Friday, April 8, 2011

Conferees named; Budget bills passed; Federal government shut down?

Legislative Update
April 8, 2011

Half of the higher education conferees named

This week, the House of Representatives appointed conferees to negotiate the higher education finance omnibus bill. They are: Rep. Bud Nornes, R-Fergus Falls; Rep. Bob Dettmer, R-Forest Lake; Rep. Kurt Daudt, R-Crown; Rep. Pat Mazorol, R-Bloomington; and Rep. David Hancock, R-Bemidji. Senate Majority Leader Amy Koch, R-Buffalo, said today that Senate conferees for all the finance bills are likely to be named Monday, and then conference committees will get to work. Lawmakers only have one week to work through differences between the House and Senate bills prior to the spring recess scheduled to begin Monday, April 18 at 3:00 p.m. Conference committee work will resume after the break on April 26 if necessary. When asked today at a media availability whether legislative leaders have set internal deadlines on when to have the budget bills done, Koch said it’s not productive to set deadlines for getting bills to the governor. She said legislative leadership is not focused on deadlines other than May 23, the session adjournment date.

All finance bills off the floor and into conference committee

It was a productive week for legislative leadership as they passed the last remaining spending bills and sent them to conference committee. One of the bills passed this week by the House with interest to higher education includes the jobs and economic development finance omnibus bill. The bill cuts funding to the Department of Employment and Economic Development by 5.8 percent and the Department of Labor and Industry by 7 percent. One of the more controversial provisions in the bill is the transfer of $60 million in one-time money from the Douglas J. Johnson Economic Protection Trust Fund that is funded by tax mining companies who pay towards the fund in lieu of property taxes. The money is used for economic development projects on the Iron Range.

The bill reduces the Minnesota Jobs Skills Partnership program by $1.37 million over the 2012-2013 biennium. There is also an appropriation of $90,000 each year of the biennium for a grant to the Rural Policy and Development Center at St. Peter, Minnesota. The grant is to be used for research and policy analysis on emerging economic and social issues in rural Minnesota, and to encourage collaboration across higher education institutions.

Another bill of interest to higher education passed by a partisan vote in the House this week is the state government finance omnibus bill. This bill cuts state agencies by 34 percent and includes many state government reforms. Rep. Keith Downey, R-Edina, sponsored many of the reform provisions included in the bill, and said the bill would lead to better services by empowering state employees to be more productive and manage state programs more efficiently. Some of the reforms included in the bill related to the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system include a salary freeze; however, the House bill exempts system faculty and administrators from the freeze (the Senate bill does not include the exemption). Another reform includes establishing a program to provide one-time bonus compensation to state employees for efforts made to reduce the costs of operating state government.

During floor debate, opponents of the bill questioned the fairness to state employees as well as the use of fiscal notes, which Democrats said Republicans have been ignoring. Sponsor of the bill, Rep. Morrie Lanning, R-Moorhead, said his best judgment says that the bill is balanced and is a big step toward reforming government.

The Senate was also busy on the floor this week finalizing the budget bills with the passage of the omnibus tax bill. The bill cuts $580 million in spending and eliminates the statewide property tax on businesses, reduces aid to local governments and reduces a property tax refund for renters. The House tax bill differs in that it includes income tax cuts, does not phase out the business property tax, and focuses its local government aid cuts only on the cities of Minneapolis, St. Paul and Duluth. These differences will be addressed in conference committee.

Now that the finance bills have all passed the floor and are headed to conference committee, Senate Majority Leader Amy Koch, R-Buffalo, said she would invite Gov. Dayton’s commissioners to conference committee meetings to weigh in on the ten appropriation bills. Koch said leadership has an open door policy for the governor. Dayton has said he will become part of the negotiations once the Senate and House have reached an agreement (conference reports worked out through the conference committee process). Senate Deputy Majority Leader Geoff Michel, R-Edina, said today that leadership wants the governor and his cabinet to be part of a transparent and open process given the dynamics of a new legislative majority and new governor. Michel also said that the public can expect conference committees to run smoother than usual with the House and Senate bills being close financially.

