Minnesota Legislative Updates

Capital SunsetThe following legislative update was written by Elaine Keefe, library lobbyist for the Minnesota Library Association (MLA) and Information Technology Educators of MN (ITEM). Being its near the end of the legislation season, this post contains 4 separate updates

Received Tuesday May 19, 2015 at 10:17 PM

I originally sent this update this afternoon, but it has been held up because of  the attachment (the Governor’s veto message). To expedite this, I have deleted the attachment and am providing a link to the governor’s veto message:  http://www.mn.gov/governor/images/2015_05_19_Speaker_Daudt_Veto_Letter.pdf

Recieved Tuesday, May 19, 2015 4:48 PM

Session Ends:  Last night at midnight, the Legislature adjourned as required by the constitution.  However, there will be a special session to pass an education bill, a legacy bill and possibly other bills as well.

Education Bill Veto:  Attached is Governor Dayton’s veto message regarding the education bill.  In a press conference this afternoon, the governor described the last-minute negotiations on the education bill yesterday.  He offered to sign the bill if legislators would add $125 million — $55 million for School Readiness and the rest to increase the general education formula by 2% each year (the bill passed by the Legislature increased the formula by 1.5% in FY 16 and by 2% in FY 17).  House Republicans would not agree to add more than $100 million, so negotiations collapsed.

Governor Dayton will call a special session, but not until there is an agreement signed by the leaders of all four caucuses specifying exactly what will be acted upon during the special session.  Governor Dayton said he would prefer to wrap it up by June 1, because by law, that is the date that layoff notices must be sent to state employees whose agencies are not funded.  The Capitol is not available for the special session due to the renovations taking place, so the special session will have to take place at another venue.  It must be in St. Paul.

Legacy Bill:  The legacy bill passed the House last night, but did not pass the Senate.  This was not because of any controversy over the bill – they simply ran out of time before the midnight adjournment deadline.  Governor Dayton indicated that he thinks it is very important that the legacy bill pass in the special session.  There was one change made to legacy funding for the regional library systems at the last minute – rather than $1.7 million in FY 16 and $2.7 million in FY 17, the final bill provides $2.2 million in each year.  The funding is the same overall.  Funding for the Minnesota Digital Library remains at $300,000 per year.

Broadband:  The omnibus jobs and economic development conference committee had great difficulty in reaching agreement.  They ultimately settled on a bare-bones bill that passed just seconds before the session ended. It provides $10.838 million for broadband grants in FY 16 only.  This is down from the $20 million provided last year and the $30 million proposed by Governor Dayton.

Seed Library Exemption:  The omnibus agriculture policy bill, HF 1554, includes an exemption from seed regulations for “interpersonal sharing of seed for home, educational, charitable or personal non-commercial use.”  The bill was presented to the governor on May 15, which means that he has until midnight on Tuesday to sign or veto it.  I fully expect him to sign the bill.  It passed the House 102-25 and passed the Senate 64-0.

Student Information:  In my previous description of the omnibus education bill, I neglected to mention that the provision initiated by the St. Paul Public Schools to conform Minnesota’s data privacy law to federal law with respect to students records is included in the bill.  This will allow school districts to share students addresses with their local public library for the purpose of obtaining library cards for all students without having to make the addresses public.


Recieved: Sunday, May 17, 2015 at 4:45 PM

It has been a wild weekend at the Capitol, featuring round the clock negotiations.  Legislators are racing to get the major budget bills passed before midnight on Monday.  Here is the status of the major budget bills and the library issues within them:

E-12 EDUCATION:  Early Friday afternoon House Speaker Daudt and Senate Majority Leader Bakk announced to the media that they had reached an agreement on budget targets.  Significantly, Governor Dayton did not appear with them.  On Saturday morning the Governor announced that he did not agree with the $400 million target set by Bakk and Daudt for increased funding for education. Dayton said that he would veto any bill providing less than $550 million, with at least $173 million for expanding school-based preschool for all 4 year olds.  Despite the veto threat, Bakk and Daudt directed the education conferees to proceed with negotiating a $400 million bill.

The conference committee put in long hours and finally met in public to unveil their agreement at 1am Sunday morning, wrapping up the meeting at 3am.  Here are the major components of the bill:

General Education Formula:  The general education formula will increase by 1.5% in FY 16 and by 2% in FY 17.  This is the main source of funding for school library media programs.  72% of the $400 million went for this increase in the general education formula.

Early Learning:  The competition between supporters of early learning scholarships and those of school-based preschool programs was at times tense.  In the end, legislators decided to increase the scholarships by $30.75 million over the next 2 years and to increase School Readiness (a school-based program for at-risk children) by the same amount.  The bill also includes $3.5 million for the Parent Aware early childhood rating system. This ate up another 17% of the $400 million. They did not include Governor Dayton’s proposal for preschool for all 4 year olds, which may cause the bill to be vetoed.

School Facilities:  The bill includes $32 million for facilities maintenance.  Funding for facilities maintenance was the top priority of rural schools.

