Friday, April 29, 2011

Final countdown to session end; Voter Id moves; Governor Jeb Bush in town; Education reform discussed

Legislative Update
April 29, 2011

The countdown begins

With three weeks remaining before the constitutionally required adjournment date of May 23, the landscape looks like this; $5 billion state budget deficit, Gov. Mark Dayton wants to solve $2.5 billion of it in tax increases, and the Republican Legislature wants to solve all of it with spending cuts. Both legislative leadership and the governor are saying they will end on time, but a lot of people are scratching their heads as to how that can happen.

This week consisted of committees aggressively processing policy bills to meet today’s first policy bill deadline. House Speaker Kurt Zellers, R-Maple Grove, called it, “A big policy week,” and said lawmakers are starting down the road to finishing up by May 23. Senate Majority Leader Amy Koch, R-Buffalo, said we can expect to see a lot of committee activity next week as well with the final date for policy bills being next Friday, May 6.

With a big part of the focus right now being on policy, Dayton called for lawmakers to pass the budget bills and send them to him by May 6 in order to begin negotiations. Koch said May 6 is an arbitrary deadline set by the governor and not agreed to by leadership. Deputy Majority Leader Geoff Michel, R-Edina, said Dayton is going to have to work with the Legislature, and he is going to have to lead. He said opportunities will be provided for him and his staff to come and negotiate, but deadlines, other than May 23, are not helpful. At today’s press conference, it was brought to the Republican leaders attention that the governor has weighed in with letters of what he likes and doesn’t like in the budget bills. Zellers replied that it works better to talk face-to-face instead of through letters. “Letters will not get us out of here by May 23,” Zellers said.

When asked at the press conference if the budget bill conference committees are making progress, Zellers said there is progress being made; however, Senate Minority Leader Tom Bakk, DFL-Cook, said there has not been one motion on any provision in any of the bills. Bakk said the governor would like the House and Senate to work out their differences so there’s one position with which to negotiate.

In addressing the situation at hand, Koch said the state is in a fiscal crisis, there is a deadline of May 23 looming, the governor has submitted a budget of $2.5 million in revenue, spending in the state has gone too far, and she believes lawmakers need to rein in spending. When pushed at the press conference about why Republicans are focusing on policy instead of working hard in conference committee, Koch said, “The deadline is May 23, the budget is the job.” She went on to say that if there’s agreement, it’s entirely possible they can close up some of the conference committees next week, but said, “We need the governor to engage.”

As for the higher education conference committee, conferees did not meet this week, but have announced the next meeting to be held Tuesday, May 3 at 1:00 p.m. in the basement hearing room of the State Office Building. Legislative leadership also indicated today that next week is going to consist of busy floor sessions, with the likelihood of meeting every day.

Voter ID bill clears the Senate

The Senate passed the voter ID bill this week by a partisan vote of 37-26. The bill, sponsored by Sen. Warren Limmer, R-Maple Grove, would amend statute to require all Minnesota residents to present photo identification when voting. Limmer said the legislation would modernize the state voting system and bring back integrity. In the House, the most recent stop for the companion bill was a hearing in the Civil Law committee this week. The bill now awaits action by the full body.

Also this week, Rep. Mary Kiffmeyer, R-Big Lake, introduced an alternative bill proposing an amendment to the Minnesota Constitution requiring state residents to show photo identification when voting. If the bill passes the Legislature, the photo ID question would be put to voters on the 2012 ballot. Proposed constitutional amendments do not require approval by the governor to be placed on a ballot, so if Gov. Dayton vetoes the bill the Senate just approved, Kiffmeyer’s bill poses another alternative. This bill was heard today in the House Government Operations and Elections committee. Opponents of the bills have questioned what problem the bills are trying to solve. DFL lawmakers have argued there are no widespread voter fraud issues, and this bill can make voting more difficult for some, including college students who change their addresses frequently.

