Tuesday, January 13, 2009

New Minnesota Miracle for education, Making government more effective

New Minnesota Miracle
At a press conference, House Speaker Margaret Anderson Kelliher, DFL-Minneapolis, and Rep. Mindy Greiling, DFL-Roseville, House K-12 Finance Division chairwoman, said the new Minnesota Miracle would reform education finance and provide $600 million of property tax relief. Full implementation of the bill, HF2, would cost between $2 billion and $2.5 billion, said Greiling, the sponsor of the bill. However, she said it could begin with “just one penny” because it offers a scalable plan intended to be phased in as funding is secured. The bill has been referred to the House Finance Committee.

The committee took the new Minnesota Miracle plan across the state during the interim. Rep. John Ward, DFL-Brainerd, the division vice chair, said constituent feedback was positive and influenced changes in the bill language.

House Minority Leader Marty Seifert, R-Marshall, said the bill might be the “New Minnesota Mirage,” and characterized the all-day kindergarten portion as an entitlement program. He added that the overall bill can't be afforded by the state at this time of budget shortfalls. There is no Senate companion at this time.

Adoption of Rules Provides for Early Divisiveness
On the House floor yesterday, members adopted temporary joint rules so the House and Senate can meet Thursday for the State of the State address, but not without divisiveness. A traditionally simple process included an amendment by House Minority Leader Marty Seifert, R-Marshall, that would have lowered the Senate per diem from $96 to the House $77 level. The amendment was referred to the House Rules and Legislative Administration Committee. Amendment supporters said it was one way to lower costs during tough financial times. House Majority Leader Tony Sertich, DFL-Chisholm, said any discussions that reference how the Senate operates should involve members of that body.

Other amendments referred to the rules committee, include a reduction in member postage allowance, one requiring capital investment committees to travel together when doing site visits, one requiring conference committees to have at least one minority member and that bills be on members' desks in the House Chamber for at least 12 hours before a vote is taken.

Drive to Excellence Heard in Senate
The Senate State and Local Government Operations and Oversight Committee, heard a presentation on the state's Drive to Excellence program yesterday. Commissioner Dana Badgerow, Dept. of Administration, said, the Drive to Excellence program goal is to enable the effective, efficient and economical delivery of state government services.

Badgerow said the program required a hard look at the nuts and bolts of state government operations in order to increase quality, increase customer service and reduce costs. She said the program looks at state government as an "enterprise" and allows the state to build and nurture a culture of continuous improvement. Badgerow said the program began in April 2005 with six projects; now there are nine active projects and five completed projects. She said more than 1,100 employees have participated so far and that the state is realizing savings from lower costs and greater efficiencies.

Current projects include strategic sourcing, e-licensing, grants management, real property management, fleet management, enterprise geographic information systems coordination, enterprise print strategy development and improvements to the Minnesota accounting and procurement system.

At the Capitol:
Legislative schedules are available for the House and Senate.

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