2024 Rochester Area Chamber of Commerce Legislative Agenda
To assist with advocacy efforts, the Chamber engaged with the business community and our community partners in the Rochester region to develop the priorities in the 2024 Legislative Agenda. This agenda functions as a guiding document for the organization through the current legislative session.
We’re proud to reveal the Chamber’s 2024 Legislative Agenda which will guide our advocacy efforts throughout the year.
Key Legislative Priorities
Support of bonding efforts that encourage development and sustainability to enhance the Rochester region, including road infrastructure and community projects that positively impact the regional business community (e.g., Next Generation Resource Recovery, Riverfront Public Realm Redevelopment, RST Parking Improvements).
Advocate for the modification of workplace mandates passed in the 2023 legislative session. Oppose additional mandates that can impede the ability of a business to grow and operate in the Rochester region and Minnesota.
Additional Legislative Priorities
- Support legislation to reduce barriers to employment and address workforce gaps by reforming occupational licensing processes in high-demand careers.
- Support of workforce programs and initiatives that promote career pathways and increase awareness of high-demand job opportunities, including experiential learning opportunities (e.g., PTECH, CTECH, career simulator, and internship programs).
- Support of investment in talent attraction and retention initiatives and programs.
- Enhance safety and mobility along the Highway 14 corridor through the construction of interchanges on TH 14 at CSAH 3 and CSAH 5 which would facilitate regional development along the TH 14 corridor in Byron and Olmsted County.
- Support the creation of new initiatives and continued funding for existing programs that can address the region’s housing needs.
- Support efforts to reform the regulatory and permitting processes, including improved efficiencies and transparency while remaining environmentally responsible, to ensure Minnesota and the Rochester region is competitive in business attraction and retention.
- Encourage effective economic development through support of programs, incentives, and tax reform that can inspire investment in enterprise, drive regional business growth, and strengthen the ability of Rochester and Minnesota to be competitive in business attraction and retention.
Review of 2023 Legislative Session
The legislative session has officially concluded for 2023. Numerous pieces of the Chamber’s Legislative Agenda were addressed in the final days and hours of the session.
One of these priorities came in the Tax Finance and Policy Bill (HF1938) which included the renewal of Rochester’s local option sales tax, also known as LOST. This allows for the continuation of Rochester’s .5% tax which will generate funding for an economic vitality fund, street reconstruction, flood control and water quality, and a sports recreation facility. After failing to pass a bonding bill earlier in the year, a compromise was finalized in the closing hours of the 2023 session, allowing for the passage of HF669 and HF670. These twin bills focused on capital investment, bonding, and cash bonding. Addressed in HF669 and HF670 is the continuation of bonding authority for the Rochester International Airport’s runway and associated improvements, bonding funds for the highway 14/44 interchange and a variety of Rochester and Olmsted County priority projects.
Another focus of the Chamber throughout the session has been the Paid Family and Medical Leave (HF2). While the bill passed, improvements were made to it during its time in conference committee. The first modification caps the program at 20 weeks, down from the initial proposal of 24 weeks. This was an improvement but work still needs to be done to ensure the program doesn’t hurt the business community. Initially the bill would have gone into effect on July 1, 2023 and have staggered implementation over a three-year period. The implementation of the program was pushed back in the version that passed, with a majority of the program being implemented after January 1, 2026. This delay in implementation is a significant improvement as it provides additional time for the program to be developed.
A defining piece of legislation at the end of the session was the Health and Human Services Omnibus Bill (SF2995). As introduced, this legislation included a health care affordability board and aspects of the keeping nurses at the bedside legislation which would have mandated rates and staffing levels for our health care partners. Before the omnibus bill was passed, the Rochester business community and others conducted outreach to express their opposition to the legislation. As a result, the health care affordability board was dropped from the legislation and the Keeping Nurses at the Bedside Act was split into a stand-alone bill (SF1384). While it was introduced as the Keeping Nurses at the Bedside Act, SF1384 failed to gain substantial support and as a result was sent back to conference committee where the bill was revamped into the Nurse and patient safety act. This rework of the legislation dropped the previous staffing requirements and oversight board prior to its passage.
The 2023 legislative session was fast and furious, setting records for numbers of bills introduced and the pace at which they were passed. Business coalitions played a key role in the Chamber’s advocacy efforts this year and helped successfully advocate for changes to two specific pieces of legislation. Two coalitions were formed in opposition to legislation, the first coalition included members who opposed HF2, the Paid Family and Medical leave legislation. Our second coalition was made up of over 55 members, including the Owatonna Area Chamber of Commerce & Tourism, the Rochester Area Builders, and Rochester Area Economic Development Inc. (RAEDI). The support of our members in these efforts, in addition to their own outreach, played a crucial role in our advocacy efforts this session, thank you all! While some aspects of our legislative agenda did not pan out as we had hoped, there were still numerous wins for the business community and Rochester area that legislators are highlighted in the Chamber's June 2023 Advantage magazine.