Koch said the focus right now is on the budget; however, she did say with the policy bill deadlines approaching, we can expect to see policy bills in committee “cranking up” next week. By April 29, all policy bills must be out of the body of origin, and by May 6, the third and final committee deadline, all policy bills must be out of both bodies.

Federal government shutdown looming

Dominating the news this week is the potential for a partial federal government shutdown if Congress, specifically congressional leaders, House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada, do not come to an agreement on the current fiscal year spending by midnight tonight. As a reminder, the current federal fiscal year is half over, and the federal government has been operating on a series of continuing resolutions that fund government at the 2010 spending levels.

Without an agreement by midnight tonight, approximately 800,000 government workers will be furloughed and a range of government services will stop, though essential services such as law enforcement will continue. What it means for the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities is unclear at this time; however, a shutdown is likely to have an impact on services related to federal financial aid and government grants and contracts.

The latest proposed cuts fall between $38 billion and $40 billion. House Republicans passed legislation to keep the government open for one additional week while leaders work to reach a deal. The legislation would include $12 billion in spending cuts and fund the Pentagon for six months. Reid has said he will try to get a one-week funding extension through the Senate today, but it is unclear if it will pass.

Here's What's Happening at the Capitol:

This schedule shows all meetings that we are aware of at the time of publication that MAY have an impact on the system. This schedule may change. Please watch the House and Senate schedules posted on the Legislature's web site.

Monday, April 11

8:30 AM
Conference Committee on S.F. 1016: Omnibus agriculture and rural economic development appropriations
Room: 107 Capitol
Chairs: Sen. Doug Magnus and Rep. Rod Hamilton
SENATE: Magnus; Miller; Kubly; Nienow; Dahms
HOUSE: Hamilton; Shimanski; Anderson; LeMieur; Eken

11:00 AM
Senate in Session

1:00 PM
Senate State Government Innovation and Veterans
Room: 123 Capitol
Chair: Sen. Mike Parry
S.F. 509-Limmer: Voter photo identification requirement; picture identification issuance provisions; provisional balloting procedure establishment; challenged voter eligibility list establishment; electronic polling place roster standard for use establishment and use.

3:00 PM
House in Session

3:00 PM
Senate Education
Room: 15 Capitol
Chair: Sen. Gen Olson
S.F. 605-Nienow: Graduation required assessment for diploma (GRAD) mathematics requirement exception removal; high school assessments for college and career readiness determination establishment.
S.F. 143-Wiger: High school assessments for college and career readiness determination establishment; assessment advisory committee recommendations for alternative means of graduation for students requirement.
S.F. 1073-Nelson: School districts transition planning for high school students to successfully pursue postsecondary education and employment.

Tuesday, April 12

8:30 AM
Senate Finance
Room: 123 Capitol
Chair: Sen. Claire A. Robling
S.F. 712-Carlson, J.: State lands valuation methods for acquired lands modification; adopt-a-WMA (wildlife management area) program establishment; state parks, forests, recreation areas and wildlife management areas additions and deletions.
S.F. 930-Robling: Deficiency funding appropriations for public safety department, judicial standards board, tax court, and secretary of state; state-owned land minimum sale requirement modification.

2:30 PM
House Capital Investment
Room: 10 State Office Building
Chair: Rep. Larry Howes
Agenda: HF369 (Banaian) Capital investment return determination information required.

3:00 PM
Senate Education
Room: 15 Capitol
Chair: Sen. Gen Olson
S.F. 612-Benson: Youth athlete concussion policies establishment.
S.F. 901-Pederson: Early childhood services and programs for full kindergarten readiness coordination

Wednesday, April 13

8:15 AM
House State Government Finance
Room: 200 State Office Building
Chair: Rep. Morrie Lanning
Agenda: HF1234 (Downey) Commissioner of administration required to issue a request for proposals and enter into a contract for strategic sourcing consulting services.

3:00 PM
Senate Education
Room: 15 Capitol
Chair: Sen. Gen Olson
S.F. 452-Vandeveer: Charter school as educational entity within a school district pilot project for charter district #4116, Lakes International Language Academy and independent school district #831, Forest Lake.
S.F. 946-DeKruif: School districts joint operation and innovative delivery of education pilot project establishment.
S.F. 977-Wolf: Charter school revenue formulas modifications.

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