Friday, March 27, 2009

Bills moving, Textbooks discussed, New Office of Higher Education Director named, IFO contract approved, Nuclear energy voted down

Legislative Update
March 27, 2009

Flurry of policy bill activity this week, budget bills soon to follow

Both the House and Senate met in brief floor sessions every day this week, except today, to process committee reports and bill introductions. With the first committee deadline today for policy bills, frequent floor sessions were necessary in order to facilitate the movement of bills between committees.

Finance bills are still being developed, however, with the intention of finance divisions passing appropriation bills by April 16. The House Ways and Means Committee approved a resolution today limiting general fund expenditures to $30.6 billion over the next two fiscal years. Now that the budget resolution has been set, lawmakers will turn to trying to balance the $6.4 billion budget deficit for the 2010-11 biennium.

Ways and Means Chair Rep. Loren Solberg, DFL-Grand Rapids, said the resolution lays out a plan for a balanced budget in the 2012-2013 biennium as well, which is required by a new law. Solberg said committees have flexibility, but they will need to stay within their committee budget targets. Solberg said that there may need to be target adjustments in the coming weeks because federal stimulus money is still being worked through.

Looking ahead to next week, Speaker of the House Margaret Anderson Kelliher said in a press conference today that the House Capital Investment Finance Division will begin to draft a bonding proposal focused on projects that maximize job creation. The Senate already has passed their bonding bill. Kelliher said other scheduled legislative activity next week includes a House Tax Committee hearing on a proposal by the Governor’s 21st Century Tax Reform Commission to overhaul the state’s tax system.

Policy makers continue to grapple with the high cost of textbooks

The Higher Education Budget Division heard a variety of bills Thursday, including SF 1540, authored by Sen. Claire Robling, DFL-Jordan, which requires the Office of Higher Education, in consultation with textbook publishers, the Student Advisory council, the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities, the University of Minnesota and the Private College Council, to report on the implementation of textbook information requirements. The bill requires the report to include a template that publishers may use to provide the required information in a consistent format to all Minnesota campuses and to make recommendations of methods to disseminate pricing information to help students and faculty make well informed decisions about course materials. The bill was laid over for possible inclusion in the omnibus bill.

The American Association of State Colleges and Universities recently announced the latest publication from its Policy Matters series, “Cracking the Books: Policy Measures to Contain Textbook Costs." In 2008, Congress took action by including provisions in the Higher Education Act aimed at requiring all stakeholders and publishers, bookstores and institutions to increase transparency regarding textbook costs borne by students. The policy brief summarizes the federal legislation and looks at other potential influences affecting college textbook costs in the future.

David Metzen picked to head Office of Higher Education

Gov. Tim Pawlenty announced this week the appointment of David Metzen, former South St. Paul superintendent and a longtime University of Minnesota regent, including chair of the Board of Regents from 2003-05, to replace Susan Heegaard as the Director of the Minnesota Office of Higher Education.

“Minnesota has a world-class higher education system,” said Metzen. “Our challenge is to help more Minnesotans achieve the promise of higher education while enhancing the performance of our higher education institutions. I look forward to helping Governor Pawlenty further his vision for higher education and working with our partners around Minnesota.” Metzen began his new position March 26.

Inter faculty organization contract approved by commission

The Legislative Coordinating Commission Subcommittee on Employee Relations approved the 2009-2011 IFO contract this week with no across-the-board salary increases or annual step increases for the next two years. Now that the subcommittee has given its approval, the contract will become part of a bill that will make its way through the legislative process.

Unanimous praise for collaboration on employment training and education goals

The Senate Business, Industry and Jobs committee took up SF 1569 today. The bill, being carried by Sen. Tarryl Clark, DFL-St. Cloud, originally was to transfer the responsibility of adult basic education from the Department of Education to the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system and the responsibility of workforce centers from the Department of Employment and Economic Development also to the system.

