $12 million in capital funding for flood hazard mitigation was authorized. The Legislature approved the use of $7,500,000 from the capital general fund and $4,500,000 in GO Bonds for providing the state's share of federally funded projects, and also for local share if a project cost exceeds two percent of the median household income in the municipality or township multiplied by the number of households. The commissioner of DNR was provided flexibility in using the funds.

Floodplain Management Ordinances: Sections 51-53 of the natural resources policy bill amends the statute relating to the alteration of structures in order to conform to existing federal regulations. The new also encourages local governments to apply for participation in the voluntary National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP).

Drainage Work Group Recommendations: Chapter 164, effective August 1, 2014, adopts additional recommendations provided by the Drainage Work Group. The new law clarifies requires drainage projects to consider alternative water management measures that include:

  • conserving, allocating and using drainage waters for agriculture, stream flow augmentation or other beneficial uses;
  • reducing downstream peak flows and flooding;
  • providing adequate drainage system capacity;
  • reducing erosion and sedimentation; and
  • protecting or improving water quality.

In planning new or making repairs to drainage systems, the legislation directs drainage authorities to seek external sources of funding to facilitate the alternative water management measures.

Abolishing Wastewater Privatization: Chapter 258 repeals the statutory language in Chapter 471A relating to the privatization of municipal water and wastewater treatment facilities. According to the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA), "The concept of privatizing municipal water and wastewater treatment facilities was originally adopted in the 1980's and designed to fit with federal and state grant programs that were available at that time for the construction of municipal wastewater treatment systems. The program no longer aligns with current funding mechanisms, nor has the privatization of municipal water and wastewater treatment facilities been utilized."

Environmental and Natural Resources Trust Fund Projects Authorized: $28.97 million has been authorized by the passage of Chapter 226 for 71 environmental projects with proceeds from the Minnesota Lottery. The law is divided into eight categories of funding:

  • land acquisition for habitat and recreation ($6.9 million);
  • water resources ($4.58 million);
  • foundational natural resource data and information ($4.2 million);
  • environmental education ($3.68 million);
  • methods to protect, restore and enhance land, water and habitat ($3.68 million);
  • air quality, climate change and renewable energy ($3.36 million);
  • aquatic and terrestrial invasive species ($2.3 million); and
  • administration and contract agreement reimbursement ($244,000).

The projects were recommended by the Legislative-Citizen Commission on Minnesota Resources. The LCCMR originally received 192 proposals that totaled $111 million.

Department of Natural Resources (DNR) Appropriations: In Chapter 226, DNR was authorized:

  • $200,000: State Spring Inventory for Resource Management and Protection
  • $260,000: Assessing Contaminants in Minnesota's Loons and Pelicans-Phase 2
  • $370,000: Wild Bee Pollinator Surveys in Prairie-Grassland Habitats
  • $245,000: Prairie Butterfly Conservation, Research, and Breeding Program
  • $600,000 for Moose Decline and Air Temperatures in Northeastern Minnesota
  • $2.54 million: Scientific and Natural Areas Acquisition, Restoration, Improvement and Citizen Engagement
  • $416,000 for Diversifying Involvement in the Natural Resources Community
  • $135,000 for Contract Agreement Reimbursement

Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) Appropriations: Passage of the session law (Chapter 226) includes:

  • Research to identify causes of exceptionally high mercury in fish ($743,000). Foundational research will be done on five northern rivers, with a complete analysis on the Roseau River
  • $230,000 for Modernization of Drainage Records

Capital General Obligation Bonding Provisions: The Capital GO Bill (Chapter 294) also includes funding for the following environmental programs and projects:

  • $6 million for Reinvest in MN Reserve Program;
  • $2 million for Local Government Roads Wetland Replacement Program;
  • $2 million for Metropolitan Cities Inflow and Infiltration Grants;
  • $3.5 million for Lake Elmo Drinking Water;
  • $18.333 million for the Wastewater Infrastructure Funding Program;
  • $12 million for Public Facilities Authority federal match grants;
  • $4.5 million for Big Lake Area Sanitary District;
  • $1.4 million for Truman stormwater project; and
  • $8.5 million for Voyageurs wastewater projects.

