April 21, 2017
Spring has finally sprung and the legislature is in full swing. Read on to learn about conference committees, teacher licensure and two new items in the Legacy Bill. Be sure to answer the survey question!
Be sure to contact me with your thoughts on any legislative issue or if I can be of assistance on any state or agency issue.
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All budget bills are off the floor and now sit in conference committees with the House budget bills. As chairwoman of the Senate E12 Finance Committee I join Rep. Loon, chairwoman of the House Education Committee, in chairing the Education Finance Conference Committee. Four additional members join us from the Senate and four from the House. We will work out differences in the bills passed by each body and present one bill to the Governor- hopefully for his signature. The $18.5 billion Senate proposal, passed earlier this month, increases education spending by $1.14 billion compared to the previous budget and includes an additional $300 million over the projected base funding. The House proposal spends slightly less money. Conference committees began meeting on Tuesday and will continue until an agreement is reached; the Minnesota Constitution mandates that this year’s legislative session must adjourn by May 22.
The Senate education bill passed with nice bi-partisan support. The bill funds education fairly, but I am hopeful we can leave conference committee with a higher budget target and do more to improve educational opportunities for all students. By providing opportunities for all Minnesota students to receive an education that prepares them for the jobs of tomorrow, our children have brighter futures. At the end of the day, our focus must be on affording students every opportunity for success.
For a side-by-side comparison of the Senate and House education bills, click here.
Teacher licensure reform
Minnesota is home to some of the best and brightest students and teachers in the nation, but we are experiencing a lack of qualified teachers – particularly in rural school districts. The state’s cumbersome and inconsistent teacher licensing process contributes to our teacher shortage. Minnesota’s Office of the Legislative Auditor (OLA) issued a scathing critique of Minnesota’s teacher licensure system. This week, the Senate passed a bill that will improve the way teachers are licensed in our state – all to attract and retain great teachers statewide.
Legacy environment bill
Minnesota’s voters passed the Clean Water, Land and Legacy amendment aka Legacy Amendment to the Minnesota Constitution in 2008. The amendment increased the state sales tax by .25% to fund initiatives that protect our drinking water, enhance and restore habitat, preserve arts and cultural heritage, support parks and trails, and to ensure Minnesota’s vast bodies of water remain clean.
The Legacy bill provides for two newer initiatives this year. One initiative of mine is included, funding for a memorial honoring Minnesota’s finest who have received our nation’s highest honor, the Congressional Medal of Honor. Read about the Congressional Medal of Honor here.
While not new, costs for buffer strip implementation and enforcement have been included in this year’s Legacy bill.
There is unanimous agreement that clean water is essential and must be revived and protected. And there is great agreement that buffer strips provide filtration that can help protect our waters. The buffer strip enforcement bill passed in 2015 but was murky at best. By 2016 there was great concern that the ambiguous language would lead to more lawsuits and not cleaner water. Both proponents and opponents came to the legislature seeking clarifying language last year. While much of the language has been clarified two main issues remain. One remaining controversy revolves around the accuracy and efficacy of the mapping. The second concern pertains to cost of compliance. Some want to use Legacy dollars to help pay for buffer strip enforcement. Others think that buffer strips should be paid for out of the general fund. Take today’s survey and tell me what you think.
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Find my Videos
Things are happening at a quick clip at your Capitol and will ramp up even more during the four week race to our May 22nd adjournment date. Check out my Facebook and Twitter for the latest. I share a brief update on a few of the marquee issues happening in the legislature. For my latest video message, click here.
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