Friday, February 4, 2011

Budget reduction bill passes; Alternative teacher license bill moves; Voter identification discussed

Yesterday at the Capitol

It was announced yesterday that lawmakers will recess for the traditional Easter/Passover break starting Monday, April 18 at 3 p.m. in preparation for the start of Passover at sundown. The recess will last through the following Monday after Easter. Committees are scheduled to resume Tuesday, April 26.

The Senate passed the first budget reduction bill, HF 130, off the floor yesterday by a vote of 37-27. Chief author of the bill, Sen. Claire Robling, R-Jordan, said the bill includes cuts that have been voted on by senators previously. She said none of the cuts are easy to make or enjoyable, and said the colleges and universities have wisely planned for these cuts.

Senators talked about the impact the reductions would have on individual institutions. Sen. Rod Skoe, DFL-Clearbrook, addressed the $185 million cuts to higher education and said there will be a very serious consequence to students when tuition rises. He said that Minnesota students have the sixth highest debt load in the nation. Skoe said, "Is it right in the first week of February to make it harder for our students to go to college." Sen. Paul Gazelka, R-Brainerd, said lawmakers have a tough job to do, and everyone is going to be part of the sacrifice. "It's not going to be easy or popular," he said.

The bill now heads to conference committee to work through the differences between the Senate and House versions. House conferees will be: Rep. Mary Liz Holberg, R-Lakeville; Rep. Bud Nornes, R-Fergus Falls; Rep. Bob Gunther, R-Fairmont; Rep. Jim Abeler, R-Anoka; and Rep. Greg Davids, R-Preston.

For the Senate, conferees include: Sen. Claire Robling, R-Jordan; Sen. Mike Parry, R-Waseca; Sen. David Hann, R-Eden Prairie; Sen. Julianne Ortman, R-Chanhassen; and Sen. Michelle Fischbach, R-Paynesville.

Also passing the Senate floor yesterday was the alternative teacher licensure bill, SF 40, by a vote of 40-23. The House version, HF 63, passed the Ways and Means committee yesterday and heads next to the floor. Gov. Mark Dayton has remained largely noncommittal on whether or not he will sign the measure that provides for alternative paths to becoming a teacher.

Also meeting yesterday was the House Government Operations and Elections Committee, where members learned more about a pair of voter identification bills. HF 89, sponsored by Rep. Mike Benson, R-Rochester, and HF 201, sponsored by Rep. Mary Kiffmeyer, R-Big Lake, would both require voters to produce photo identification at their polling place before receiving a ballot.

Benson said requiring photo ID would boost the public’s confidence in election results. Opponents of the bill argued the measure would wrongfully discriminate against senior citizens, students, disabled voters and those who frequently change residences.

The bills were laid over, and Committee Chair Joyce Peppin, R-Rogers, said a committee vote is planned for Feb. 8. Neither bill has a Senate companion.

Today at the Capitol

There are no higher education related hearings today.

Gov. Mark Dayton will hold a news conference with the Department of Education Commissioner Brenda Casselius at 9:15 a.m.

Legislative leadership will hold their weekly media briefing starting today at 10:00 a.m.

Looking Ahead

Monday, February 7

11:00 AM
Senate in Session

3:00 PM
Senate Higher Education
Room: 107 Capitol
Chair: Sen. Michelle L. Fischbach
Agenda: Minnesota Career Colleges Association Presentation

3:00 PM
Senate Education
Room: 15 Capitol
Chair: Sen. Gen Olson
Agenda: MINNESOTA'S FUTURE: World-class Schools, World-class Jobs
Charlie Weaver, Executive Director, Minnesota Business Partnership
Peter Hutchinson, President, Bush Foundation

3:00 PM
House in Session

Tuesday, February 8

8:15 AM
House State Government Finance
Room: 200 State Office Building
Chair: Rep. Morrie Lanning
Agenda: HF173 (Peppin) Sunset Commission created, sunset and review of state agencies provided, and money appropriated.
HF2 (Banaian) Zero-based budgeting required, and sunset advisory commission and sunset process established for state agencies.

12:30 PM
House Higher Education Policy and Finance
Room: Basement Hearing Room, State Office Building
Chair: Rep. Bud Nornes
Agenda: Increasing Educational Achievement:
Susan Heegaard, Bush Foundation - Vice President, Educational Achievement
Peter Hutchinson, Bush Foundation - President

12:30 PM
House Jobs and Economic Development Finance
Room: 10 State Office Building
Chair: Rep. Bob Gunther
Agenda: Agency overview from Mark Phillips - Commissioner of the Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED).

Wednesday, February 9

8:15 AM
House State Government Finance
Room: 200 State Office Building
Chair: Rep. Morrie Lanning
Agenda: Minnesota State Arts Board Overview:
Sue Gens, Executive Director of the Minnesota State Arts Board
Minnesota Historical Society Overview:
Michael Fox, Director of the Minnesota Historical Society
Minnesota Management and Budget presentation on recently released 2010 State Workforce Report:
Judy Plante, Assistant Commissioner for State Human Resources
Meeting Documents: Workforce Report

12:00 PM
Governor’s State of the State Address
House Chamber

Thursday, February 10

8:15 AM
House State Government Finance
Room: 200 State Office Building
Chair: Rep. Morrie Lanning
Agenda: HF4 (Downey) State workforce reduction required, and early retirement program created.

11:00 AM
Senate in Session

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