Thursday, December 23, 2010

Congressional session ends; Dayton appoints cabinet; MN keeps 8 congressional seats; State Legislature meets Jan. 4

Lame duck session not so lame as 111th Congress comes to an end

Congress was on a fast-track this week completing its work before adjourning for the year. Congressional members were productive as they acted on a wide variety of legislation, including several items of importance to higher education.

You may recall that the House passed the DREAM Act legislation earlier this month and the Senate tabled consideration of the bill. The Senate took up the bill this past Saturday, however the legislation failed to get the 60 votes needed to end a filibuster, so the DREAM Act bill is dead for now. The vote was 55-41.

We last reported that the House had passed a full year funding resolution that freezes fiscal year 2011 discretionary appropriations at the fiscal year 2010 level; and within that ceiling, adjusts funding between programs. The Senate had yet to take action on fiscal year 2011 appropriations with the hope of potentially wrapping all 12 appropriation bills into one large omnibus bill.

The Senate did not have enough votes to pass a measure to provide funds through the entire fiscal year. So this week Congress passed a continuing funding resolution that will provide funds until March 4, 2011 at the fiscal year 2010 funding levels for most government programs. This will require the new Congress come January, to determine the funding levels for the remainder of fiscal year 2011.

For higher education, the continuing resolution funds the Pell Grant program for the entire year and covers the fiscal year 2010 shortfall. This funding level will ensure that the maximum Pell Grant award remains at $5,550 for academic year 2011-2012.

The 112th Congress will convene on January 5, 2011.

Governor-elect Dayton begins announcing his cabinet appointments

Governor-elect Mark Dayton has begun to build his administration, but many more announcements have yet to be made. Most recently Ken Peterson was appointed the Commissioner of Labor and Industry. Peterson was Minnesota's labor and industry commissioner during Gov. Rudy Perpich's administration. Heading up the Department of Agriculture will be former state Senator David Frederickson, and Dayton announced he will retain the current Department of Transportation Commissioner Tom Sorel.

Also part of Dayton's senior staff will be longtime Senate Counsel Peter Wattson. Wattson will be Dayton's General Counsel. Tina Flint Smith will be Dayton's Chief of Staff. Smith was most recently the Chief of Staff to Mayor RT Rybak and ran Rybak's bid for governor.

Dayton's campaign manager and long-time employee, Dana Anderson, will be the Deputy Chief of Staff, and Dayton's campaign communications director, Katie Tinucci, will be the Press Secretary for the new Administration.

The Deputy Chief of Staff for Legislative Affairs will be Michele Kelm-Helgen. Kelm-Helgen was most recently serving as the Chief of Staff for the Minnesota State Senate. Andrea Mokros, will become the Deputy Chief of Staff for Communications and Outreach. Mokros is currently Principal of Mokros Strategies, LLC, and served as Deputy Chief of Staff to U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar.

A new director for the Minnesota Office of Higher Education, or MOHE, has not yet been announced. David Metzen, the current director of MOHE in the Pawlenty administration, is leaving to become provost for Globe University based in Woodbury.

Governor-elect Dayton will continue to fill out his administration as he prepares to take office January 3, 2011.

Minnesota retains 8 congressional seats

There has been an on-going concern that Minnesota might lose a congressional seat due to the slow population growth compared to other states. Earlier this week, the U.S. Census Bureau announced the 2012 reapportionment results from the 2010 census. While the race to keep our 8th seat was tight, Minnesota did prevail. The U.S. Census Bureau releases information every ten years that prompts states reapportion the number of congressional seats in the U.S. House of Representatives.

With redistricting coming up, a loss of a congressional seat would surely have been a political fight. The new Republican majorities in both the House and Senate have created redistricting committees. Rep. Sarah Anderson, R-Plymouth will lead the redistricting effort in the House, and Sen. Geoff Michel, R-Edina, will be the lead in the Senate.

Legislators prepare for January 4

New Republican leadership has been preparing for the 2011 legislative session. Electing leadership positions, creating a new committee structure, assigning committee chairs and appointing members to each committee, are among the many responsibilities leadership has been handling. We recently shared with you the newly announced committee rosters. I am re-attaching them here.

The House Higher Education Policy and Finance committee is scheduled to meet Tuesdays and Thursdays 12:30-2:15 p.m. In the Senate, the Higher Education committee will meet Mondays and Wednesdays 3:00-4:30 p.m. If you are interested in seeing the complete House committee schedule, you may find it here.

You may check the government relations Web site throughout the upcoming session for further information and resources.