Friday, May 14, 2010

Policy bill passes; Budget talks continue

The Senate passed the higher education policy conference committee report yesterday by a vote of 62-2, and the House passed it 113-17. The bill, SF 184, now heads to the governor. For details of the bill, please refer to yesterday's daily update, or you may find the complete bill here.

Not included in the final higher education policy bill is the provision from the Senate version of the policy bill that allowed limited liquor sales in premium seating at the University of Minnesota’s TCF Bank stadium. However, yesterday, the House amended the Department of Commerce technical bill to allow the University to approve liquor sales in the stadium’s premium seating area only if they offered it in at least one-third of the general seats. Rep. Joe Atkins, DFL-Inver Grove Heights, offered the amendment and said the bill allows for two-thirds of the general seats to be designated "family seating" where no alcohol is allowed. At least 75 percent of the revenue from liquor sales would go to student scholarships.The House passed the bill 130-2. It now returns to the Senate, where a different version passed earlier.

With just three days remaining until the end of session, Gov. Pawlenty and lawmakers are still negotiating a $3 billion budget shortfall. The governor is in northern Minnesota for the annual fishing opener this weekend, but both the governor and lawmakers said they can still get this done. According to Minnesota Public Radio, the three controversial issues remaining are ratifying the governor's unallotment, the K-12 education shift and the early expansion of Medicaid. DFL leaders say early Medicaid expansion is a key factor to the budget deal. That provision was in the health and human services bill that Gov. Pawlenty vetoed yesterday.

Both the House and Senate go into session at 12:00 p.m. today. We will continue to keep you updated over the weekend as things progress.

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