Friday, March 20, 2009

Governor and House budget released, Bonding bill passed in Senate, Oral practitioner bill advanced, Credit caps discussed, OLA report released

Legislative Update
March 20, 2009

The governor and House release budget plans

After the Senate released its budget plan last week proposing a 7 percent across-the-board budget cut for both the 2010-11 and the 2012-13 bienniums, the governor and House followed suit this week. On Tuesday, Gov. Tim Pawlenty released his revised budget recommendation. For the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system, this means a base cut of $161.8 million for the 2010-11 biennium, about $16 million more than the $146 million cut he originally recommended in January. The governor also has recommended $133 million in one-time federal stimulus funds for the system. You may find more detail about the governor’s budget here.

The House of Representatives released its budget targets Thursday, echoing the governor's cuts: a $161.8 million cut to the system's base budget in 2010-11, with $133 million awarded to the system in federal stimulus funds. Moving into the 2012-13 biennium, the governor reverted back to his original cut of $146 million for an annual system budget of $608.597 million. The House, on the other hand, leaves the base higher than the governor at $656.597 million. Compared to what was forecast, the House is recommending a cut of $50 million to the system in 2012-13.

The House budget plan also calls for $1.5 billion in new revenue. Speaker Margaret Anderson Kelliher, DFL-Minneapolis, said the House Tax Committee would be coming forward with recommendations next week. Kelliher said the Tax Committee Chair, Rep. Ann Lenczewski, DFL-Bloomington, is considering a progressive tax. More information on the House Tax Committee work can be found here.

Education was one priority for the House in shaping its budget. “Our highest commitment is to Minnesota students – that includes those in early childhood to those in higher education,” Kelliher said.

Bonding bill passes Senate

The full Senate passed the capital investment bill on the floor Tuesday with only eight no votes. For the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system, the bill has $90.28 million for projects including $50 million in repair and replacement funding and $40 million for the five vetoed projects from 2008. As a reminder, those projects include $11.55 million for the health and science center addition at Lake Superior College, $5.25 million for carpentry and industrial mechanical technology shops at Mesabi Range Community and Technical College, $5.7 million for the smart classroom center at Metropolitan State University, $13.97 million for the center for business and technology at North Hennepin Community College, and $3.8 million for the systemwide classroom renovation initiative at six institutions.

In the House, the Capital Investment Committee heard from finance division chairs with their committee's bonding recommendations. Higher Education and Workforce Development Finance and Policy Division Chair Tom Rukavina, DFL-Virginia, presented the higher education recommendation. Rep. Rukavina recommended $50 million in repair and replacement money and the five vetoed projects for the system. The committee only heard division chair recommendations and did not pass a bill out of committee. We should know more next week what the House bonding bill will look like.

Oral health practitioner bill advances

After the Senate agreed to create two versions of dental therapists with different training requirements last week and advanced one bill with both the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities oral health practitioner program and the University of Minnesota dental therapist program, the Senate Higher Education Budget and Policy Division took up the bill this week. Sen. Ann Lynch, DFL-Rochester, said the aim of SF 1106 is to increase access to dental health services in underserved areas and includes two tracks for educational requirements. Both Dean Marilyn Loen, College of Nursing and Health Sciences at Metropolitan State University, and Dean Patrick Lloyd, School of Dentistry at the University of Minnesota, explained their individual programs.

Sen. Lynch emphasized that the two models in the bill are not competing. She said the need for dental services is so great that both models could address that need. The bill was approved and advanced to the full Finance Committee.

Senate learns about program credit cap

The Senate Higher Education Budget and Policy Division heard three bills relating to the maximum number of credits for bachelor’s and associate degrees in the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system, known to many as “60-120.”

SF 644, authored by Sen. Steve Dille, R-Dassel, allows the system’s Board of Trustees to determine the credit requirements for the two degrees. Current law sets the maximum number of credits for a bachelor’s degree at 120 credits or the equivalent and the number of credits required for an associate degree at 60 credits or the equivalent. The bill was laid over for possible inclusion in the omnibus bill.

SF 579, sponsored by Lynch, DFL-Rochester, also relates to the maximum credit issue. Lynch said the measure offers a different approach. The bill exempts an associate of applied science degree from the 60-credit limit. At the direction of the two-year student and faculty associations, this bill was amended to exempt the associate of applied science degree until July 2, 2012, from the 60-credit limit. The measure was approved and re-referred to the Rules and Administration Committee.

The third bill, SF 972, sponsored by Sen. Sharon Erickson Ropes, DFL-Winona, allows waivers to the policy setting semester credit requirements. Sen. Erickson Ropes said the measure allows the board to provide a process for granting waivers for emerging and innovative programs and programs of special merit or need. The bill was laid over for possible inclusion in the omnibus bill.

