The following information was shared with the library community via the MLA and ITEM Legislative Update Newsletter Thursday, May 17, 2018 by Sam Walseth, Capitol Hill Associates, in his role as the MLA-ITEM lobbyist.
2018 Session Finals Week
Legislative leaders and Governor Dayton are still miles apart as we head into the final days of session. The legislature can only pass bills until midnight on Sunday. Governor Dayton vetoed the GOP Tax plan this morning as promised. The Supplemental budget bill is still sitting in a conference committee and it lacks many of the Governor’s priorities and includes loads of policy provisions his administration opposes.
The bonding bill is also in limbo as the Senate failed to pass their bonding bill Wednesday afternoon. Earlier this week, House Bonding Chair Dean Urdahl, was successful in getting his bonding bill passed by the House. The House bill contains $2 million for library construction and renovation grants. The Senate bill contained $1 million. It’s possible we’ll see a compromise emerge Sunday night on a bonding bill, but it’s tied up in the infamous end of session global negotiations.
Supplemental Budget Bill
The Supplemental budget bill is the arena for several issues of interest to MLA-ITEM. Regional Library Telecommunications Aid (RLTA) has been a source of debate this session as the MDE proposed re-purposing potential unspent RLTA funds for school telecom needs. House Education Finance Chair Jenifer Loon sought to keep these funds within the sphere of the regional public library world and her position, which we asked for, has prevailed at this point in time. The Supplemental conference report includes language allowing the regional library systems to spend RLTA funds on other broadband access related initiatives that don’t necessarily align with the federal e-rate program.
The Supplemental budget bill also contains $15 million for the broadband development fund. The Rural Broadband Coalition led by Blandin and many other, including MLA-ITEM as a supporter, worked tirelessly this session to see new dollars added to the fund.
Last, but not least, was a controversial policy provision called “academic balance.” Advanced by Senate E-12 Budget Chair Carla Nelson, the proposal would have required schools to adopt a policy that many believe would have tied the hands of teachers when delving into sensitive issues about politics and personal beliefs. Sen. Nelson’s intent was to try and protect students who have differing views that their teachers, but opponents argued the provision would have a chilling effect on teaching and learning. The proposal is not included in the Supplemental bill as it currently stands.
A Pension reform bill that’s important to many in the public sector also awaits approval by the House.
Hold on for a bumpy ride the last few days. I hope to have good news to report next week.