Thursday, January 13, 2011

Session priority- budget; Committee details shared; Governor sworn into office, names administration; Top ten federal issues

2011 legislative session gets underway with $6.2 billion budget deficit looming

The 87th legislative session got underway Tuesday with mostly ceremonial floor sessions. 36 new members were sworn-in in the House; 33 new Republicans and 3 new Democrats. Republicans now hold the majority with a 72-62 split. In the Senate, 24 new members were sworn into office; 21 new Republican members and 3 new DFL members. For the first time in 38 years, the Republicans now hold the majority in the Senate by a split of 37-30. The election brought along with it many changes, including office locations. A condensed 2011-2012 legislative roster with offices and telephone numbers can be found at:

In the House, Rep. Kurt Zellers, R-Maple Grove, was elected Speaker of the House on a partisan vote of 72-61. In his acceptance speech, Zellers said to his fellow House members, "Our job now is to govern." Zellers also called on business people, teachers and others to bring their ideas and solutions to the Capitol to help balance the budget. He said the old way of doing things are no longer going to work. "We have a daunting task ahead of us," Zellers said, and asked his fellow legislators to start working on the issues they agree on first. The new House Minority Leader is Paul Thissen, DFL-Minneapolis.

The Senate elected Sen. Michelle Fischbach, R-Paynesville, as the first woman President of the Senate by a vote of 62-5. Senators adopted Senate Resolution 1, which names a majority leader and minority leader; Sen. Amy Koch, R-Buffalo, will serve as Majority Leader and Sen. Tom Bakk, DFL-Cook, will serve as Minority Leader. The Senate also elected Cal Ludeman as Secretary of the Senate.

Majority Leader Koch addressed the body, thanking many for assistance with the transition to leadership. She said the most important lesson Republicans learned over the last 38 years is how to treat members of the minority party. Over the course of the session, Koch said there will be differences between Republicans and Democrats, but there will also be agreements, and asked her colleagues to be prepared for long days and hard work ahead of them.

Legislators are faced with resolving the $6.2 billion state budget deficit this session. Koch said, "We are committed to spending within our means. We are not interested in raising taxes," and House Majority Leader Matt Dean, R-Dellwood, said lawmakers will overhaul state agency budgets, and will ask state agencies to justify their budgets by looking at what they are currently doing.

Republican leadership spoke to the media today and Deputy Majority Leader Sen. Geoff Michel, R-Edina, indicated they will announce a jobs bill Monday morning as they begin setting top priorities, including how to help job creators and position Minnesota to come out of the recession. Majority Leader Koch said the Senate intends to change the rules on the Senate floor Monday to provide for a ten percent reduction in per diem for members, as well as implement a ban on out-of-state travel reimbursement. Zellers said instead of focusing on whether or not to raise taxes, they will turn the conversation to how to spend the available $32 billion and fund priorities within their means.

Legislators must complete their work this session by the constitutional adjournment date of Monday, May 23. With a divided government once again (Republican Legislature and DFL Governor), lawmakers will likely need all five months to balance the budget.

New leadership appoints committees

With new legislative leadership at the helm, the committee structure has been changed for the 2011-2012 biennium. House and Senate leaders have said they want to make the legislative process more user-friendly, while remaining fair and transparent. The House has reduced the number of committees, divisions and subdivisions from 36 last year to 24, and the Senate has decreased committees from 25 to 16. "We have reformed government starting with ourselves," Speaker Kurt Zellers, R-Maple Grove, said. "We think we can be a little more efficient and effective in the way we run government." Legislative leaders said they also wanted to line up committees better so that conference committees, assigned to work through the differences in the bills between the House and Senate, will compare bills that address the same issues.

Information on all the House committees can be located at Senate committee information is at

Committee assignments for the House and Senate higher education committees are as follows:
House Higher Education Policy and Finance
Tuesdays and Thursdays, 12:30-2:15 p.m.
Room: Basement Hearing Room

Rep. Bud Nornes, R-Fergus Falls, Chair
Rep. Bob Dettmer, R-Forest Lake, Vice Chair
Rep. Tom Rukavina, DFL-Virginia, DFL Lead
Rep. King Banaian, R-St. Cloud
Rep. Mike Benson, R-Rochester
Rep. Kurt Daudt, R-Crown
Rep. Connie Doepke, R-Orono
Rep. David Hancock, R-Bemidji
Rep. Pat Mazorol, R-Bloomington
Rep. Bruce Vogel, R-Willmar
Rep. Joe Atkins, DFL-Inver Grove Heights
Rep. Terry Morrow, DFL-St. Peter
Rep. Kim Norton, DFL-Rochester
Rep. Gene Pelowski, DFL-Winona
Rep. Jeanne Poppe, DFL-Austin

