Legislative Update – One Week from Session End

The following information was shared with the library community via the MLA and ITEM Legislative Update Newsletter Monday, May 13, 2019 by Sam Walseth, Capitol Hill Associates, in his role as the MLA-ITEM lobbyist.

Finals Week – Conference Committee Process Underway
 
Last week was a slow week of initial conference committee meetings. The various conference committees take a few days to review the House and Senate bills. This process is referred to as walking through the ‘side-by-sides.’ 
 
Including today they have 8 days to finish their work, which must be completed by midnight on Monday, May 20. Leadership negotiations on a global deal stalled out last week, but they reportedly met Sunday evening to resume talks. The speculation is that leadership will agree to a budget deal this Wednesday, which will give the various budget conference committees 2-3 days to hash out the details of their respective spending bills. If we drift into next weekend without a global budget deal then we’re likely looking at a special session to be named later to continue the budget debate. The state’s fiscal year ends on June 30.  
 
The line in the sand for DFL Governor Walz and GOP Senate Majority Leader Gazelka is clearly the gas tax. A signature piece of the Walz budget plan has become the hill that Sen. Gazelka plans to die on. Can Walz secure reinstatement of the provider tax to fund HHS and additional general fund tax revenue through federal tax conformity for Education if he relents on the gas tax? The last week of any legislative session is always the most intriguing. Let’s hope for a strong finish for the E-12 and Legacy bills including our library provisions.
 
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) doesn’t carry either provision.
 
TEA –
 
The Senate education bill adds $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 retaining school district membership in a cluster more of a challenge.
 
The House E-12 conferees 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 conferees are:
 

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

 
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 House bill also says individual recipients of Legacy funds must be residents of Minnesota. This 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 Conferees are:
 
Leon Lillie (co-chair North St. Paul)
Mary Murphy (Hermantown)
Amy Wazlawik (White Bear Township)
Rick Hanson (South St. Paul)
Greg Boe (Chaska)
 
The Senate Legacy Conferees are:
 
Carrie Ruud (Breezy Point)
To be assigned
To be assigned
To be assigned
To be assigned
 
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 24th. These provisions await conference committee action.
 
The Senate has not heard the net neutrality bill this session, SF 317.
 
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.
 
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.
 
HF 247 & SF 2010 are viable for the 2020 session, but won’t receive further action during the current session.