Friday, January 9, 2009

January 5 - 9, 2009 Week in Review

2009 legislative session gets underway with budget deficit looming
The 86th Legislative Session got underway Tuesday with mostly ceremonial floor sessions. The House convened with 23 new members, 12 new Republicans and 11 new Democrats. Democrats increased their numbers by two seats and now hold 87 seats to the 47 seats held by the Republicans. In the Senate, there are two new Senators due to retirements. The split in the Senate is 46 Democrat to 21 Republican. You may find a complete membership roster for 2009-2010 here.

In the House, Rep. Margaret Anderson Kelliher, DFL-Minneapolis, again was elected speaker of the House. Kelliher defeated House Minority Leader Marty Seifert, R-Marshall, on a partisan vote of 86-42. The Senate elected Sen. James Metzen, DFL-South St. Paul, as president of the Senate. Senators also adopted a resolution naming Sen. Larry Pogemiller, DFL-Minneapolis, as Senate majority leader and Sen. David Senjem, R-Rochester, as Senate minority leader. Before adjourning, Pogemiller and Senjem addressed the body with words of encouragement and optimism related to the obstacles facing members this legislative session. “These are tough times,” said Senjem. “But tough times bring out the best in people.”

There was much discussion from legislative leaders this week about the 2010-2011 $4.8 billion budget deficit. Senate Majority Leader Pogemiller shared his thoughts about the budget at a press conference earlier this week, saying the key is to think about the state's future and not just address the budget deficit with quick fixes and gimmicks. Pogemiller said the Senate will be looking at reform and reorganizing priorities. Many legislative leaders have been talking about reform, and the term being thrown around the Capitol this week has been zero-based budgeting. As has been tradition in budgeting, agencies typically justify only increases over the previous year’s budget and what already has been spent is automatically sanctioned. By contrast, in zero-based budgeting, every activity is reviewed comprehensively and all expenditures must be approved, rather than only increases. This requires the budget request to be justified in complete detail. Rep. Lyndon Carlson, DFL-Crystal, said on Minnesota Public Radio this week that this process is intensive and time-consuming, and therefore, lawmakers may look at a combination of zero-based budgeting and performance based-budgeting, a method that uses missions, goals and objectives to explain expenditures.

House Speaker Margaret Anderson Kelliher, DFL-Minneapolis, said that balancing the budget is “Job number one.” Kelliher said public participation will be sought from across the state to determine how "we build a more prosperous and stronger Minnesota.” She said more than 750 public comments have been received on the House of Representatives Web site where people can offer suggestions. If interested, you may provide comments here.

Another top priority is to provide economic recovery, which includes retaining jobs. Kelliher said proposed levy cuts for local government aid are contrary to what legislators promised taxpayers at the end of last session, and she said she would prefer an economic stimulus package to local aid reductions. A program at the Hubert H. Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs is scheduled Jan. 14 for legislators to learn about future economic opportunities.

Also looking at ways to develop the state’s workforce is the House Bioscience and Workforce Development Policy and Oversight Division, which met this week and announced plans to focus on developing the state’s high-tech workforce. Chairman Rep. Tim Mahoney, DFL-St. Paul, expressed his hope that committee members could build bipartisan consensus on ways to spur job growth in the state’s bioscience industries. “With our nation struggling, we have a challenge, and an important task in front of us this year," Mahoney said, adding, "If we provide trained workers to the businesses of this state, the state will prosper.”

Legislators must complete their work this session by Monday, May 18. This gives lawmakers approximately five months to solve the budget deficit. Stay tuned.

Higher education systems discuss consequences of cuts with the Senate

The Senate Higher Education committee heard from the University of Minnesota and the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system this week about the consequences the 2003 budget cuts had on higher education, the fiscal year 2009 $20 million unallotment to each system and the thoughts each system has for handling any cuts in the future as a result of the state's $4.8 billion budget shortfall.

University of Minnesota Vice President Richard Pfutzenreuter told committee members that the challenge of cuts in 2003 was met by double-digit tuition increases, which accounted for 46 percent of the reduction. He said faculty and staff assumed more costs associated with health care, lower salary increases and unfilled positions.

Minnesota State Colleges and Universities Vice Chancellor and CFO Laura King said the reductions resulting from the 2003 legislative session included tuition increases, reductions in administration, reductions in instruction-related services and reductions in reserves. King said increased tuition was the primary tool used to address the reductions, with 14 percent increases in fiscal years 2004 and 2005.

As lawmakers look to balance the budget for the upcoming 2010-2011 biennium, King said the system will use all the options available in a budget reduction environment, but will make decisions in a way that best serves students, takes into account the system's mission to serve the economic development needs of the state and best positions the system for long-term financial viability.