Senate Higher Education Policy and Finance
Mondays and Wednesdays, 3:00-4:30 p.m.
Room: 107 Capitol

Sen. Michelle Fischbach, R-Paynesville, Chair
Sen. Jeremy Miller, R-Winona, Vice Chair
Sen. Sandy Pappas, DFL-St. Paul, DFL Lead
Sen. David Brown, R-Becker
Sen. John Carlson, R-Bemidji
Sen. Joe Gimse, R-Willmar
Sen. John Pederson, R-St. Cloud
Sen. Clair Robling, R-Jordan
Sen. David Senjem, R-Rochester
Sen. Ron Latz, DFL-St. Louis Park
Sen. Tom Saxhaug, DFL-Grand Rapids
Sen. Kathy Sheran, DFL-Mankato
Sen. Rod Skoe, DFL-Clearbrook
Sen. David Tomassoni, DFL-Chisholm

Governor Dayton takes oath of office

Gov. Mark Dayton, along with the other constitutional officers, was sworn into office this week, becoming Minnesota’s 40th governor. On Monday, Dayton said he plans to focus on three things; jobs, balancing the budget and improving public services. Dayton plans to focus on bringing more jobs to Minnesota to get Minnesotans working again. He attributed, among other things, the state’s colleges and universities as an advantage to putting Minnesota back to work.

Dayton also recognized the budget situation as an urgent priority and said, "Some people think eliminating a $6.2 billion deficit, almost 20 percent of expected revenues, will be simple and easy. I don't." He continued to say, "My proposed budget solution will be reasonable, balanced, and painful - because I see no easy alternative." He asked those who believe the state budget can be balanced without a tax increase, including no property tax increase, without destroying Minnesota’s schools, hospitals, and public safety, to send him the bill so he can sign it immediately.

Dayton’s third focus will be on improving services provided to citizens, starting with education innovation. Dayton said, "Better education for everyone is essential to getting Minnesota working again, and to keep Minnesotans working in the future. To give everyone the skills necessary to succeed in an ever more competitive global economy. Doing so must be everyone's shared responsibility."

The full text of Gov. Dayton’s speech can be found at

Dayton continues to shape his administration

Gov. Dayton continued building his administration this week making appointments in addition to those already named to cabinet-level positions. Earlier, Dayton appointed Ken Peterson as Commissioner of Labor and Industry, former senator David Frederickson as Commissioner of Agriculture, and Tom Sorel in Transportation. More recent appointments include Jim Schowalter as the Minnesota Management and Budget, or MMB, commissioner. Schowalter was most recently MMB deputy commissioner and coordinated the agency's financial, debt management, human resources and labor activities.

Dr. Brenda Cassellius was named Education Commissioner. Cassellius is most recently an Associate Superintendent in Minneapolis Public Schools, where she leads 19 middle and high schools. On Wednesday, Cassellius appointed her staff, including Jessie Montaño as Deputy Commissioner. Montaño has 35 years of service to the Department of Education serving as Acting Commissioner of Education and Assistant Commissioner.

Commissioner Cassellius appointed Charlene Briner Communications Director, who has ten years experience in communications, media and public affairs. Brian Shekleton was appointed Government Relations Director, and Karen Klinzing was appointed temporarily as Acting Assistant Commissioner. Klinzing has served for the past four years as Assistant Commissioner and for six months as the Deputy Commissioner.

Dr. Edward Ehlinger, with the University of Minnesota Boynton Health Services, was appointed the Commissioner of the Department of Health. "Dr. Ehlinger's long experience in public health and in leading a key Minnesota health facility will position him well to lead the Minnesota Department of Health and to restore our state's former preeminence in national health care initiatives," Dayton said.

Mike Rothman was named Commerce Commissioner and Myron Frans was named Commissioner for the Department of Revenue. Rothman was most recently an attorney with the firm of Winthrop & Weinstine, P.A., and Frans was most recently a tax attorney at the law firm of Faegre & Benson LLP.

Newly appointed Commissioner Frans will not join the Dayton Administration on a full-time basis immediately. Dayton said, "I respect his need, as the CEO of a successful and growing business, to conclude those responsibilities properly. In the meantime, he will advise me on a voluntary part-time basis, and the Revenue Department will be very capably managed by former Commissioner and now Deputy Commissioner, Dan Salamone."

Most recently, Dayton chose Nature Conservancy assistant state director Tom Landwehr to lead the Department of Natural Resources, or DNR. Before working for the Nature Conservancy’s Minnesota Chapter, Landwehr spent 17 years at the DNR as a scientist and wildlife manager.
The director for the Minnesota Office of Higher Education has not yet been appointed.

