MNLib Legislative Update: Call to Action!

**This legislative update was originally received in two emails written by Elaine Keefe, lobbyist for MLA/MEMO, slight modifications by Patricia Post** (Received on Sunday, May 12th at 11:57 p.m. & Monday, May 13th at 9:55 a.m.)

It’s crunch time.  The Legislature must adjourn on May 20 — one week from Monday!

Budget Deal:  Sunday the Governor and legislative leaders announced that they have agreed on a budget deal. The deal includes significant increases for E-12 education ($475 million) and higher education ($250 million) and a smaller cut in health & human services than legislators had proposed (a $50 million cut rather than $150 million). The school funding shift will be repaid. To pay for all of this and cover the $627 million deficit, income taxes will be increased on couples with taxable income of $250,000 and on individuals with taxable income of $150,000. Sales taxes will be expanded to some business services but not to consumer services or clothing. The cigarette tax will be increased. Details will be worked out by the various budget conference committees.

E-12 Education:  The conference committee met for the first time on Thursday (9th).  They adopted several identical provisions, including two items important to MLA/MEMO.

  1. The change in terminology from “grant” to “aid” for RLBSS and Multi-type funding
  2. Clarification that total operating capital funds can be used for computer hardware, software and annual licensing fees

Higher Education:  The conference committee will meet for the first time on Monday (13th). The funding increase for Minitex/MnINK that is included in the Senate higher ed bill but not in the House bill has a better chance now that the agreed-upon target ($250 million) is closer to the Senate target ($260 million) than the House target ($150 million).  Our Senate author, Senator Kent Eken (DFL – Twin Valley) is on the conference committee and told me he intends to fight hard for the increase included in the Senate bill.  If you haven’t yet contacted the conferees to urge them to support the increase in the Senate bill, please do so.

Legacy:  The House Legacy bill passed on the floor on Friday. The Senate Legacy bill was unveiled in the Senate Legacy Subcommittee on Thursday.  It includes $300,000 per year for the Minnesota Digital Library (the amount requested) and $1 million per year for regional public libraries.  This is a huge reduction from the $3 million per year currently allocated to regional public libraries.  Senator Dick Cohen, chair of both the Senate Finance Committee and the Legacy Subcommittee of the Senate Finance Committee, has historically opposed Legacy funding for libraries. His position has been that only those who advocated for the constitutional amendment should share in the funds generated.  Other recipients can be viewed as interlopers, including libraries.  Senator Cohen’s goal has been that 50% of the Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund is to be allocated to the State Arts Board.  Currently about 43% is allocated to the State Arts Board.  The Senate bill includes a provision requiring that in the future 50% of the Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund shall be allocated to the State Arts Board.  The initial version of the Senate Legacy bill distributed the funds to regional public libraries under the RLBSS formula, as has been done the past two biennia.  I subsequently spoke with Senator Cohen and he agreed to amend the bill to change the formula in accordance with the MLAMEMO platform and to require that the funds be distributed in 10 equal payments.  That amendment was adopted on Friday and the bill was passed out of the subcomittee. It will be heard in the full Senate Finance Committee on Monday, May 13.

A number of you have contacted me this morning to ask what you can do to respond to the disappointing amount of funding for regional public libraries in the Senate Legacy bill.

  • Please contact your senators to express concern about this reduction.  Ask them to raise the issue with Senator Cohen. 
  • We are not going to change Senator Cohen’s mind.  However, if it’s clear that his Senate colleagues are unhappy about the level of funding for libraries it will be more likely that the Senate conferees will agree to the House appropriation when the bill gets to conference committee.
  • When the conference committee is named later this week, I will send out their contact information and ask you to contact them.

Elaine Keefe
Capitol Hill Associates
525 Park Street, Suite 310
St. Paul, MN 55103
office 651-293-0229
fax 651-293-1709
cell 612-590-1244