Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Legislative break begins!

Lawmakers have headed home to their districts for a brief spring break today through Monday, April 13. Therefore, you will not be receiving another daily update until Tuesday, April 14. If you have any questions or concerns, please feel free to contact any of us in government relations. Enjoy the Passover and Easter holiday.

Yesterday at the Capitol

Senate Higher Education omnibus bill released
The Senate Higher Education Budget and Policy Division released the committee's omnibus bill. The committee did not take any action on the bill. The committee's plan is to pass it out of committee next Tuesday, April 14, where it will then head to the Senate Finance committee on Thursday, April 16. The House Higher Education committee is expected to release their bill April 14. Once the House bill has been released, we will prepare a side-by-side for you to compare the two bills.

The bill cuts the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system $103.8 million in base funding over the 2010-11 biennium. The bill then allocates federal stabilization funds (one-time) of $75.6 million.

In financial aid, language in the bill specifies that the tuition and fee maximum for four-year programs is $11,038 in each year (an increase of $1,200), and the tuition and fee maximum for the two-year programs is $6,908 each year (an increase of $1,100). The LME, or living and miscellaneous expense, is set at $6,447 each year (an increase of $247 a year). The bill also reduces the assigned family responsibility for dependent students from 96 to 93 percent of the parental contribution. For independent students with dependents, it is reduced to 83 percent from 86 percent. And for independent students without dependents, the assigned family responsibility is reduced to 65 percent of the student contribution from 68 percent.

Highlights in the bill include:

• The following programs must be reviewed by the Board of Trustees to determine whether the programs are critical to advancing the educational mission and priorities of the system: farm and small business programs; centers of excellence; competitive salaries; community energy pilots; economic development e-folio and Northeast Higher Education District vocational education. If the Board determines any not essential, they may discontinue the programs and reallocate the funding.

• Federal stimulus appropriation must first be allocated to mitigate the need to raise tuition and fees for Minnesota resident students. The Board must consult with the chairs of the higher education committees and then submit a plan to the commissioner of MMB and the higher ed chairs by June 1, 2009. The commissioner has to approve the plan by mid-June.

• Repeals the 60-120 credit cap program language from the 2007 legislative session.

• The Board is encouraged to improve the human resources system to provide seamless information on faculty and employees to facilitate transfers between institutions.

• Removes the mandate that institutions cannot advertise or otherwise recruit or solicit the participation of secondary pupils to enroll in PSEO programs on financial grounds.

• Includes language related to relationships with PK-12, including establishing a P-20 Education Partnership, teacher education reform, postsecondary education planning and other college readiness efforts.

• Directs the system to maintain course equivalency guides that include information on the course equivalency and awarding of credit for learning acquired as a result of the successful completion of formal military courses and occupational training. (The Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system currently already does this).

• Must provide notice regarding the possible impact of criminal records to prospective students about the chances of employment in the field of study and chances to obtain financial aid.

• Encourages higher education systems and institutions to offer a research-based high school-to-college development transition program (bridge program for the summer after high school graduation) to prepare students for college-level academic coursework and provides for onetime grant to help pay expenses.

• Amends Board of Trustees membership language so that a commissioner of a state agency may not serve as a member of the Board of Trustees (includes language that allows for a commissioner currently serving on the Board to continue serving for remainder of term).

• Amends the Power of You program language to be permissive rather than required at Metropolitan State University, Minneapolis Community and Technical College and Saint Paul College.

• Amends the Centers of Excellence language to be permissive rather than required, and requires an annual report rather than odd-numbered year report.

• Includes Article on the Oral Health Care Practitioners program.

Bonding conferees announced
The conferees for the capital investment bill have been appointed. A conference committee could be called anytime after the legislative spring break, continue to watch your e-mail. In the House, the five conferees are:

Rep. Alice Hausman, DFL-St. Paul
Rep. Bev Scalze, DFL-Little Canada
Rep. Tom Rukavina, DFL-Virginia
Rep. Jean Wagenius, DFL-Minneapolis
Rep. Larry Howes, R-Walker

The Senate conferees are:

Sen. Keith Langseth, DFL-Glyndon
Sen. David Tomassoni, DFL-Chisholm
Sen. Ann Lynch, DFL-Rochester
Sen. Katie Sieben, DFL-Newport
Sen. Dick Day, R-Owatonna

Senate passes E-12 Education omnibus bill
The Senate passed the E-12 Education omnibus bill as amended on the Senate floor by a vote of 37-29. Sen. LeRoy Stumpf, DFL-Plummer, chief author of SF 1328, presented the bill and told Senators on the floor, "All of us have a desire that the 1.3 million learners in the state succeed and we want to thank the teachers, administrators, school boards and taxpayers of the state."

Sen. Stumpf said the bill has provisions that change the delivery of education, yet provides fewer resources. He said the bill does reduce the budget and that there were limited resources for new programs. Stumpf said the measure appropriates $13.441 billion for the biennium, which is a 3.3 percent reduction. The general fund appropriation is $6.351 billion for FY 2010 and $6.570 billion for FY 2011. The bill also includes $519 million in federal stimulus one-time funds. The bill does contain a reduction of about seven percent in the 2012-2013 biennium. Stumpf said the Senate has chosen to make cuts throughout the state budget, including education.

Included in the bill are provisions that provide for education excellence through assessments of performance, requires comprehensive, scientifically-based reading instruction and provides for an alternative teacher preparation program. The bill also includes language on charter schools and sets forth requirements for sponsorship, provides for better financial oversight and requires charter school board members to attend department approved training.

Sen. Chuck Wiger, DFL-Maplewood, said the bill aligns the reading, math and science testing requirements to the standards for high school coursework, defines the state graduation test requirements for students and allows a four year alternative method by which a student can earn a state notation, if the student does not pass the mathematics GRAD test.

The latest engrossment of the bill can be found here.

The House K-12 Education omnibus bill will be making its way through committee next week when lawmakers return from spring break.

Today at the Capitol
No meetings scheduled - Legislature on Spring Break