As you can tell, these major components left almost nothing for other initiatives.  As a result, the bill includes no additional funding for libraries, telecommunications equity aid or after school programs.

The bill does include the language aligning Regional Library Telecommunications Aid with the federal e-rate program.  It also repeals the requirement that schools have a technology plan on file with MDE in order to be eligible for Telecommunications Equity Aid.

What if the bill is vetoed?  If the Governor vetoes the bill, the usual scenario would be for the Governor and legislative leaders to negotiate a new bill and then for the Governor to call a special session to pass the bill.  However, the renovation of the Capitol calls for the House and Senate chambers and all offices in the Capitol to be shut down on Tuesday, May 19.  Legislators have been warned that a delay to accommodate a special session would be very costly.  There has been speculation that an education bill is not needed because the general education formula would continue to be paid to schools without passing an education bill.  However, all other streams of funding would cease, including library appropriations.  In a memo to the media, Commissioner Cassellius pointed out that even schools would not get their money because MDE would have no budget to pay staff to process payments.

HIGHER EDUCATION:  The higher education conference committee reached agreement on its bill last night, and the bill just passed on the Senate floor by a vote of 57-8.   It will next go to the House for passage.   The bill maintains current funding for Minitex and MnLINK.  It increases funding for the University of Minnesota by $53.2 million and for MnSCU by $101.4 million.

LEGACY:   The Legacy conference committee convened shortly after midnight on Saturday night /Sunday morning.  The arts and cultural heritage article was discussed first.  As initially presented, it included the House position on funding for regional public libraries of $1.5 million in FY 16 and $2.5 million in FY 17.  After a brief recess, the conferees returned and Senator Cohen said that the one area that made him “a little queasy” was library funding, and he moved to add $200,000 per year to the appropriation.  It passed unanimously.  The final number is $1.7 million in FY 16 and $2.7 million in FY 17.  Thank you to all of you who contacted the conferees.  I do think it made a difference.

The Legacy bill also includes $300,000 per year for the Minnesota Digital Library.  That is the same as the current level of funding for MDL.

TAXES:  The agreement between Speaker Daudt and Majority Leader Bakk is that there will be no tax bill this year.  House Republicans had wanted more than $2 billion in tax cuts.  In return, Senate DFLers agreed to pass only a “lights on” transportation bill, rather than the comprehensive funding bill that had been their top priority.  The agreement leaves about $1.4 billion on the bottom line for legislators to use next year for tax cuts and a transportation package.

Governor Dayton is scheduled to hold a press conference later today.  I will keep you posted if anything major changes.

Received: Friday, May 15, 2015 at 2:32 PM

Budget Negotiations:  Governor Dayton and legislative leaders have still not reached an agreement on budget targets for 7 of the 9 major budget bills (they have agreed on targets for the higher education and public safety bills).  Even if they announce an agreement on the remaining 7 bills this afternoon, it is questionable whether there is time for conference committees to negotiate the details of their budget bills, have staff assemble the bills, and then get them passed by the House and Senate by the adjournment deadline, which is Monday at midnight.  Despite the time crunch, legislative leaders are still saying they hope to complete their work on time.  Earlier today a resolution passed the Senate to allow conference committees to meet around the clock.  Ordinarily, conference committees are prohibited from meeting between 12am and 7am.

Education Conference Committee:  The education conference committee met yesterday for the first time in a week.  They took testimony on competing proposals to expand early learning, which has been a sticking point in the budget negotiations.  At the end of the meeting the chairs (Senator Wiger and Rep. Loon) announced that staff had compiled a list of 80 same and similar provisions in the House and Senate bills that they were prepared to adopt.  However, they took no action on those provisions and did not make the list public.  I assume that the change in the distribution of RLTA to have it more closely align with the federal e-rate program is one of the items on the list.

Library Construction Grants:  Our bill to provide $10 million for Library Construction Grants in next year’s bonding bill was introduced yesterday in the Senate and today in the House.  The bill numbers and authors are listed below:

SF 2179   Chief author:  Senator Kent Eken (DFL – Twin Valley)  Co-authors: Senator Bill Ingebrigsten (R – Alexandria), Senator LeRoy Stumpf (DFL – Plummer), Senator Dave Senjem (R – Rochester) and  Senator Bev Scalze (DFL – Little Canada)

HF 2353  Chief author:  Rep. Jeff Howe (R – Cold Spring)  Co-authors: Rep. Dean Urdahl (R – Grove City), Rep. Alice Hausman (DFL – St. Paul), Rep. Mary Murphy (DFL – Hermantown) and Rep. Bud Nornes (R – Fergus Falls.

2016 Legislative Session:  According to a concurrent resolution introduced today, the 2016 session will convene on Tuesday,  March 8.   That would mean the session would run for 11 weeks if the Legislature adjourned on Monday, May 23, which is the constitutional adjournment deadline

Elaine Keefe
Capitol Hill Associates
525 Park Street, Suite 310
St. Paul, MN 55103
(cell) 612-590-1244

Image credit: http://tinyurl.com/p4m2ool, licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0