Friday, April 30, 2010

Budget discussions prevalent; Transfer bill before governor; K-12 bill moving

Legislative Update
April 30, 2010

Lawmakers focus on finalizing budget with two weeks left to adjournment

It was another short week at the Capitol as the Republicans take their turn endorsing a candidate for governor and other offices. Starting midday today, balloting for the Republican gubernatorial endorsement began. Both candidates, State Representative Tom Emmer, R-Delano, and State Representative Mary Seifert, R-Marshall, have said they will abide by the endorsement, which means the candidate who does not receive the endorsement today will not run in the Aug. 10 primary. As a reminder, DFL delegates endorsed Speaker of the House Margaret Anderson Kelliher, DFL-Minneapolis, for governor at the DFL state party convention last week. Starting Monday, the focus at the Capitol will be on resolving the remaining budget deficit of $536 million with only two weeks left until adjournment May 17. Capitol watchers know that two weeks is plenty of time to wrap things up.

However, there is a slight hiccup in the plan. Legislators serving on the Legislative Commission on Planning and Fiscal Policy’s Subcommittee on a Balanced Budget heard from Minnesota Management and Budget Commissioner Tom Hanson this week that the $408 million federal funds lawmakers and the governor are counting on to help resolve much of the remaining budget deficit is unlikely to be appropriated before the Legislature adjourns. Hanson said the governor's office learned this week from the National Governors Association that it could be several weeks before Congress passes the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. Hanson also said while it is possible the legislation may be acted on prior to Congress recessing May 29, lawmakers should consider developing a backup plan. He suggested that lawmakers deal with $128 million of the deficit first assuming the state will eventually receive the $408 million in federal funding, and then develop a back-up plan in case that money does not come through.

One of the remaining bills still left to pass is the health and human services bill which has worked its way through the committee process in the House and has passed the House Finance committee. The House bill makes $164 million in reductions. Members are expected to vote on the bill early next week. The companion bill in the Senate reduces general fund spending by $114 million for the current biennium and over $130 million for the next two year budget cycle. The other major bill still remaining is the K-12 education bill, which is also working its way through the committee process.

Transfer bill awaits action by the governor

The House and Senate approved the credit transfer conference committee report this week, and it is now pending action by the governor. The House passed the bill, HF 3164, by a vote of 110-20, and the Senate passed the bill 55-0. The bill will require the system to develop and maintain a systemwide effective and efficient mechanism for seamless student transfer between system institutions that has a goal of minimal loss of credits for transferring students. The legislation requires the system to submit annual reports to the Legislature on progress made toward achieving that goal. The language also requires each system college and university to post information necessary to determine the transferability of course credits on their institutional Web sites. The Office of the Chancellor must develop, in consultation with faculty and students, a template to be used by the colleges and universities to ensure consistency in the information available to students. Here is a link to the language.

House K-12 education bill moves through committee

The House K-12 Education Finance committee passed the omnibus K-12 education bill out of committee this week after multiple amendments to the bill. HF 2431 now heads to the Finance committee where it is scheduled to be heard Monday morning. You may review the bill here.

Included in the bill is a provision regarding an early graduation achievement scholarship program. Under the provision, a student is eligible for a scholarship of $2,500 if he or she qualifies for graduation one semester early, $5,000 if the student qualifies for graduation two semesters early, or $7,500 if the student qualifies for graduation three or more semesters early. A scholarship may be used at any accredited institution of higher education. Also included in the bill is a provision on textbooks for PSEO students that reads a postsecondary institution may bill the pupil for any textbooks and equipment that are not promptly returned by the student.

Language in the bill relating to the Board of Teaching includes several provisions regarding teacher and principal performance assessments. The Board of Teaching is required to adopt rules to establish a statewide teacher performance assessment system aligned with K-12 academic standards. The Board of Teaching is also to enter into an agreement with the Department of Education to share educational data solely for approving and improving teacher education programs.

