Friday, March 13, 2009

Bonding bill advances, Senate hears higher education related bills

Bonding bill on fast track in Senate
The Senate Finance committee took up the $367 million Senate capital investment bill yesterday. Committee Chair Richard Cohen, DFL-Minneapolis, said the bill provides a limited kick start to Minnesota's economy by directing funds to projects that are ready to go.

SF 781, authored by Sen. Keith Langseth, DFL-Glyndon, includes $90.28 million for the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities, including $50 million in HEAPR as well as the five vetoed projects from 2008. Those projects include; $11.55 million for the health and science center addition at Lake Superior College, $5.25 million for carpentry and industrial mechanical technology shops at Mesabi Range Community and Technical College, $5.7 million for the Smart classroom center at Metropolitan State University, $13.97 million for the center for business and technology at North Hennepin Community College and $3.8 million for the systemwide classroom renovation initiative at Central Lakes College, Minnesota State Community and Technical College, Minnesota West Community and Technical College, Northland Community and Technical College, Pine Technical College and Rochester Community and Technical College.

Langseth said the bill should be done quickly, at least by April 1. He said close to 60 percent of the bill is for asset preservation and those projects can begin immediately. The bill was approved and sent to the Senate floor. The House Capital Investment committee is scheduled to hear from the Finance Division chairs next week with their committee's bonding recommendations.

A copy of the Senate bill can be found here.

Senate Higher Education committee processes bills
The Senate Higher Education Budget and Policy Division heard five bills yesterday including SF 361, sponsored by Sen. Ron Latz, DFL-St. Louis Park. The bill creates course equivalency guides for military course work. Latz said the bill saves time and tuition dollars for veterans and creates an incentive for veterans to come to Minnesota for post-secondary education.

Deputy Commissioner Michael Pugliese, Veterans Affairs, said the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities already does a good job of providing credit for courses transferred from military experience. The bill was approved and laid over for possible inclusion in the omnibus bill.

Also heard was SF 537, sponsored by Sen. Ron Latz. The bill requires post-secondary institutions to notify prospective students of the potential effects of a criminal conviction on future employment. Mark Haase, director of public policy, Council on Crime and Justice, said the bill saves time and tuition for students who have a criminal background because they would be warned about future employment restrictions prior to entering their field of education.

Sen. Kathy Sheran, DFL-Mankato, offered an amendment to add a notification for post-secondary students regarding the effect a criminal conviction may have on obtaining federal, state and other higher education financial aid. The amendment was approved. The bill was approved as amended and was re-referred to the Judiciary Committee. The bill was also laid over for inclusion in the omnibus bill.

Also of interest was SF 21, carried by Sen. Charles Wiger, DFL-Maplewood. SF 21 establishes a P-20 partnership. The measure was approved and re-referred to the State and Local Government Operations and Oversight Committee and was also laid over for inclusion in the omnibus bill.

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

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