Supplemental budget bill: The Supplemental budget bill (Chapter 312) includes the following:

  • Reestablishment of the Legislative Water Commission (July 2019 Sunset)
  • $1 million to the Forever Green Agricultural Initiative
  • $1.4 million to BWSR from the Clean Water Fund
  • Plastic Microbead Surface Water Study and Report due by December 2014


Surplus Crops for Food Shelves: The supplemental budget bill (Chapter 312) authorized $2,000,000 in 2015 for a grant to Second Harvest Heartland on behalf of the six Feeding America food banks that serve Minnesota to compensate agricultural producers and processors for costs incurred to harvest and package for transfer surplus fruits, vegetables, or other agricultural 146.15 commodities that would otherwise go unharvested or discarded. Surplus commodities must be distributed statewide to food shelves and other charitable organizations that are eligible to receive food from the food banks. Surplus food acquired under this appropriation must be from Minnesota producers and processors. This is a onetime appropriation and is available until June 30, 2017.

Food Sampling Demonstrations at Farmers' Markets and Community Events: shelves: Chapter 163 authorizes food sampling and demonstration at farmers' markets and community events without a food handler license under certain conditions. It also allows certain seasonal food stands to remain in one location for more than 21 days each year and adds nonprofit chili or soup cook-off fundraisers to the list of events that are exempt from state food safety licensing and standards. The definition of "farmers' market" in this bill does not prevent a farmers' market association from creating a more restrictive definition. Although "famers' market" is defined, the term "community event" is not.

Biodiesel Minimum Content: Chapter 181, section 9 of the Agriculture Unsession Bill delays the effective date of the 20 percent biodiesel ("B20") use mandate by three years, to May 1, 2018. Lifts the B10 and B20 mandates in the month of October, so that the B10 and B20 mandates, once in effect, will apply only in the warm-weather months of April through September each year.

Biodiesel Use Mandate Equipment Exemption: Chapter 181, section 10 of the Agriculture Unsession Bill creates a new biodiesel use mandate exemption for diesel fuel used for testing by companies that design and manufacturer diesel generators for use in other states or countries where biodiesel use is not required. Such companies could use pure diesel fuel for this purpose.

Number 1 Diesel Fuel Exemption: Chapter 181, section 11 of the Agriculture Unsession Bill expands the biodiesel mandate exemption for Number 1 diesel fuel year-round, and extends this exemption for five years, through May 1, 2020.

Cellulosic Feedstock Environmental Review Category Clarification: The DNR's policy bill Chapter 289 includes a clarification that a facility that uses cellulosic feedstock to produce only chemicals and does not further refine them into biofuels, does not fall under the biofuel mandatory environmental category.


Limiting Rooftop Solar Panel Installation Restrictions in Certain Residential Developments with Homeowner's Associations (HF 2918/SF 2555) Did Not Pass: The bill would have placed restrictions on limiting the right to install rooftop solar panels for any residential dwellings governed by Homeowner's Associations in situations where the property owner is entirely responsible for the maintenance and repair of the roof. The bill was amended in the House and Senate and a version was adopted in the House energy omnibus bill (HF 2834). The Senate did not have sufficient support to accept the House language in the final bill. APA MN submitted a letter of support for the bill.

Solar Panel Production Stewardship (HF2909/SF2698) Did Not Pass: The bill would have required the creation of a solar photovoltaic module product stewardship program. Manufacturers selling solar photovoltaic modules would need to be part of a product stewardship program or be prohibited from selling in Minnesota.

Energy Provisions in the Environmental and Natural Resources Trust Fund Bill: The Environmental and Natural Resources Trust Fund Bill (Chapter 226) included $3.4million for air quality, climate change, and renewable energy.

