Friday, May 20, 2011

Final hours of the state session; Congress talks budget

Legislative Update
May 20, 2010

The last week of the legislative session usually brings with it many twists and turns as legislative leaders and the governor attempt to negotiate a session ending deal. This week has been no exception. Republican legislative leaders were hoping to reach a deal with Gov. Dayton prior to sending him the budget bills. Senate Majority Leader Amy Koch, R-Buffalo, has said all along that they don't want to send the governor bills that he will veto. But as the clock started ticking without any sign of an agreement, both bodies went to work passing the conference reports in a quick 48-hour period working through the night. The higher education conference report was passed by the House overnight Tuesday by a vote of 69-57. The Senate passed the bill Thursday evening 35-31. As a reminder, the bill can be found here.

Republican leaders and Gov. Dayton continue to meet more frequently, but House Speaker Kurt Zellers, R-Maple Grove, said there's a lot besides the number that has to be negotiated in the conference reports, especially from a policy standpoint, and time is running out. State government conferees met with the governor today and Rep. Morrie Lanning, R-Moorhead, co-chair of the state government conference committee, was positive after the meeting. Lanning said he thinks the governor better understands what they are doing in the bill, and said he also thinks he understands the governor's perspective on some issues. "It's unfortunate that we didn't have this kind of meeting earlier. But be that as it may, we're now I think on the right path here," Lanning said.

At the time of this update, both the House and Senate are in recess. Lawmakers and the governor plan to work over the weekend to try and reach a deal before midnight Monday. If they cannot, Gov. Dayton will need to call a special session in order to pass a budget.

The Senate adopted Senate Concurrent Resolution No. 8 late Thursday that sets the 2012 legislative session start date for Tuesday, January 24, 2012 at noon.

We will keep you updated on the weekend activities and will send out a complete summary when lawmakers adjourn the regular session.

Updates from Washington D.C.

A “Dear Colleague” letter is making its way through the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate having originated with Rep. Judy Chu, D-Calif., and Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., expressing support for keeping the Pell Grant maximum award at $5,550 in fiscal year 2012. Many members of Congress have signed on to the letter. The House letter can
be found here

The U.S. Department of Education released the final fiscal year 2011 funding information, which provides more details about the specific program cuts made when Congress passed the 2011 budget last month. You may recall the Pell Grant program was funded at the maximum award level of $5,550, but other programs did not fare as well. The detail can be
found here.

Congress will meet next week, and then the Senate will recess for a week beginning Monday, May 30, and the House will recess the following week, starting Monday, June 6.