OLA releases report on occupational programs

The Office of the Legislative Auditor released its evaluation report of the system’s occupational programs this week. Jody Hauer, program evaluator, Office of the Legislative Auditor, said the state colleges respond well to economic conditions and workforce needs, but they also need to more routinely assess job prospects for their occupational program graduates. Hauer said colleges rely heavily on program advisory committees to identify employer needs, but not all committees work effectively. You may find a complete copy of the report here.

Recipients of the state grant program discussed in the House

The House Higher Education and Workforce Development Finance and Policy Division defeated a bill this week that would eliminate financial aid for students at private, for-profit colleges. HF 1414, sponsored by Rep. Karla Bigham, DFL-Cottage Grove, would have made students at schools such as Rasmussen College and Minnesota School of Business ineligible to receive money through the state grant program.

Grants to students at for-profit schools currently account for more than $20 million annually. Rep. Bigham said the bill would redirect the funds to students at public colleges and universities and also private nonprofit schools. Supporters of the bill argued the proposal would prioritize state dollars during a time of record deficits. Opponents said it would unfairly restrict the options for students to choose the education they think is best suited for them. The companion bill awaits a hearing in the Senate.

Federal Stimulus explained

A new resource guide to help understand the federal stimulus is available here. The guide provides an overview of all the various state programs and the different areas of the federal grants they are administrating. The document will be continually updated as more information becomes available. “Our goal is a transparent process allowing citizens to understand how and where these federal dollars are being used,” said the state of Minnesota’s federal stimulus coordinator, Commissioner of Minnesota Management and Budget Tom Hanson. “This guide will provide citizens the most up-to-date information on the federal funds and how to access them.” Funds are available to stabilize education funding and for workforce development. “The state is committed to maximizing the economic benefits of the federal stimulus package by quickly identifying and investing in quality projects that are ready to go,” Hanson said. “We want to get the money into the economy as quickly as possible in order to create jobs and revitalize the economy.”

You also can view a video of Commissioner Hanson presenting the federal stimulus to the Rochester Area Chamber of Commerce by clicking on the Minnesota Budget Video link.

The federal stimulus funding has left many people wondering what funding is available for which projects. Projects can be submitted with many federal agencies including the National Institute of Health, the National Endowment of the Arts the Environmental Protection Agency and many others. Academic Affairs in the Office of the Chancellor is working collaboratively with the Department of Employment and Economic Development, Minnesota Management and Budget and the University of Minnesota to promote access of funds within the state. A site tracking many of the grant deadlines and available funding for projects is available here.

User improvements made to Web site

Improvements have been made to the government relations Web site of the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities to better assist users. The site contains daily and weekly happenings at the state Legislature, links to Minnesota legislation publications, state and federal request material, and bill tracking. Feel free to check out the new site 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 web site.

Monday, March 23

10:00 AM
LCC Subcommittee on Employee Relations
Room: 107 State Capitol
Elect officers,
Approve Subcommittee rules,
Review/approve collective bargaining agreement with State University Faculty,
Other business as determined by the chair

11:00 AM
Senate in Session

Senate State Government Budget Division
Room: 112 Capitol
Chair: Sen. Betzold
SF 1298 (Gimse) Finance dept. and employees relations dept name change to Minnesota Management and Budget
SF 1016 (Murphy) Minnesota First bonds sale authorization
SF 713 (Robling) State employee suggestion system for cost-savings to the state aware program
SF 334 (Prettner Solon) State employee veterans with service-related disabilities additional sick leave provision.
SF 1192 (Betzold) Campaign finance and public disclosure board appropriation.

12:30 PM
Senate Business, Industry and Jobs
Room: 1233 Capitol
Chair: Sen. Metzen
SF 1513 (Torres Ray) Highway construction mitigation grant program establishment
SF 122 (Dibble) Cocoa bean shell mulch retail sellers warning sign posting requirement
SF 1232 (Anderson, E.) Green job zones businesses tax incentives and regulations
SF 1062 (Rosen) Green job opportunity building zones (green JOBZ) and tax incentives; small business investment company job growth investment tax credits; public utilities biomethane energy.
SF 1454 (Saltzman) Shared work plan establishment
SF 1143 (Murphy) Unemployment insurance benefits eligibility during voluntary leave

1:00 PM
House in Session

2:45 PM
House Agriculture, Rural Economies and Veterans Affairs
Room: 5 State Office Building
Chair: Rep. Mary Ellen Otremba
Agenda: HF1367 (Juhnke) Minnesota Noxious Weed Law provisions modified, assistance fund and advisory committee established, grants provided.
HF1886 (Juhnke) Feeding Minnesota Task Force established.
HF1447 (Otremba) Veterinarian education loan forgiveness program established, and money appropriated.
HF1579 (Otremba) Dog food fee incidence changed.