Highlights of the omnibus energy bill (Chapter 254): The new law:

  • establishes an annual base funding level of $8 million for an electric rate discount program operated by Xcel Energy and require that funding to increase in line with residential electricity rates approved by the state's Public Utilities Commission;
  • allows residential and commercial electric customers, utilities and lenders to enter into agreements allowing customers to repay loans for energy efficient improvements or renewable energy sources through their utility bills;
  • requires utilities to establish a time-of-day electricity rate for charging electric motor vehicles, with a higher rate for charging electric vehicles during peak-use hours;
  • expands the types of medical professionals who can certify it is medically necessary for utilities to continue or reconnect service to a residence;
  • exempts independently-owned wind energy conversion systems and solar electric generation facilities from obtaining a certificate of need if the system's electric output is not sold to an entity that provides retail or wholesale electric service in Minnesota; and
  • establishes a method for determining whether individually-constructed solar electric generation systems should be considered as a single project for the purposes of concluding whether they are large enough to fall under the Public Utilities Commission's jurisdiction.

New Requirements for High-Voltage Electric Transmission Line Route Designation: Chapter 221 bars a utility seeking a route permit from the state's Public Utilities Commission for a high-voltage electric transmission line from designating a preference among the alternative routes proposed. Applicants must submit at least two proposed locations or routes.

Electric and Plug-In Purchasing: The law (Chapter 281) requires state agency bid solicitation to include the intent of the state to begin purchasing electric vehicles, plug-in hybrid electric vehicles, and neighborhood electric vehicles if the total life-cycle cost of ownership is less than or comparable to that of gasoline-powered vehicles. It replaces the language in current law that the state intends to purchase these vehicles as soon as these vehicles become commercially available, and also adds natural gas vehicles to the type of vehicles the state may purchase.

Parks and Trails

Parks and Trails Management: The supplemental budget bill (Chapter 312) provides for the following onetime appropriations:

  • General Fund appropriation of $1.6 million in FY15 for state parks improvement, maintenance, and general use.
  • Natural Resources Fund (LIL) appropriation of $450,000 in FY15 for state trail, park, and recreation area operations.
  • Parks and Trails Fund appropriation of $200,000 in FY14 to the Greater Minnesota Regional Parks and Trails Commission for development of a statewide system plan for regional parks and trails. This appropriation is available through a cancellation of $530,000 for the Superior Hiking Trail.
  • Parks and Trails Fund appropriation of $330,000 in FY14 to the St. Louis and Lake Counties Regional Railroad Authority for the Mesabi Trail. This appropriation is available through a cancellation of $530,000 for the Superior Hiking Trail.
  • General Fund appropriation of $350,000 in FY15 for development of the Oberstar Trail segment of the Willard Munger Trail.

DNR master plan requirements: The change in the DNR policy technical bill (Chapter 289) updates recreation unit master planning requirements to allow plan amendments and replaces required public hearings with public meetings. The changes include the elimination of obsolete review and approval processes and references.

State Parks and Trails Donation Account: The supplemental budget bill (Chapter 312) created a State Parks and Trails Donation Account within the Natural Resources Fund, with funds appropriated to DNR for operating and maintaining the state parks and trails system.

State Parks and Trails Plates: The supplemental budget bill (Chapter 312) establishes a state park and trail plate with a minimum annual $50 contribution.

Metropolitan Council: The supplemental budget bill (Chapter 312) changes the 2013 appropriation to the Metropolitan Council for Carver County for funding an alternate project.

Lake Vermilion-Soudan Underground Mine State Park: Section 31 of the lands bill (Chapter 217) authorizes the merger of Soudan Underground Mine State Park and Lake Vermilion State Park in St. Louis County and changes the name of Lake Vermilion State Park to Lake Vermilion-Soudan Underground Mine State Park, reflecting the merger of Lake Vermilion State Park with Soudan Underground Mine State Park.

State Agencies

Cost-Share Disaster Assistance Program: The supplemental budget bill (Chapter 312) establishes a state public assistance program within the Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management in the Department of Public Safety to provide cost-share assistance to local governments that sustain significant damage on a per capita basis but are not eligible for federal disaster assistance or corresponding state assistance under chapter 12A. The new law defines "Disaster" to mean "any catastrophe, including but not limited to a tornado, storm, high water, wind-driven water, tidal wave, earthquake, volcanic eruption, landslide, mudslide, snowstorm, or drought or, regardless of cause, any fire, flood, or explosion."