The bill was completely revised in committee with a delete-all amendment and replaced with language that establishes four local collaboration projects established by the commissioner of the Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED) instead of transferring responsibility. DEED, the Department of Human Services, the Department of Education, the University of Minnesota and the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities are to be involved in the local projects. Each local project is to develop a plan to meet the goals of engaging low-skilled workers in increasing their skill levels; provide skill training while upgrading basic skill levels; improve the provision of skill training to individuals currently working; integrate employer contact efforts to improve responsiveness to employer’s needs; strengthen employer input with training curriculum; improve access to service and training to public assistance recipients; integrate career planning and job placement efforts among institutions; maximize coordination and reduce duplication among providers; systematically evaluate industry training needs; and provide non credit remediation at no cost to students.

The four local projects are to be established by August 1, 2009, and each project must begin to implement its plan no later than July 1, 2010, continuing through July 1, 2011.

Committee Chair Metzen originally was concerned that the bill did too much too soon, and said that he was pleased that Sen. Clark worked with all the involved parties to amend the bill to include a collaborative approach on the local projects. The bill, as amended, passed and was sent to the floor.

Nuclear energy voted down

A joint meeting of the Legislative Energy Commission of the House and Senate Energy Committees met this week to decide if Minnesota should remove its moratorium on creating new nuclear energy sites. The commission heard testimony on Wednesday from leading nuclear energy experts. Melissa Savage of the National Conference of State Legislatures said 16 states are right now considering removing their moratoriums on producing nuclear energy. Savage also said that President Obama reduced funding for Yucca Mountain, a nuclear waste repository. This means that different storage areas might need to be considered for nuclear waste and could have an impact on how much nuclear energy the United States could use. She said if more states move down this path, there will need to be an interim solution on where to store waste while determination is being made regarding Yucca Mountain. Senate Energy Chair Sen. Ellen Anderson, DFL- St. Paul, said that at one point, Minnesota was being considered as a nuclear waste depository site. She asked Savage if the North Star state would be considered again. Savage said she is unsure; however, the current U.S. Secretary of Energy, Steven Chu, is proposing a blue-ribbon panel come together to study new repository sites. Savage said the National Conference of State Legislatures supports this proposal.

Testimony was then sought from expert supporters and opponents of removing the moratorium. Jerome O’Leary of the United Association of Journeymen and Apprentices of the Plumbing and Pipe Fitting Industry said removing the moratorium would produce jobs for laid-off workers. However, before a plant could be built, a federal license is needed. It takes 36 months or more to get a license, so the soonest jobs could come would be in three to four years. Adrian Heymer of the Nuclear Energy Institute said nuclear energy is the preferred, clean method of energy based on what is generated. It is a reliable source and can produce what is needed, more than wind or solar.

Speaking against removing the moratorium was Arun Makhijani from the Institute for Energy and Environmental Research. He said that France has been using nuclear energy and doing much harm to the environment. He said Minnesota is an unusual wind state, and the cost of producing energy through wind is coming down. The House Energy committee met again Thursday to vote on the proposal and voted against lifting the moratorium. New nuclear energy plants cannot be built unless the moratorium restriction is removed. The Senate has not taken action.

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 web site.

Monday, March 30

10:30 AM
House Finance
Room: 200 State Office Building
Chair: Rep. Lyndon Carlson
HF1756 (Kath) Federal funds allocated for clean water and drinking water loans and grants, money appropriated.
HF925 (Sertich) Official measure of unemployment expanded.
HF116 (Ward) Type III school bus driver qualifications modified.
HF1048 (Brynaert) Eligibility for benefits under certain training programs provided - WIRED bill
HF927 (Mahoney) Construction codes and licensing modified, high pressure piping profession provisions added, appropriations restrictions modified, and authority to adopt rules for obtaining boiler licenses extended.
HF411 (Olin) Board of Animal Health prior appropriation modified to allow certain payments.
HF2072 (Greiling) Education finance reference updated.

11:00 AM
Senate in Session

1:00 PM
House in Session

3:00 PM (televised and webcast live)
House Capital Investment Finance Division
**Note: Change in meeting room
Room: 200 State Office Building
Chair: Rep. Alice Hausman
Agenda: Omnibus Capital Investment Finance bill presentation - HF 855 (Hausman) University of Minnesota and the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities asset preservation funding provided, bonds issued and money appropriated.