Also included in the bill is language regarding approaches to alternative teacher licensure pathways. An alternative teacher preparation program, taken from HF 3093, sponsored by Rep. Carlos Mariani, DFL-St. Paul, would allow candidates, such as Teach for America members, a limited two-year license if they have at least a bachelor’s degree, pass basic skills tests and complete at least 200 hours of instruction. A candidate could later apply for a continuing license. An amendment to the bill by Rep. Will Morgan, DFL-Burnsville, would define much more narrowly the conditions under which candidates for alternative licensure could be placed.

The Senate E-12 Education Budget and Policy Division has been working on its bill and is expected to take up its policy bill Tuesday.

Higher education veteran assistance programs may be able to continue on campuses with the passage of amendment

The full House of Representatives passed the omnibus agriculture and veterans affairs policy bill this week by a vote of 127-3. Prior to passage, multiple amendments passed the body, including an amendment by Rep. Dan Severson, R-Sauk Rapids, to extend the higher education veteran assistance programs on campus. Current legislation has the programs expiring June 30, 2011, but the amendment extends the sunset date to June 30, 2015. Rep. Severson said that the bill author, Rep. Al Juhnke, DFL-Willmar, had concerns with the amendment because of a potential cost. But Severson said that because of the effectiveness of the federal GI bill and funds not being accessed, there is money available. Juhnke said he would be happy to take it to conference committee and "try it on for size." The amendment was adopted and incorporated into the bill.

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 legislative web site.

Monday, May 3

9:00 AM
House Taxes
Room: 10 State Office Building
Chair: Rep. Ann Lenczewski
Agenda: HF3729 (Lenczewski) Omnibus tax bill (A delete-all amendment will be offered to this bill. Language will be available online April 30).

10:00 AM
House Finance
Room: 200 State Office Building
Chair: Rep. Lyndon Carlson
Agenda: HF2431 (Greiling) Omnibus K-12 education bill
SF1761 (Fritz) Health plans required to establish equal out-of-pocket requirements for oral and intravenously administered chemotherapy medications.

10:00 AM
House Ways and Means
Room: Basement State Office Building
Chair: Rep. Loren Solberg
Budget Resolution;
HF2614 (Huntley) Intensive care management program established for medical assistance enrollees, funding reduced for the medical assistance program, request for proposals required, report required, and money appropriated;
HF3281 (Murphy) Omnibus retirement bill;
HF3660 (Koenen) Department of corrections; settlement provided for certain claims against the state for injuries suffered, and money appropriated;
HF3571 (Koenen) Publicly owned nursing facilities rate increase authorized, and local share required for nonfederal medical assistance costs;
HF3702 (Wagenius) Omnibus environment and natural resources finance bill;
SF2505 (Slawik) Statewide child care provider training, coaching, consultation, and supports funding provided to prepare for the voluntary Minnesota quality rating system, and money appropriated.

2:00 PM
Senate in Session

3:00 PM
House in Session

Tuesday, May 4

8:30 AM
House K-12 Education Policy
Room: 10 State Office Building
Chair: Rep. Carlos Mariani
Agenda: Federal School Improvement Grants and Minnesota's list of "Persistently Lowest-Achieving Schools"

8:30 AM
Senate E-12 Education Budget and Policy Division
Room: 112 Capitol
Chair: Sen. LeRoy A. Stumpf
Agenda: S.F. 3189-Stumpf: High school students statewide testing open-ended items inclusion.

8:30 AM
House Capital Investment Finance Division
Room: Basement State Office Building
Chair: Rep. Alice Hausman
Agenda: HF3678 (Clark) Challenge program for affordable housing and permanent supportive housing purposes funding provided, and bonds issued.
HF3725 (Marquart) Mortgage registry tax and deed tax proceed portion appropriated to the Minnesota Housing Finance Agency to be used for creation of affordable housing units.
Second Order Amending Order of Commissioner of Finance
Relating to Use and Sale of State Bond Financed Property, MMB
Meeting Documents here.

3:00 PM (or after the Tuesday floor session whichever is later)
House Taxes
Room: 10 State Office Building
Chair: Rep. Ann Lenczewski
HF2431 (Greiling) Omnibus K-12 education bill

Tuesday, May 11

12:30 PM
Senate Higher Education Budget and Policy Division
Room: 123 Capitol
Chair: Sen. Sandra L. Pappas
University District Alliance report
HEFA confirmations