2:45 PM
House Energy Finance and Policy Division
Room: Basement State Office Building
Chair: Rep. Bill Hilty
Agenda: HF1852 (Knuth) Renewable energy payment incentive period extended, payments directed to other projects from projects whose eligibility to receive payments expires, and money appropriated.
HFXXXX (Johnson) Solar Cities initiative
HF1434 (Johnson) Mass transit zone for utility reinvestment and cost recovery created.
HF1425 (Sailer) Renewable energy standard technology options modified for certain public utilities.
HF1478 (Sailer) Distributed energy resources regulated.
HF1533 (Sailer) Energy; Cost recovery for utility's renewable facilities and high-efficiency utility rate options provided.
HF1605 (Kalin) Conservation investment's incentive rate plans regulated.
HF1623 (Kalin) Energy storage equipment and its installation in publicly owned buildings included in the definition of a qualifying solar electric project.

Tuesday, March 24

8:30 AM
Meeting Time Note: If necessary, the committee will recess and reconvene in 500 North at 6:30 P.M.
House K-12 Policy Committee
Room: Basement State Office Building
Chair: Rep. Carlos Mariani
Agenda: HF648 (Mariani) Cardiopulmonary resuscitation and automated external defibrillator instruction guidelines established.
HF1667 (Mariani) Instruction of students temporarily placed outside of their district provisions modified.
HF751 (Benson) School districts authorized to create site-governed schools, and money appropriated.
HF981 (Bly) Charter school provisions amended, New Schools Minnesota commission established, private nonprofit corporation authorized.

10:30 AM
House Bioscience and Workforce Development Policy and Oversight Division
Room: 200 State Office Building
Chair: Rep. Tim Mahoney
Agenda: HF908 (Urdahl) Shared work employer plans extended by one year.
HF1785 (Norton) Accountability measures and reports required as a condition for receiving state funds.

12:00 PM
Senate in Session

12:30 PM
House in Session

2:45 PM
House K-12 Finance Division
Room: 10 State Office Building
Chair: Rep. Mindy Greiling
HF116 (Ward) Type III school bus driver qualifications modified.
HF466 (Carlson) State Board of Education established.
HF106 (Swails) P-20 education partnership established.

4:30 PM
House Early Childhood Finance and Policy Division
Room: 200 State Office Building
Chair: Rep. Nora Slawik
Agenda: HF1188 (Winkler) E-16 reforms pursued to improve and expand opportunities for all students to attain educational success, and E-16 advisory subcommittees established (information only)
Presentation by the Department of Human Services on the Governor's supplemental budget recommendations
Presentation by Karen Effrem, Policy Analyst and Board Member, EdWatch

Wednesday, March 25

12:00 PM
Senate in Session

12:30 PM
Senate State Government Budget Division
Room 112 Capitol
Chair: Sen. Don Betzold
S.F. 182-Pogemiller: Legislative and congressional districting principles establishment and redistricting commission creation.
S.F. 1354-Rest: State Capitol building bond issue and appropriation.
S.F. 1395-Betzold: State government finance and appropriations; technology lease-purchase, state appropriation bonds, statewide electronic licensing system; cooperative purchasing; environmental quality board transfer to pollution control agency.

12:30 PM
House in Session

2:45 PM
House Energy Finance and Policy Division
Room: Basement State Office Building
Chair: Rep. Bill Hilty
Agenda: HF680 (Kalin) Federal stimulus funding allocated for energy programs

3:00 PM
Senate State and Local Government Operations and Oversight
Room: 123 Capitol
Chair: Sen. Ann H. Rest
S.F. 2-Cohen: State budget recommendations development requirement and requirements modification.
S.F. 1004-Scheid: Construction codes and licensing provisions modifications; high pressure piping profession provisions addition; boiler licenses rules adoption authority extension.
S.F. 260-Bonoff: State primary election date change; state partisan primary ballots endorsed candidates provisions modification.
S.F. 1036-Metzen: State labor contracts ratification.
S.F. 562-Moua: Criminal history evidence in actions against private employers limitations; racing commission occupational licenses issuance authority expansion.
S.F. 446-Rest: Agreement Among the States to Elect the President by National Popular Vote adoption.
S.F. 1600-Rest: Technology accessibility standards establishment for government operations; advisory committee for technology standards for accessibility and usability; appropriation.

Thursday, March 26

8:30 AM
Senate E-12 Education Budget and Policy Division
Room: 112 Capitol
Chair: Sen. LeRoy A. Stumpf
S.F. 1649-Clark: Educational quality rating and improvement system; prekindergarten exploratory projects and appropriations.

Friday, March 27

12:15 PM
House Ways and Means
Room: 200 State Office Building
Chair: Rep. Loren Solberg
Agenda: Budget resolution