Legislative Update: Conference Committees

The following information was shared with the library community via the MLA and ITEM Legislative Update Newsletter Friday, May 6, 2019 by Sam Walseth, Capitol Hill Associates, in his role as the MLA-ITEM lobbyist.

Two Weeks Remain – Conference Committee Process Starts
Last week was another long week of floor debates as the House and Senate got their remaining budget bills passed. Leadership appointed conference committee members for each of the 10 budget bills.  A few conference committees met on Friday to begin the process of comparing and contrasting the House, Senate and Governor’s positions on issues. The E-12 conference committee was one of the last to be appointed and they will have their first meeting today at 2 pm. MDE Commissioner Mary Catherine Ricker is expected to provide testimony outlining and reiterating the Governor’s education agenda.                             
The House E-12 conference committee members are:

  • Jim Davnie (co-chair, DFL Minneapolis)
  • Cheryl Youakim (DFL Hopkins)
  • Julie Sandstede (DFL Hibbing)
  • Dave Pinto (DFL St. Paul)
  • Dean Urdahl (GOP Grove City)

The Senate E-12 conference committee members are:

  • Carla Nelson (co-chair – GOP Rochester)
  • Justin Eichorn (GOP Grand Rapids/Bemidji)
  • Bill Weber (GOP Luverne)
  • John Jasinski (GOP Faribault)
  • Chuck Wiger (DFL Maplewood)

Legislative leaders reportedly met over the weekend to meet a self-imposed deadline of providing budget targets to the conference committees. As of the time this update was written there was no news to report on this front.
There are several budget and policy items in the works of interest to the library community detailed below, including their status in the legislative process.
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 House passed HF 2400 on April 23.
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 maintain school district membership in a cluster more of a challenge. The Senate E-12 bill passed off the Senate floor on Wednesday, May 1.
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.
The House Legacy bill also includes language tightening requirements to ensure Legacy recipients aren’t supplanting existing funds. The language is problematic and MLA and other Arts and Cultural Heritage recipients are working to ensure it isn’t included in the final Legacy bill.
The House Legacy bill was passed off the floor last week. The Senate Legacy bill awaits floor action this week.
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. It’s unclear if HF 2529 will be taken up on the House floor.
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.
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, which the House passed on April 24. These provisions await conference committee action.
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.
School Media Specialist Support – HF 247 & SF 2010
Rep. Mary Kunesh-Podein, a licensed school library media specialist by day, help 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.