Thursday, April 16, 2009

Omnibus bills move; Bonding documents available

Yesterday at the Capitol

House Higher Education committee passes omnibus bill
The House Higher Education and Workforce Development Finance and Policy Division passed the omnibus appropriation bill as amended out of committee yesterday by a vote of 14-5. Attached is a draft side-by-side document that compares the provisions in each bill. Amendments can still be made in Finance and Ways and Means committees. As amendments are made to either bill, we will make those adjustments. Chair Tom Rukavina, DFL-Virginia, did indicate in committee that they will "fix" two provisions in the bill; the provision that provides for an undergraduate tuition guarantee with a stable tuition rate for up to four consecutive academic years, and the provision that states the Board may not fill administrative and managerial vacancies during the 2010-11 biennium in the central office or at any campus.

The bill heads next to Finance Committee Friday. The hearing starts at 9:00 a.m., however there are 3 omnibus appropriation bills scheduled ahead of the higher ed bill. It is possible that the committee will not get to the bill and therefore will take it up Saturday morning.

The Senate higher education omnibus bill is going to be taken up this morning, Thursday, at 8:30 in the Finance Committee.

Appropriation omnibus bills continue to clear committee
In addition to the higher education bill, all finance divisions are passing omnibus appropriation bills out of committee to meet today's deadline. Yesterday, the House K-12 Education Finance Division approved the omnibus education finance bill. The bill, sponsored by Rep. Mindy Greiling, DFL-Roseville, incorporates several mostly technical amendments and contains the bill’s original plan to stabilize and simplify the state’s education funding formula, though it would delay their effective date until 2014. The bill would conform to House DFL targets by lowering the aid payment shift from 90 percent to 73 percent beginning in fiscal year 2010.

In State Government, committee members narrowly approved the House omnibus state government finance bill by a vote of 7-6, after making some major changes to it. Sponsored by Rep. Phyllis Kahn, DFL-Minneapolis, the bill was successfully amended to include a provision for domestic partner benefits for state employees. In addition, an amendment successfully offered by Rep. Karla Bigham, DFL-Cottage Grove, made several significant changes to the bill, including:

• removing a provision that would have asked the state lottery to operate slot machines at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport;

• requiring Gov. Tim Pawlenty to cut nearly all deputy commissioners and assistant commissioners in his cabinet;

• delaying by one year the implementation of a complete overhaul of the state’s accounting and procurement computer system; and

• removing a proposal to shift $18.6 million in state aid for teachers retirement funds into the next biennium.

Bonding conference committee documents available
The capital investment conference committee has made available a side-by-side comparison of the House and Senate bills, which can be found here. A summary comparison of the two bills can be found here. The second conference committee has yet to be called. Stay tuned.

At the Capitol:

Legislative schedules are available for the House and Senate.

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