Education reform on the minds of lawmakers

The first day back from the Easter/Passover break, legislative leaders invited former Florida Governor Jeb Bush to speak to lawmakers as they look at different ways to tackle education reform. Bush discussed successful reform efforts he led in Florida that include giving schools grades and providing vouchers for students in failing schools. Senate Majority Leader Amy Koch, R-Buffalo, said it was exciting to hear about education reform successes and possibilities. DFL lawmakers held a press conference afterward and argued this is not the time to bring in people from other states to talk about education reform with the budget still unresolved. Sen. Chuck Wiger, DFL-Maplewood, said comparing Florida to Minnesota in the area of education is like comparing apples and oranges. Wiger said Minnesota is a leader in education with a higher graduation rate than Florida. He also said he is proud of the universities that prepare our teachers.

Meanwhile, House Education Reform committee members marked up the K-12 education policy bill in committee this week. One of the provisions in the bill directs the Board of Teaching to adopt rules requiring teacher candidates to pass the basic skills reading, writing, and math exam as a requirement for obtaining an initial teaching license; and postsecondary teacher preparation institutions to offer remedial assistance to candidates who do not pass the exam. In the Senate, the companion bill was taken up this week in the Senate Education Committee. The bills, HF 1381/SF 1167, can be found at:

HF 1381 (the most recent engrossment is not yet available online)

HF 1381 Delete all amendment

SF 1167 (first engrossment)

Also in the area of education reform, the American Association of State Colleges and Universities, or AASCU, has released its April policy publication entitled: K-12 Education Reform: Implications and Opportunities for Public Colleges and Universities. The brief explores major reform and innovation in K-12 education and discusses how public institutions of higher education can serve as essential partners in implementing education policy at the national, state and local level. The brief can be found here.

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, May 2

10:15 AM
House Ways and Means
Room: 200 State Office Building
Chair: Rep. Mary Liz Holberg
Agenda: HF4 (Downey) State workforce reduction required, and early retirement program created.
HF66 (Drazkowski) Political contribution refund repealed.
HF873 (Garofalo) Education finance obsolete language removed.
HF874 (Garofalo) Education finance obsolete language removed.
HF1230 (Fabian) State land disposition of receipts modified; state parks, state recreation areas, state forests, and state wildlife management areas added to and deleted from; Mississippi River management plan modified; and public and private sales and conveyances authorized for certain state lands.
HF1234 (Downey) Commissioner of administration required to issue a request for proposals and enter into a contract for strategic sourcing consulting services.
HF632 (Howes) Maintenance plumbers licensed, and fees modified.
HF210 (Kiffmeyer) Voter picture identification required before receiving a ballot, identification cards provided at no charge, provisional ballot procedures established, challenged voter eligibility list created, election administration procedures specified, electronic polling place rosters allowed, electronic polling place roster standards set, electronic roster implementation legislative task force created, recount procedures enacted, and money appropriated.

11:00 AM
Senate in Session

12:30 PM
House Transportation Policy and Finance
Room: 5 State Office Building
Chair: Rep. Michael Beard
Agenda: HF1283 (Hackbarth) Recreational vehicle operating provisions modified, dual registration of off-highway motorcycles provided, and special vehicle use on roadways modified.
SF67 (Nornes) Waterfront structure transportation on trunk highways authorized with annual special permits.
HF232 (Kriesel) Gold star license plates eligibility expanded to surviving legal guardians and siblings.
SF478 (Shimanski) Disability motorcycle plate provided.
HF1036 (Sanders) State passenger vehicle fleet management and consolidation provided.
HF977(Cornish) State Patrol prohibited from closing or consolidating dispatch centers.

1:00 PM
Senate State Government Innovation and Veterans
Chair: Sen. Mike Parry
H.F. 786-Daley: Charitable organizations financial statement modifications and compensation information reporting requirements.
S.F. 878-Higgins: Honorary military service prior offense presumption of rehabilitation.
S.F. 904-Lillie: State depositories bond requirements modifications.
H.F. 1362-Lillie: Workers' Compensation Advisory Council recommendations adopted.
S.F. 1283-Benson: State Capitol complex security advisory committee creation; state patrol protection to government officials authorization.