Important dates for the 2011 Session

January 3, 2011 New Governor Takes Oath of Office

January 4, 2011 2011 Legislative Session Convenes

January 2011 Governor’s State of the State Address

February 15, 2011 Deadline for Governor’s Budget Recommendations

Late February 2011 February Economic Forecast Released

May 23, 2011 Last Day of Session

New face for the 112th Congress

The 112th Congress convened Wednesday with Republicans taking control of the House and electing Rep. John Boehner, R-Ohio, Speaker by a vote of 241-173. Boehner said he will run the House in a more inclusive and businesslike way. The new Republican majority got down to business and changed House rules that would require spending increases to be directly offset with cuts elsewhere. This change will help Republicans, who are joined by 87 new members, repeal the health care legislation and cut federal spending, a promise made on the campaign trail.

The Senate also convened Wednesday and still maintain a Democrat majority by a split of 53-47, a reduction of 6 seats.

A change for Minnesota is the new Congressman from the eighth district, Chip Cravaack. Congressman Cravaack was officially sworn-in on the House floor this week and said of his first day as a congressman, "It was informative, it was hectic and it was wonderful. I'm very proud to be here and very humbled to be here."

Issues most likely to affect public higher education across the country

The American Association of State Colleges and Universities, or AASCU, has prepared a list of what they believe to be the top 10 issues most likely to affect public higher education across the nation this year. They based it on an environmental scan of the economic, political and policy landscape surrounding public higher education, as well as a review of recent state policy activities and trends. The complete document can be found at Below we take a look at the 10 issues and see how they compare to what’s happening in Minnesota.

1. State Operating Support for Public Higher Education

AASCU reports, "States’ financial support for higher education has been pared back considerably during the past two years. Combined with strong growth in student enrollments, this has resulted in a sharp decline in states’ per-student spending." This is a top issue for higher education in Minnesota as higher education competes to be a funding priority for lawmakers while facing a $6.2 billion budget deficit. This is coupled with a divided government; a Legislature who has said they want to cut spending and a governor who would like to raise revenue.

2. State’s College Completion and Educational Attainment Agendas

Leading this movement for a greater rate of college completion is President Barack Obama, who has called for the United States to regain its former first place status of having the highest proportion of young adults with some type of post-secondary education. The Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system continues to support efforts related to this national goal as demonstrated by the Board of Trustees strategic direction 1: Increase access, opportunity and success. Initiatives such as Students First and established goals for improved persistence and completion rate of underrepresented students, and online education offerings, all support this effort.

3. College Readiness

AASCU reports that the lack of alignment between high school and college expectations contributes to high postsecondary remediation rates and hinders college completion. The Board of Trustees is currently studying the pros and cons of moving responsibility for remedial education from the universities to the colleges, and will make a decision on implementation by June 21, 2011. A study session was held in December 2010 to review schools of thought and best practices in remedial education, related demographic information and the achievement gap, and current best practices within the system.

4. Tuition Prices and Policy

AASCU reports that tuition prices and tuition policy will continue to be a major focus for state lawmakers in 2011, and this holds true as well for Minnesota lawmakers. With record enrollment, a large budget deficit, and varying legislative opinions on raising taxes; legislators, colleges and universities, and students and families, are faced with difficult choices. The trend of shifting responsibility for higher education funding from the state to students and families is evident across the nation.

5. State Student Aid Program Financing

With ever-tightening state budgets, there is concern across the country of decreasing state financial aid budgets, coupled with an increase in demand for financial aid. This is also true in Minnesota. Students in Minnesota experienced for the first time last year, a $42 million state grant shortfall, which resulted in reduced grants or students losing their grant altogether. With more students seeking a postsecondary education, there is a larger demand for the state grant program.

6. Student Enrollment Capacity

AASCU reports, "States throughout the nation have announced record student enrollments for the current academic year," and this is no different for Minnesota. States, including Minnesota, are experiencing enrollment increases with declining state appropriation. Many colleges in the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system are experiences record enrollment increases and space has become an issue.

7. State Data System Development

AASCU reports that 23 states link, share and/or exchange data with their K-12 state education agency, and 26 do so with a labor/workforce agency in their state. However, their ability to address major policy issues varies widely. This continues to be an issue for Minnesota as the state works to improve longitudinal data reporting capacity under current data practices law.

8. Economic and Workforce Development

AASCU reports, "State lawmakers are calling for public colleges and universities in particular to be more responsive to regional workforce needs." Jobs and growing Minnesota continues to be a top issue for the governor, House and Senate. The Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system continues to be responsive to the job-training needs in Minnesota.

