In the opening weeks of session there has already been action on several key initiatives in our 2022 Legislative Agenda.
Unemployment Trust Fund On Monday, the senate voted 55-11 to pass bipartisan legislation (SF2677) authored by Sen. Pratt (Prior Lake) that would pay back the federal government and replenish the fund from the state’s surplus to the tune of $2.7B. Without this action, the state is set to impose steep increases on payroll taxes to business operators to pay the balance. This would have significantly impacted hospitality businesses. This is one of our top priorities this session. Governor Walz has indicated he is supportive of this approach and action awaits in the House. Thank you to our member Troy Reding (Ally Restaurants) for his testimony in the Senate.
Restaurant Revitalization Fund and Shuttered Venue Operators Grants Under current law the state is set to tax the proceeds from these emergency relief programs unless the Legislature acts to conform to federal standards. We have been meeting with administration officials since last year on this and were pleased to see this proposal included in the Governor’s supplemental budget and we anticipate that the tax chairs, Sen. Nelson (Rochester) and Rep. Marquart will carry these bills. Individual bills have also been introduced in the senate by Sen. Bigham (Cottage Grove) and Sen. Housley (Stillwater). We continue to work at the federal level this month to fully fund the RRF for those 2500 Minnesota businesses left behind by this underfunded program.
the U.S. Economic Development Administration and the State in order to create a program in Minnesota that can help address the historic workforce shortage.
Hotel Regulations As predicted, local government advocates have continued to push HF702, a bill to create an additional layer of regulatory bureaucracy at the local level for hotels, motels and resorts. While we were successful in raising our concerns last session, the House state government finance committee recently sent the bill back to the House floor with no debate. We are communicating with the Senate committee to make sure our concerns are heard. This bill is not needed, and operators are not in a position to sustain additional regulatory or economic burdens.
Alcohol Policy In recent years, alcohol policy has been fraught with inaction and controversy at the Capitol. While the prospects of a liquor bill passing remain clouded, we are working on 4 items:
Wholesale This session, we are supporting legislation that would require open wholesale on spirits regardless of whether the manufacturer/distributor is in-state or out-of-state. Last year, Southern Glazer (the nations’ largest wine and spirits distributer), sued to invalidate Minnesota’s “Coleman Act” as unconstitutional. The Act essentially says that out-of-state distributors/manufacturers may not enter into exclusive distribution contracts (whereas in-state can). In legal filings, the state has agreed the statute is unconstitutional. We anticipate that bills by Rep. Stephenson and Sen. Dahms will be heard soon in the commerce committees, and we are continuing to work with a coalition to resolve this in a way that benefits and does not harm hospitality operators.
Alcohol-to-go We are continuing to advocate for Minnesota to become the 18th state to pass alcohol-to-go permanently (35 states allow this either permanently or temporarily). 77% of Minnesotans (and 86% of millennials) support allowing alcohol-to-go in our state. Last year, Wisconsin passed cocktails to-go by a wide margin in their legislature and momentum is building in other states. This fall, for the first time the House commerce committee heard HF1192, the coalition “drink local” bill authored by Rep. Olson (Duluth) that includes our alcohol to-go proposal. We continue to push legislators to advance alcohol-to-go to the Floor.
17-year-olds serving alcohol We are supportive of HF2806, a bill authored by Rep. O’Driscoll (Sartell) temporarily allowing 17-year-olds to serve alcohol given the workforce shortage issues in our industry. The bill was heard in the House commerce committee last week.
3.2 Beer We are monitoring the issue of 3.2 beer accessibility challenges facing operators in our state and legislative conversations around this issue.
Explore Minnesota Tourism Funding Yesterday, the Senate environment committee heard SF2769 authored by Sen. Ruud (Breezy Point), a bill we support that would provide $6M in funding to Explore Minnesota Tourism for a tourism industry recovery grant program. Read our issue brief.
Hospitality Industry Relief Grants We continue to push for broader grant relief for hotels and other hospitality operators that have not received sufficient support to sustain the government shutdowns and limitations over the last two years. Last year, Sen. Duckworth (Lakeville) proposed $700M in grant and other support using American Rescue Plan funds, but the measure was not included in the final budget deal. Sen. Klein (Mendota Heights) has now introduced SF2695, another hospitality recovery grant program, though initially it appears much smaller in scope.
BWCA/Border Business Grants Yesterday, the House workforce committee heard a bill brought forth by Rep. Ecklund (International Falls) HF2811, that would provide grant relief to businesses impacted by the 2021 closure of the boundary waters. We support the intent of this measure and are working with the author. HM Member Mindy Fredrikson (Gunflint Lodge) provided testimony to the committee.
Sales Tax Exemption on Restaurant Equipment Rep. Baker (Willmar) continues to push HF921, our bill to exempt restaurant equipment from sales tax. The bill received positive hearings in both the House and Senate tax committees last year but did not make the final budget deal. House tax chair Rep. Marquart recently confirmed this bill will be in consideration this session for a potential tax bill. Read our issue brief.
Broadband Expansion Last year, we and our coalition partners were pleased to see $70M directed to expanding broadband to the four corners of our state. Connectivity is increasingly important for hospitality businesses and their guests. This year, the governor has proposed an additional $170M investment in this area. Read our issue brief.
Short-Term Vacation Rental Policy We have been increasingly active at the county level in recent years advocating for fair and level regulations for STVR. Through the work of our HM STVR Work Group, we have updated our issue brief and weighed in with both Blue Earth and Carlton counties, who subsequently passed ordinances. We recently met with officials from Stearns County as well, which is analyzing potential updates to their policy. County officials are meeting Thursday to inform the county boards upcoming meeting in March.
Twin Cities Mandates Our meetings and communications with city officials were key in the decisions of Minneapolis and St. Paul to rescind their mandates ahead of the Valentine’s Day holiday. We used data, valued coalition partnerships, and member voices to get this done. Thank you to our members David Benowitz (Craft & Crew Hospitality) and Brent Frederick (Jester Concepts) for their advocacy at the city level. Given the current state and projected trends, we anticipate a likely repeal of the masking mandates in the coming weeks, as well.
Legislative Redistricting The special judicial panel has released the redistricting maps for congressional and state legislative districts. This once-in-a-decade shift will likely impact upcoming legislative announcements regarding re-election efforts, retirements, and other decisions. We expect additional analysis in the coming days and weeks.
Days at the Capitol We're staying largely virtual for 2022 as many legislators remain working away from the Capitol. We’re focusing our efforts meeting with key chairs, policy makers and thought leaders, going to bat for the interests of the industry. We will be sharing key intel and grassroots engagement opportunities on a regular basis, and encourage you to use that information in a meeting with your representative/s and senator/s. If you'd like help getting those set up, contact Ben.
Hospitality Champions We offer special thanks and recognition to:
And to these legislators:
Want to become a hospitality champion? We encourage you to join the Advocacy Group. The group meets every month to shape the policy priorities of our industry and help drive our strategic vision. Contact Ben
Follow as we advocate for the hospitality industry at the local, state and federal levels. This work has been a hallmark of the Association for decades, and will continue to be a core benefit of membership.