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On Monday BATC’s moratorium bill (SF 2694) attracted intense debate in the Senate Local Government Committee. With a strong coalition of housing groups in support of a notice and public hearing requirement prior to the imposition of a housing moratorium, opposition from several local government and environmental groups aligned to stop the bill from advancing. Opposition groups cited the need for local governments to maintain maximum flexibility to protect against ‘surprise’ land use applications as the basis for their opposition. Further, these groups indicated preserving local government control was paramount among their legislative priorities.
Monday’s hearing was intensified as we enter the final week of policy hearings in the shortened 2016 session. Sen. Melisa Franzen (DFL-Edina) the bill’s author, offered a powerful case for her bill, highlighting the need need to consider due process and housing affordability as part of our regulatory structure. She said a 10-day notice provides basic fairness and transparency to homeowners and land owners who are affected by a moratorium, and suggested her language would create an appropriate balance of local control weighed against private property rights. In fact, Sen. Franzen amended the bill to accommodate the wishes of several opposition groups – dropping a requirement for a 2/3 majority council vote and reducing the notice from 30 to 10 days. Franzen noted that she had received hundreds of calls in opposition to our bill, and indicated conversations with opponents had been intense.
BATC Lobbyist Pete Coyle joined Franzen at the rostrum in making the opening case for the bill in testimony before the Committee. Coyle was followed by BAM’s Remi Stone and Ryan Hamilton from The Minnesota Association of Realtors, who joined us in testifying in support for the bill.
In spite of Sen. Franzen’s strong arguments for this fair measure, and her accommodation to opposition groups, Committee Chair Sen. Patricia Torres-Ray (DFL-Minneapolis) elected to lay the bill on the table. This procedural move stalls the bill’s advancement in the Committee, but it does allow for an opportunity for the bill to be re-considered. The House companion to SF 2694 passed onto the House floor in late March and now awaits action on the Senate file. BATC and its coalition partners will continue to work on this issue, but like most controversial items this session, we must overcome a very tight window of committee time to resolve the policy issues in this bill.
Stay tuned for further updates.