3:00 PM
Senate State and Local Government Operations and Oversight
Room: 123 Capitol
Chair: Sen. Ann H. Rest
S.F. 702-Tomassoni: State employees vacation donation program modifications.
S.F. 1110-Chaudhary: Natural resources, fishing, state park, outdoor recreation and reinvest in Minnesota (RIM) program provisions modifications; off-highway vehicles seizure and forfeiture provisions and criminal penalties imposition; all-terrain vehicles operating res.
S.F. 1284-Lourey, T.: Lawful gambling and gambling board provisions modifications.
S.F. 1158-Bakk: Charitable organization audit requirement modification.
S.F. 295-Gimse: Electronic conduct of state meetings requirement.
H.F. 801-Gimse: State reports and documents distribution provisions modification.

Tuesday, March 31

8:30 AM
House State and Local Government Operations Reform, Technology and Elections
Room: 200 State Office Building
Chair: Rep. Gene Pelowski
Agenda: SF104 (Kelly) Cannon Falls library and fire station construction design-build contracts authorized.
HF938 (Reinert) State employees with disabled veteran status provided additional sick leave.
SF237 (Obermueller) Minnesota Fallen Firefighters Memorial Day designated as the first Sunday in October.
HF774 (Knuth) Greenhouse gas emission registry provided.
SF423 (Swails) Non-campaign disbursements specified.
SF261 (Jackson) Death deed transfer clarifying, technical, and conforming changes made, common element certificates of title expanded to include planned communities, designated transfer requirements exempted, cartways in cities procedures established, and power of attorney provision modified relating to real property transactions.

12:30 PM
Senate Higher Education Budget and Policy Division
Room: 123 Capitol
Chair: Sen. Sandra L. Pappas
Discussion of various State Grant Proposals
S.F. 570-Dahle: Minnesota campus compact and service learning grants appropriation.
S.F. 1493-Skoe: Higher education student grant program modifications.
S.F. 1563-Clark: Higher education state grant program living and miscellaneous expense allowance.
S.F. 1933-Robling: Higher education appropriations, achieve scholarship program online course award, residency status modifications.

1:00 PM
House Higher Education and Workforce Development Finance and Policy Division
Room: 5 State Office Building
Chair: Rep. Tom Rukavina
Agenda: HF939 (Mahoney) New job training funding provided for hard-to-train individuals, and money appropriated.
HF165 (Dettmer) Minnesota State Colleges and Universities' human resources systems improvements provided

2:45 PM
House K-12 Finance
Room: 10 State Office Building
Chair: Rep. Mindy Greiling
Agenda: HF2033 (Faust) Research-based professional development funding provided for the St. Croix River Education District, "response to intervention" problem solving included, money appropriated.
HF1046 (Mariani) Minnesota reading corps program established, and money appropriated.
HF1177 (Garofalo) Early graduation achievement scholarship program established, money appropriated.
HF1702 (Davnie) Grants authorized for the concurrent enrollment programs in the same manner as advanced placement and international baccalaureate programs, and money appropriated.
HF751 (Benson) School districts authorized to create site-governed schools, and money appropriated.

2:45 PM
House Capital Investment Finance Division
Room: Basement Hearing Room
Chair: Rep. Alice Hausman
Agenda: HF 855 (Hausman) Omnibus Capital Investment bill mark-up and passage
HF 2134 (Hausman) Asset preservation for various state agencies and higher education facilities funding provided, bonds issued, and money appropriated.

6:30 PM
House Finance
Room: 200 State Office Building
Chair: Rep. Lyndon Carlson
Agenda: HF855 (Hausman) University of Minnesota and the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities asset preservation funding provided, bonds issued and money appropriated.
HF2134 (Hausman) Asset preservation for various state agencies and higher education facilities funding provided, bonds issued, and money appropriated.
HF1467 (Nelson) Rail safe technology federal grant application directed.
HF775 (Beard) Vehicle service fees credited to the vehicle services operating account.
HF2073 (Greiling) Education finance obsolete reference removed.