9. States’ Political Climate

AASCU reports, "Unlike other policy areas, higher education has generally been at the periphery of state-level partisan battles, leaving it somewhat protected from state politicians’ ideologically-driven agendas." They continue to say, "While those general philosophies will remain intact, there may be some impact on higher education due to a fiscally conservative movement that thrust many new politicians into state legislatures and governorships-some with little, if any, higher education policy-making experience." While the House and Senate higher education committees in Minnesota include many freshmen, it is too soon to predict their impact on higher education policy.

10. States’ Regulatory Framework

AASCU claims that due to the lack of funding for higher education this biennium, lawmakers are looking at other ways to help public colleges and universities contribute to broader state education and economic development goals, including regulatory reform. Cutting "state-imposed bureaucratic red tape" that may hinder the ability to fully maximize higher education’s public purpose missions is a legislative interest in many states. Mandate reductions for the system were worked through immediately after the higher education system merger and reduced and eliminated many barriers. The system continuously reviews policy and procedures for existing barriers.

Stay informed

Legislative news, both state and federal, can be found at the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities government relations Web site, blog, Facebook page and Twitter page. They can be located at the below sites:

Government Relations Web site:

Government Relations Blog:

Government Relations Facebook:

Government Relations Twitter:

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, January 10

8:00 AM
Regent Candidate Advisory Council
Room: 400N State Office Building
Chair: Jane Belau
Agenda: Candidate Interviews

9:00 AM
Senate Rules and Administration
Room: 112 Capitol
Chair: Sen. Amy Koch
Agenda: TBA

11:00 AM
Senate in Session

12:30 PM
House Veterans Services Division
Room: Basement State Office Building
Chair: Rep. Bruce Anderson
Agenda: Introductions of committee and staff
Jim Cleary, House Research, committee overview
Military affairs presentation, Brigadier General Joe Kelly, the assistant adjutant general of
the Minnesota National Guard and the deputy commissioner for the Department of Military Affairs

1:00 PM
Senate State Government Innovation and Veterans
Room: 123 Capitol
Chair: Sen. Mike Parry
Agenda: Minnesota Management and Budget Overview

3:00 PM
Senate Higher Education Committee
Room: 107 Capitol
Chair: Sen. Michelle Fischbach
Agenda: Minnesota Office of Higher Education overview

3:00 PM
House in Session

4:30 PM or Immediately following Session
House Rules and Legislative Administration
Room: Basement State Office Building
Chair: Rep. Matt Dean
Agenda: Welcome & introductions
HR policies, staff, miscellaneous personnel reports
House policies and resolutions

Tuesday, January 11

8:00 AM
Regent Candidate Advisory Council
Room: 400N State Office Building
Chair: Jane Belau
Agenda: Candidate Interviews

8:15 AM
House State Government Finance
Room: 200 State Office Building
Chair: Rep. Morrie Lanning
Agenda: Member and staff introductions
Helen Roberts, Fiscal Analyst: overview of the jurisdiction of the State Government Finance committee
Mark Shepard, House Research: overview of mandated reports within jurisdiction of committee

10:15 AM
House Taxes Committee
Room: 200 State Office Building
Chair: Rep. Greg Davids
Agenda: Introductions
Committee priorities
Background on Minnesota tax system

10:30 AM
Senate Committee on Jobs and Economic Growth
Room: 107 Capitol
Chair: Sen. Geoff Michel
Agenda: TBA

12:30 PM
House Higher Education Policy and Finance
Room: Basement Hearing Room - State Office Building
Chair: Rep. Bud Nornes
Agenda: Introductions
Committee Procedures
Overview of Jurisdiction and Accounts

1:00 PM
Senate Committee on Agriculture and Rural Economies
Room: 107 Capitol
Chair: Sen. Doug Magnus
Agenda: Introductions/Overview from the Minnesota Department of Agriculture

3:00 PM
Senate Education Committee
Room: 15 Capitol
Chair: Sen. Gen Olson
Agenda: Committee introductions
A presentation by Cecilia Retelle of the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce entitled "Wanted: Prepared Workforce; Needed: Education Reforms"

Wednesday, January 12

8:00 AM
Regent Candidate Advisory Council
Room: 400N State Office Building
Chair: Jane Belau
Agenda: Candidate Interviews
All-day legislative conference

Thursday, January 13

8:30 AM
Senate Finance Committee
Room: 123 Capitol
Chair: Sen. Claire Robling
Agenda: Introductions
Budget Overview - Matt Massman, Lead Fiscal Analyst - Senate Counsel, Research and Fiscal Analysis

8:30 AM
Senate Taxes Committee
Room: 15 Capitol
Chair: Sen. Julianne Ortman
Agenda: Committee Introduction, General Overview Minnesota Tax System

12:30 PM
House Higher Education Policy and Finance
Room: 5 State Office Building
Chair: Rep. Bud Nornes
Agenda: Minnesota State Colleges and Universities overview

3:00 PM
House in Session