Construction Law and the 2016 Minnesota Legislative Session

March 2, 2016

The second year of the 89th Session of the Minnesota Legislature convenes on March 8, 2016. This year’s session is unusually late and will only last a short 11 weeks, but undoubtedly construction and construction-related issues will be at the forefront of much legislation considered this session.

Construction at the Capitol
Though not specifically legislation, as it relates to construction, the driving force behind the short and late-starting session is the fact that the Capitol building is the final year of a three-year restoration. The Capitol is closed except for the House Chamber, which is open only to members and limited members of the public. The new Minnesota Senate Building will serve as a temporary chamber for Senate sessions.

The legislature was unable to pass a major transportation funding bill last year but did put forth legislation to essentially keep the lights on. While this session is short, undoubtedly, transportation will be a top consideration. Both parties have proposals on the table, and leaders on both sides agree that a long-term transportation funding package should pass this session.

While historically bonding bills have been under $1 billion, current bonding proposals far exceed this amount. While it is still uncertain where total bonding will land for the year, there appears to be general agreement that some bonding funds should be allocated to road and bridge construction and maintenance, which is good news for the construction industry.

Miscellaneous Construction
There are a number of construction-specific legislative efforts that are likely to make an appearance this session. Some of these may not get much traction given the short session, but those involved or interested in the construction industry should keep their eyes and ears open for:

  • Efforts to push P3 (Public Private Partnership) legislation, particularly through a pilot program. P3s are infrastructure building models whereby government and business join forces to fund, build, and maintain infrastructure.
  • Revamping retainage law. The subcontractors are again encouraging revisions to existing retainage law to help subs get paid sooner for the work they have performed.
  • Revision of the statute of repose for condominium developments. Fueled by reports of developers shying away from condominium development and construction for fear of predatory litigation, there is a push to reconsider the statute of repose for defect claims relating to condominium developments.
  • Editing of the responsible contractor statute. The current statute, Minn. Stat. § 16C.285, has been in effect for a year now and, as with any legislation, parties are recognizing kinks with legislation put into practice. If not this year, in the coming years, there is likely to be revisions to this statute to reflect the realities of how the statute is used in the world of construction.

If you are an interested party in the construction industry with questions on any of the year’s legislative efforts, we would welcome the chance to talk through your questions, help you keep your ear pointed in the right direction, or give you guidance about having a voice in the legislative process.