1:00 PM
Conference Committee on S.F. 1030: K-12 education omnibus bill
Room: 5 State Office Building
Chairs: Sen. Gen Olson and Rep. Pat Garofalo
SENATE: Olson; Nelson; Thompson; Kruse; Wolf
HOUSE: Garofalo; Kelly; Doepke; Fabian; Erickson
Agenda: Review Literacy Initiatives

3:00 PM
House in Session

Tuesday, May 3

10:00 AM
House Education Finance
Room: 5 State Office Building
Chair: Rep. Pat Garofalo
HF1260 (Drazkowski) Public library maintenance of effort repealed.
HF1176 (McFarlane) Alternative facility revenue uses modified.
HF1179 (McFarlane) Pupil transportation provisions modified, Department of Education's role clarified in maintaining training programs, lift bus use included in the category or revenue authorized for reimbursement, and actual contracted transportation costs included as a method for allocating pupil transportation costs.
HF945 (Petersen) Teacher evaluations and tenure modified.
HF392 (Howes) School bus crossing control arms required.
HF1381 (Erickson) Omnibus education policy bill

10:15 a.m. - 12:00 p.m.
Conference committee on SF 1047/HF 57: state government omnibus bill
Room: 300 N SOB
Chairs: Rep. Lanning and Sen. Parry
HOUSE CONFEREES: Lanning, B. Anderson, M. Benson, Downey, and Stensrud
SENATE CONFEREES: Parry, Daley, Gazelka, Thompson, and Vandeveer

12:30 PM
House Jobs and Economic Development Finance
Room: 10 State Office Building
Chair: Rep. Bob Gunther
HF1032 (Torkelson) Prevailing hours of labor requirements modified.
HF1476 (Scott) Prevailing wage provisions modified.

1:00 PM
Conference Committee on H.F. 1101: higher education omnibus bill
Room: Basement State Office Building
Chairs: Sen. Michelle L. Fischbach and Rep. Bud Nornes
SENATE: Fischbach; Robling; Senjem; Carlson; Brown
HOUSE: Nornes; Dettmer; Daudt; Hancock; Mazorol
Agenda: Public testimony on H.F. 1101-Fischbach: Omnibus higher education appropriations and policy provisions modification.

2:30 PM
Legislative Audit Commission - Topic Selection Subcommittee
Room: 112 State Capitol
Chair: Sen. Roger Reinert
Agenda: Working session to select 5 - 6 evaluation topics for
consideration by the full Legislative Audit Commission

3:30 PM
Legislative Audit Commission
Room: 112 State Capitol
Chairs: Rep. Michael Beard, Sen. Roger Reinert
Agenda: Approve Evaluation Topics for 2011

4:30 PM
House in Session

Wednesday, May 4

1:00 PM
Senate State Government Innovation and Veterans
Room: 123 Capitol
Chair: Sen. Mike Parry
SF849 (Carlson, J) State employee group insurance program (SEGIP) retired employee termination notice requirement and coverage reinstatement procedure
SF702 (Parry) Lawful gambling tax rates modification; linked bingo and electronic pull-tabs authorization
SF896 (Daley) County private audit meeting standards of state auditor performance authority
SF1046 (Senjem) Racino and Minnesota future fund

2:30 PM
House Capital Investment
Room: 10 State Office Building
Chair: Rep. Larry Howes
Agenda: HF959 (Howes) Flood hazard mitigation grant funding provided, bonds issued, and money appropriated.

4:30 PM
House in Session

6:00 PM
Senate Judiciary and Public Safety
Room: 15 Capitol
Chair: Sen. Warren Limmer
Agenda: S.F. 425 Gerlach Event ticket practices regulation.

Thursday, May 5

12:30 PM
House in Session

Friday, May 6

9:30 AM
House in Session

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