By – Jeff Tollefson, CEO, MnTech

At least it’s over. That’s one way to assess what transpired in the final days of a highly contentious and partisan final week of the 2024 session of the Minnesota Legislature. Both the House and Senate chambers were filled with chaotic yelling and finger pointing as the session came to an unfulfilling conclusion at midnight on Sunday, with many key bills and initiatives not getting passed, including what was supposed to be the top priority for the session – a bonding bill.

Rather than recapping the events of last week and summarizing what passed and what did not, I’ve included a few links below that cover both the dysfunction and the outcomes.

Regardless of one’s political views and party preferences, one thing we should all be able to agree on is that this wasn’t Minnesota’s finest hour as it relates to state governance. And with DFL leaders turning to rarely used procedural moves to end debate and quickly vote on bills, sparking outrage from Republicans who didn’t feel they had an opportunity to appropriately challenge and discuss the legislative content, rest assured that the acrimony will continue through this fall’s election cycle and into next year’s session.

In terms of bills impacting Minnesota’s technology sector mentioned in recent legislative blog posts, here is how some of those bills fared last week.

HF3492 / SF4295 – This was a follow-up to the Computer Science Education Advancement Act MnTech helped pass last session and called for $8 million of funding for CS educator training and overall capacity building. The bill passed through appropriate House and Senate committees but was unfortunately not included in the final omnibus education finance bill.

At a time when Minnesota continues to be last in the country in terms of student access to computer science education, it’s frustrating and disappointing to see this important segment of STEM education continue to be ignored. As we approach the 2025 legislative session, it will be important for our business and tech community to have an even stronger voice in the legislature on this issue and MnTech looks forward to galvanizing additional support in the coming months.

HF2309 / SF2915 – The core elements of the MN Consumer Data Privacy Act authored by Rep. Elkins was part of the cannabis and commerce omnibus bill HF4757 that passed in the House and Senate. While we would have preferred to not have Minnesota adopt its own unique data privacy law and have a single federal statute, that unfortunately is not the case. All in all, it’s an acceptable statute and we’re grateful for Rep. Elkins listening to industry concerns and modifying his bill as a result.

HF2257 / SF2810 – We’re happy that the Age-Appropriate Design Code bill did not pass as it was removed last week from the commerce omnibus bill. While we support protecting kids from harmful online content, the bill’s broad reach included websites that are “reasonably likely to be accessed” by children under the age of 18. We believe this was an overly inclusive standard and would have subjected lots of websites and platforms to the bill’s requirements. We raised our objections and testified in opposition to the bill’s passage and are pleased it didn’t pass as written. A separate social media protection bill did pass which was more appropriately directed at social media platforms.

HF3456 / SF3721 – This statute related to restrictive employment covenants did pass as part of the labor omnibus bill SF3852 and 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.

In working with the bill’s author, Rep. Greenman, we were able to get her to amend the bill to carve out tech training providers. The specific exemption language she agreed to reads “This section does not apply to workers providing professional business consulting for computer software development and related services who are seeking employment through a service provider with the knowledge and intention of being considered for a permanent position of employment with the customer as their employer at a later date.”

HF2021 / SF3711 – The “net neutrality” statute was included in the omnibus commerce bill SF4097 that passed in the House & Senate. We see pros and cons on each side of the issue and believe this should be a federal issue, rather than a patchwork state-by-state approach, as the internet doesn’t stop at state lines. We fear 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.

HF4929 / SF4983 – The proposed modification to current statutes ensuring that qualified large-scale data centers can continue to benefit from sales tax exemptions on purchased equipment was dropped from the final HF5247 mega tax bill. We are disappointed that this was pulled in the final tax bill negotiations as it will make Minnesota less competitive in attracting additional data center investments to our state.

Looking ahead to 2025, there is a lot of discussion around artificial intelligence with legislators interested in creating guidelines and guardrails for AI/ML algorithms and their usage. Colorado recently adopted legislation tied to AI with a similar bill not passing in Connecticut. With state policymakers keen to do something in Minnesota next year, MnTech will be working to get ahead of this initiative by educating public officials on the importance of AI to our innovation economy and its responsible use by our business community. We look forward to sharing more about our planned efforts in this regard in the coming months as we also begin to set our 2025 legislative priorities.