Friday, April 3, 2009

Senate education committee hears bills; Federal stimulus update is available

Yesterday at the Capitol

Senate Higher Ed committee continues to hear bills

The Senate Higher Education Budget and Policy Division met yesterday and heard SF 155, sponsored by committee chair Sandy Pappas, DFL-St. Paul. The bill appropriates $95,000 in each year of the biennium to the Midwest Higher Education Compact. Pappas said the appropriation covers the dues the state pays to the compact. The bill was laid over for possible inclusion in the omnibus bill.

Larry Issak, president of the Midwest Higher Education Compact, said the purpose of the compact is to advance Midwestern higher education through interstate cooperation and resource sharing. He said the compact is focused on cost savings, student access and policy research. Cost savings last year amounted to $31 million through technology, property insurance programs and contracts. Issak said the compact also provides for reduced tuition for students in eight participating states and although Minnesota tends to have more students coming to the state, the compact has saved Minnesota students $4.8 in reduced tuition for other states.

The committee also heard from Jennifer Godinez, associate director of the Minnesota Minority Education Partnership. Godinez said the Partnership has produced innovative initiatives for college access, and has built a community of advocates and practitioners committed to increasing college readiness and closing the achievement gap in Minnesota.

Committee members also heard SF 1640, sponsored by Sen. Kathy Sheran, DFL-Mankato, which provides an appropriation for a grant to Minnesota State University, Mankato for the International Renewable Energy Technical Institute. The bill was laid over for possible inclusion in the division's omnibus bill.

Status of federal stimulus funds

The Legislative Commission on Planning and Fiscal Policy met yesterday to provide an update on the status and process of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. Committee members discussed the Legislative Auditor's role in federal compliance as well. With billions of federal stimulus dollars expected to flow into Minnesota, the state is required to follow strict federal accounting procedures. Legislative Auditor James Nobles told the Commission that he is concerned with the quick infusion of the new federal money and reporting requirements that his office will need to audit.

Minnesota Management and Budget has set up a Web site for the State of Minnesota’s coordination efforts of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. You can access it here.

At the Capitol:

Legislative schedules are available for the House and Senate.

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