7:00 PM
Legislative Commission on Pensions and Retirement
Room 107 Capitol
Chair: Senator Don Betzold
Final consideration of the 2009 Omnibus Retirement Bill; in the form of delete-all amendment S0191-DE3 to S.F. 191 (Betzold); H.F. 723 (Murphy, M.).
Revision/clarification of:
- Erroneous deduction/overpayment recovery provisions (PERA; First class city teachers).
- Commission staff technical correction/clarification amendments
Approval of prior Commission meeting minutes.
Other items as designated by the Commission chair

Wednesday, April 1

8:30 AM
House State and Local Government Operations Reform, Technology and Elections
Room: 200 State Office Building
Chair: Rep. Gene Pelowski
Agenda: HF1744 (Hilty) Technology accessibility standards and advisory committee established.
HF955 (Morrow) Minnesota River Basin Joint Powers Board renamed, and duties and membership of board clarified.
HF1218 (Lillie) State labor contracts ratified.
Pending approval in the Local Government Division:
HF1849 (Nelson) Local Governmental unit mandates removed, extended, and modified.
HF1955 (Holberg) Temporary transfers authorized from the metropolitan livable communities fund accounts and the right-of-way loan acquisition fund for transit operating deficits, and funding sources modified for metropolitan livable communities fund accounts.

12:30 PM
Senate State Government Budget Division
Room: 112 Capitol
Chair: Sen. Don Betzold
S.F. 1679-Bakk: Public employment retirement incentives.
S.F. 1889-Gerlach: State settlements and recovery payments to general fund.
S.F. 1153-Pappas: Domestic partners health insurance eligibility.
S.F. 278-Rest: United States senate or representative in congress and state legislature vacancy election procedures modifications.
S.F. 1600-Rest: Technology accessibility standards establishment for government operations; advisory committee for technology standards for accessibility and usability; appropriation.
S.F. 915-Dibble: Public employees insurance program school districts employee health insurance coverage purchase requirement.
S.F. 1230-Clark: Office of strategic and long-range planning provision modifications; state demographer duties modifications; milestones performance measures report requirement.
S.F. 407-Moua: Children's federal and state funding sources map of money.
S.F. 1938-Cohen: Minnesota Management and Budget (finance) department and state auditor federal stimulus money reporting and oversight appropriation.

12:30 PM
House in Session

2:45 PM
House K-12 Education Finance Division
Room: 10 State Office Building
Chair: Rep. Mindy Greiling
Agenda: HF1127 (Eastlund) National Guard and reserve member pay differential clarified for teachers.
HF214 (Bly) School boards authorized to form business entity solely for wind energy projects, and production tax exemption provided.
HF1179 (Mariani) Omnibus K-12 policy bill. - pending referral

Thursday, April 2

8:30 AM
Senate Finance
Room: 123 Capitol
Chair: Sen. Richard J. Cohen
Cash Flow Presentation
Charlie Bieleck, Director of Budgeting, Planning and Operations, Minnesota Management and Budget. Jim Schowalter, Assistant Commissioner, Minnesota Management and
S.F. 182-Pogemiller: Legislative and congressional districting principles establishment and redistricting commission creation.
S.F. 530-Rest: Budgeting revenues relative to personal income report requirement repeal.
S.F. 666-Marty: Foster care children benefits eligibility to age 21.
S.F. 713-Robling: State employee suggestion system for cost-savings to the state award program.
S.F. 1298-Gimse: Finance department and employee relations department name change to Minnesota Management and Budget.
S.F. 97-Murphy: Medical use of marijuana.
S.F. 694-Berglin: Prenatal alcohol or drug use grant appropriation repeal.

10:30 AM
House in Session

12:30 PM
Senate Higher Education Budget and Policy Division
Room: 123 Capitol
Chair: Sen. Sandra L. Pappas
S.F. 155-Pappas: Midwest higher education compact appropriation.

Friday, April 3

9:00 AM
Legislative Audit Commission Subcommittee on Topic Selection
Room 107 Capitol
Agenda: Working session to select five to eight topics for consideration by the full Legislative Audit Commission