Both higher education systems were asked to provide testimony addressing a potential cut of 20 percent in the upcoming biennium. To illustrate the magnitude of what that would mean to the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system, King described a variety of tools that could be used if the system should be required to absorb such a significant reduction. Most likely, a combination of some of the tools, such as staff and faculty reductions, tuition increases and campus closures, would be used rather than any one method alone.

King ended her testimony emphasizing the important role higher education plays in educating and retraining Minnesota’s workforce during this severe economic downturn. King said, "Our system of 32 colleges and universities is the key to economic recovery. Our institutions will be the ones that help dislocated workers get back on their feet, retrained for new jobs. Our institutions are the ones that provide short-term retraining certificate and diploma programs that can help newly unemployed residents retrain for new jobs."

Committees appointed

Both the Senate and House of Representatives have released the committee structure for the 2010-2011 biennium. You may find the Senate committee structure here and the House here.

Committee assignments for the House and Senate Higher Education committees have also been announced and are as follows:

House Higher Education and Workforce Development Finance and Policy
Tuesdays and Thursdays, 1:00-2:30 p.m.
Room 5 State Office Building

Tom Rukavina, Chair (DFL-Virginia)
David Bly, Vice Chair (DFL-Northfield)
Bud Nornes, Lead Minority Member (R-Fergus Falls)
Sarah Anderson (R-Plymouth)
Joe Atkins (DFL-Inver Grove Heights)
Kathy Brynaert (DFL-Mankato)
Bob Dettmer (R-Forest Lake)
Keith Downey (R-Edina) - 1st Term member
Rob Eastlund (R-Isanti)
Bob Gunther (R-Fairmont)
Larry Haws (DFL-St. Cloud)
Tim Mahoney (DFL-St. Paul)
Carol McFarlane (R-White Bear Lake)
Mary Murphy (DFL-Hermantown)
Kim Norton (DFL-Rochester)
Mike Obermueller (DFL-Eagan) - 1st Term member
Jeanne Poppe (DFL-Austin)
Roger Reinert (DFL-Duluth) - 1st Term member
Linda Slocum (DFL-Richfield)
Andy Welti (DFL-Rochester)

Senate Higher Education Budget and Policy Division
Tuesdays and Thursdays, 12:30-2:45 p.m.
Room 123 Capitol

Sandy Pappas, Chair (DFL-St. Paul)
Kathy Sheran, Vice Chair (DFL-Mankato)
Claire Robling, Lead Minority Member (R-Jordan)
Tarryl Clark (DFL-St. Cloud)
Richard Cohen (DFL-St. Paul)
Sharon Erickson Ropes (DFL-Winona)
Paul Koering (R-Fort Ripley)
Ron Latz (DFL-St. Louis Park)
Ann Lynch (DFL-Rochester)
Geoff Michel (R-Edina)
David Senjem (R-Rochester)
David Tomassoni (DFL-Chisholm)
Charles Wiger (DFL-North St. Paul)

Important dates for the 2009 Session
November 4, 2008 Election
November 19, 2008 Board action on Biennial Budget
December 4, 2008 November Economic Forecast Released
January 6, 2009 2009 Legislative Session Convenes
January 15, 2009 Governor’s State of the State Address
January 27, 2009 Governor’s Biennial Budget Recommendations
End of February, 2009 February Economic Forecast Released
May 18, 2009 Last Day of Session.

Stay informed!

The Government Relations team in the Office of the Chancellor, Minnesota State Colleges and Universities, is here to assist you. Please feel free to contact any of the team members with questions or concerns. You also may find information for both state and federal legislative issues at the Government Relations Web site and blog.

Mary Davenport

Bernie Omann

Jerry Janezich

Melissa Fahning

Candi Walz

Capitol Security

With the beginning of the 2009 legislative session, Capitol Security has asked all visitors to the Capitol to keep within close proximity all briefcases, satchels, backpacks or other items they bring with them. Capitol Security will be taking a more proactive approach to unattended bags around the Capitol and related buildings. Security is asking that everyone stay within sight of your bag at all times and that you do not leave your bag in a chair to hold your spot in a hearing room. Capitol Security reports that all unattended bags will be considered a security risk and taken into custody to the State Patrol Capitol Security office.

American Association of State Colleges and Universities publications

The American Association of State Colleges and Universities, or AASCU, has prepared a publication entitled “Concealed Weapons on State College Campuses: In Pursuit of Individual Liberty and Collective Security.” The document can be found here. Legislation to ease weapons restrictions on campus has been introduced in 17 states, including Minnesota. This briefing provides context to concealed weapons laws on college campuses, reviews regulatory authority regarding campus concealed weapons policy, summarizes recent legislative activity involving campus gun laws, and provides a concise synopsis of the arguments for and against allowing guns on campus.

Also prepared by AASCU is the “Top 10 State Policy Issues for Higher Education in 2009,” which can be found here. The focus is on the issue of college access. This paper has been prepared from a scan of state policy activities of the past year, an analysis of trends and consideration of events that will likely shape the policy landscape.