Drive Electric Minnesota Policy Update

April 14, 2020 | | Policy

Just as COVID-19 impacts all other aspects of our lives, it also impacts the prospects for new electric vehicle policy in the Minnesota legislative session. The focus of legislators is rightly on the immediate crisis and the toll it’s taking on our families, friends, colleagues, and people across the nation and globe. However, I do want to update you on the current outlook for clean transportation in the 2020 legislative session.

The common theme in many conversations I’ve had with long-term veterans of the Minnesota legislature is “unprecedented.” This is not a normal session. After passing an emergency COVID-19 response package last month, the legislature went into recess through at least May 4, returning intermittently to take up COVID-19 related bills. Legislative leaders and Governor Tim Walz have signaled that the only things likely to get done this year are a bonding bill, COVID-19 response legislation, and a very scaled back supplemental budget. The priority is to preserve as much of the surplus as possible to be able to deal with the ongoing emergency and the slow-down in the economy (which will also reduce or eliminate the budget surplus).

We are all understandably focused on this emergency, and our electric vehicle (EV) issues may seem frivolous in comparison, but the issues we work on remain important. We still need to keep an eye on the longer-term need to electrify our transportation system. We will continue monitoring the situation and looking for appropriate opportunities to advance transportation electrification in Minnesota. It may still be possible, for example, to support the inclusion of public EV charging in a bonding bill. We should also keep in mind that investing in new vehicles and new charging infrastructure can stimulate the economy. The clean transportation sector of the economy is hard-hit and in need of support like other economic sectors.

Drive Electric Minnesota (DEMN) has taken a patient approach and has taken satisfaction in making a bit more progress every year. As an indicator of that steady progress, I want to celebrate the introduction of SF 4329 and the companion HF 4181 in the Minnesota legislature. This bill contains a core DEMN policy committee priority – the EV purchase rebate program. It also includes grants to allow dealerships to get certified to sell EVs, and fleet EV purchase commitments for the state of Minnesota. The Minnesota Auto Dealers Association advocated for this bill, in coordination with DEMN. The rebate language will be identical to the language we support in the House Renewable Development Account bill, and the DEMN policy committee supports the other provisions as well.

The progress I want to specifically celebrate is the successful introduction of this bipartisan legislation in the Minnesota Senate by Republican Senators Jeff Howe and Justin Eichorn and Democratic Senators Erik Simonson and Nick Frentz. We have had bipartisan introductions of EV legislation in the Minnesota House in past years, but this marks the first bipartisan introduction in the Senate. No one can say that EVs are not a bipartisan issue in Minnesota. It’s only a matter of time before we are successful in getting our priorities passed into law.

We will continue to keep our DEMN members and EV enthusiasts updated on any progress in the legislative session and in our work on clean transportation in general.


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