Permitting Efficiency: The goal of permitting efficiency as created under Chapter 237 is to improve permitting and enforcement efficiencies. The bill included:

  • a new second permitting timeliness goal of 90-days
  • extending non-federal water and solid waste permits from 5 years to 10 years;
  • optional fee-based pre-application feasibility review of a proposed concept;
  • streamlined fee process for septic tank installers;
  • expanding water quality trading to all types of pollutants; and
  • clarifying that the online permit applications are treated as private data until the applicant formally submits it to the state permitting agency.

Olmstead Implementation Plan: Chapter 312, Article 2, Section 2 authorized $500,000 to the Olmstead Implementation Office (OIO) for the implementation of the Minnesota Olmstead Plan. In the case of Olmstead v L.C. & E.W., the United States Supreme Court held that states violate the Americans with Disabilities Act when they "unnecessarily" institutionalize people with mental disabilities.

In 2011, the Department of Human Services and the Plaintiffs in the Jensen et al v. Minnesota Department of Human Services, et al. Court File No. 09-cv-1775 entered into a settlement agreement that requires the development of a Minnesota Olmstead Plan.

In 2012, Minnesota's Olmstead Planning Committee was formed and included individuals with disabilities, family members, providers, advocates and senior decision-makers from the Minnesota Department of Human Services, and they made recommendations to the Commissioner of the Department of Human Services. It was recommended that sub-cabinet be established to develop the Olmstead Plan.

In January 2013, Governor Mark Dayton issued an Executive Order establishing a Sub-Cabinet to develop and implement a comprehensive plan supporting freedom of choice and opportunity for people with disabilities. The Olmstead Plan Sub-Cabinet is chaired by the lieutenant governor and includes the Commissioners or Commissioner's designee from the following State agencies:

  • Department of Human Services
  • Minnesota Housing Finance Agency
  • Department of Employment and Economic Development
  • Department of Transportation
  • Department of Corrections
  • Department of Health
  • Department of Human Rights
  • Department of Education

Representatives from the Office of the Ombudsman for Mental Health and Developmental Disabilities and the Governor's Council on Developmental Disabilities are ex officio members of the Sub-Cabinet.

According to the Olmstead Implementation Office (OIO), state agencies will take action to promote full integration with full supports in each of the seven topic areas below as summarized by the OIO:

  • Housing: People with disabilities will choose where they live, with whom, and in what type of housing. They will be supported to live alongside everyone else, out in the community.
  • Jobs: People with disabilities will have competitive, meaningful work, with support to work alongside everyone else out in the community.
  • School and Lifelong Learning: People with disabilities will get a good education and be supported to learn side by side with everyone else, both in school and throughout lifelong learning.
  • Transportation: People with disabilities will have access to reliable and affordable transportation to get where they want to go to take full part in community life.
  • Healthy Living: People with disabilities will have health services that allow them to be in good health so that they can take active part of the community, working and living alongside everyone else.
  • Community Life: People with disabilities will be supported to fully take part in the life of their community and connect with others to follow their interests.
  • Support Services: People with disabilities will get the variety of support services they need to live, work, and play in the community alongside everyone else.

In November 2013, the plan was submitted to the Court and was provisionally approved on January 22, 2014. Any modifications to the plan needed to be submitted to the Court July, 2014. The United States District Court, District of Minnesota and its appointed Court Monitor have been reviewing the plan and plan modifications.

The supplemental budget bill also stipulates that the legislature intends to review the funding levels provided for the Olmstead Implementation Office in 2015 to ensure that amounts sufficient to comply with the obligations imposed by the court's order are appropriated in fiscal years 2016 and 2017.

Selected Minnesota and U.S. Legislation, Laws, Policies, and Programs Links

The following document link is intended to provide some Web resources for tracking Minnesota and federal legislative, executive, and judicial actions. The links may also be helpful in finding information relating to programs, projects, and funding.


Links to APA MN Amicus Brief Documents

Amicus Brief
Addendum of APA-MN

Link to APA MN Legislative and Law Committee Webinar Replay

The following link is to the replay of the committee's July 15, 2014 update webinar presentation and is not eligible to be accessed and used for AICP Certification Maintenance credits. The presentation runs about 90 minutes:


American Planning Association Minnesota Chapter
Phone: 1-888-882-5369 (toll free)
E-mail the APA Minnesota