Legislative Update

The following information was shared with the library community via the MLA and ITEM Legislative Update Newsletter Friday, March 12, 2019 by Sam Walseth, Capitol Hill Associates, in his role as the MLA-ITEM lobbyist.

Third Committee Deadline and a Break:
 
After a jam-packed week of moving several major omnibus spending bills through the committee process the Legislature is leaving town for a needed Passover/Easter break. They return to business on Tuesday, April 23 and will have just over a month to find an agreement on a two-year operating budget before session ends on May 20. When they return most of the action will turn to the House and Senate floors where they will take up debate on the major spending bills, including Education, Health & Human Services, Transportation, Jobs, Energy, Agriculture and more.
 
Minnesota is the only state with a divided legislature and the partisan difference are on full display. The Senate GOP budget plan is in stark contrast to that of Governor Walz and his allies in the new House DFL majority. The DFL wants new gas tax revenue to pay for transportation projects. They want new corporate tax revenue to be generated through conformity to the federal tax code and they want the provider tax which supports the state’s health care access fund to continue. The Senate GOP thinks there’s enough revenue to work with and wants none of the DFL’s tax agenda. On policy matters, it’s the same story, from net neutrality, to gun safety measures, to paid family medical leave, the DFL is pushing a progressive policy agenda and the Senate GOP is saying no to those as well. How they put a budget deal together by May 20 is anyone’s guess.
 
There are several budget and policy items in the works of interest to the library community detailed below.
 
RLBSS & RLTA – Omnibus Education Bills
 
The House’s $900 million investment in education programs (HF 2400) includes a significant provision for regional library systems. At the request of the 12 regional public library systems, the House bill would adjust the distribution formula for Regional Library Basic System Support (RLBSS) and increase funding by $3.6 million in FY 2021 and $4 million in FY 2022 increase. The House bill also adds language to the Regional Library Telecommunications Aid (RLTA) to create more allowable uses for these funds.
 
The Senate education bill (SF 7) by contrast carries neither provision. The Senate education bill does add $500,000/year to the schools Telecom Equity Aid, bringing the amount to $4.25 million/year. The Senate bill removes the financial incentive for schools to participate in telecom clusters, which could make maintaining school district membership in a cluster more of a challenge.
 
Library Legacy – Omnibus Legacy Bills
               
House Legacy bill (HF 653) includes $2.5 million/year for the next two years for library legacy programming. The Senate Legacy bill (SF 836) includes $2.6 million/year for the next two years for library legacy.
 
The Senate Legacy committee heard a bill to fund $96,000 for libraries to buy telescopes and loan them out. Senate Legacy didn’t fund this request, but essentially added the $96,000 request (rounded up to $100,000) to the MLA request for $2.5 million/year.
 
We’re in good shape heading to conference committee on Legacy.
 
Library Construction & Renovation – House Omnibus Bonding bill
 
House Capital Investment Chair, Rep. Mary Murphy, has advanced a robust bonding bill out of her committee. HF 2529 appropriates $1.5 billion in state bonding authority for many projects. As the chief library advocate in the legislature, Rep. Murphy has included $9 million in her omnibus bonding bill for the library construction and renovation grant program. She’s also upped the $200,000 limit on accessibility grants in the pool to $400,000.
 
The Senate has not advanced an omnibus bonding bill this session. Sen. Rich Draheim has introduced the MLA request for $10 million in library construction and renovation grants in SF 2725.
 
School Media Specialist Support – HF 247 & SF 2010
 
Rep. Mary Kunesh-Podein, a licensed school library media specialist by day, helped advance the cause of getting more licensed school media specialists into Minnesota’s schools. Her HF 247 received favorable review in the House Education Policy committee which sent it to House Education Finance. House Education Finance reviewed the bill as well, but it didn’t get included in their omnibus education finance bill.
 
Sen. Chuck Wiger introduced the companion bill, SF 2010, but it wasn’t heard in the Senate Education committee this session.
 
Net Neutrality – Omnibus House Jobs bill
 
HF 136 by Rep. Zach Stephenson is the net neutrality bill that would require state and public agencies to only enter into contracts with internet service providers abiding by net neutrality principals. HF 136 was merged into the House’s omnibus Jobs & Economic Development bill, HF 2208.
 
The Senate has not heard the net neutrality bill this session, SF 317.
 
Hennepin County Library Director Statutory Change – HF 2097 & SF 2267
 
Legislation aimed at eliminating a statutory requirement for the Hennepin County Library Director to have a graduate degree from a graduate school accredited by the American Library Association has advanced in both the House and Senate. This legislation is traveling as a stand-alone bill and resides on both the House and Senate floors and awaits floor debate in each chamber.