By – Jeff Tollefson, CEO, MnTech

Headshot of Jeff Tollefson, MnTech
Jeff Tollefson, President & CEO, MnTech

We are now four weeks into the 2024 legislative session and House and Senate committees are buzzing with activity. In fact, state lawmakers are poised to set a new record for the number of bills introduced in a session with that number now approaching 5,000. While not all will see the light of day in a committee hearing, the sheer number is mindboggling.

The pace of activity in hearings will only increase as key deadlines approach. Bills must be heard and favorably acted upon in both House and Senate committees by next Friday, March 22, to be potentially enacted into law unless they are major appropriations bills. Accordingly, committee hearings have jam-packed agendas with public testimony on bills most often limited to just two minutes. The second significant deadline is April 19, at which time both houses will need to act on major appropriation and finance bills. It is then up to legislative leaders to work out final omnibus bills for passage ahead of the May 20th session deadline.

One bit of good news since my update two weeks ago was the upward revision in Minnesota’s projected budget surplus. The new forecast shows that the current two-year budget period (2024-25) will end with a surplus of $3.7 billion, assuming no additional spending is appropriated this legislative session. This is a $1.3 billion increase from the $2.4 billion surplus in the November 2023 forecast. Looking ahead to the 2026-27 budget period, projections show spending exceeding revenues by $1.5 billion, again an improvement over the $2.3 billion deficit projected in November.
In terms of legislative initiatives affecting tech-enabled businesses in Minnesota, here is an update on a few bills we’re closely watching and/or weighing in on:

HF3492 – This is a follow-up to the Computer Science Education Advancement Act MnTech helped pass last session and calls for $8 million of funding for CS educator training and overall capacity building. The bill passed the House Education Policy Committee on 2/21 and was referred to the House Finance Committee for further action. The draft CS state plan developed over the past five months can be found here with the final version being released March 22. MnTech is hosting a celebratory event for working group members and key stakeholders on March 21st to recognize their contributions.

HF2309 – The MN Consumer Data Privacy Act being championed by Rep. Elkins continues to pass through House and Senate committees and will likely pass in its current form. In the absence of a federal statute, businesses are unfortunately left to deal with a patchwork of state laws and Minnesota will soon join 15+ other states that have adopted their own versions. While there are still some nagging differences (e.g. geolocation) which makes MN more unique, at least the problematic private right of action has been removed and MnTech is no longer standing in opposition of the bill.

HF3456 – Proposed legislation that states no provider of services (e.g. IT consulting firms, contractors) can restrict or prohibit in any way a business customer from directly or indirectly soliciting or hiring an employee of that service provider. MnTech testified in opposition at the Judiciary Finance & Civil Law Committee hearing on 3/5 and shared the impact this would have on IT consulting and contract-to-hire firms. We’re working with the bill’s author (Rep. Greenman) and other committee members in an effort to modify the bill as it has far-reaching consequences in its current form.

HF2257 – While supportive of the intent of the Age-Appropriate Design Code bill in protecting kids from harmful online content, the bill’s broad reach includes websites that are “reasonably likely to be accessed” by children under the age of 18. We believe this is an overly inclusive standard that will subject lots of websites and platforms to the bill’s requirements. Businesses subject to this broad and subjective definition are required to complete a Data Protection Impact Assessment for every online service, product, and feature that kids under the age of 18 are “reasonably likely to access.” We continue to raise our objections and testified in opposition to the bill’s passage in its current form at the 2/21 House Commerce & Finance Policy hearing.

HF4182 – This bill expands the ability of municipalities to assess a franchise tax on all broadband service providers (not just cable companies) leading to higher costs for businesses and consumers and slowing down progress being made in broadband deployment across the state. By including wireless service providers in this definition, this act violates federal law as the FCC is the sole regulator of wireless spectrum and services. MnTech testified in opposition at the 3/11 House Commerce Finance & Policy hearing.

HF2021 – This “net neutrality” bill was just introduced again and we can see pros and cons on each side of the issue. In the end, we believe this should be a federal issue, rather than a patchwork state-by-state approach, as the internet doesn’t stop at state lines. State and local efforts to regulate an open internet can harm broadband investment at a time when historic levels of federal funding is being distributed alongside unprecedented private investment. We don’t wish to see this pass in Minnesota and prefer to let the FCC and other federal agencies continue to take the lead.

HF1563 & HF398 – These antitrust bills would diverge from federal antitrust laws and place restrictions on Minnesota companies that their competitors in other states do not have. Of particular concern in HF1563 is the new concept of “abuse of dominance” not found in U.S. antitrust laws or in other states, making Minnesota even less business-friendly. It could also discourage innovation as it could subject you to possible litigation if you invent a new product that becomes a hit and “dominant” in the market. This bill has yet to be scheduled to be heard in committee and we hope it will remain the case.

Going into this session, we were concerned about potential efforts to put legislative guardrails around the use of artificial intelligence. Fortunately, there hasn’t been much of an appetite to try and regulate the use of algorithms as of yet with the only bills we’ve seen being those addressing election manipulation. Next year may be a different story.

If there are specific issues potentially impacting your organizations or industry sectors where MnTech’s voice and advocacy can be of value, please reach out to me at