Session Update

The following information was shared with the library community via the MLA and ITEM Legislative Update Newsletter Monday, May 7, 2018 by Sam Walseth, Capitol Hill Associates, in his role as the MLA-ITEM lobbyist.

Two weeks from today the 90th Legislature will adjourn sine die, meaning never to return. As usual, all of the major decisions will pile up at the end of next week as leadership from all corners tried to position themselves for the best deal from their perspective. At this time there’s a deep sense that they won’t be able to come to terms on the tax conformity bill and therefore a Supplemental spending bill and potentially the bonding bill will fail to emerge. The Supplemental budget conference committee has yet to be named, but we’ll likely see it emerge today and perhaps a public meeting early this week. 
 
A pension overall bill is hopefully making its way out of a necessary House committee today and will survive the process. The Tax committees in the House and Senate will be debating a constitutional amendment that would dedicate hundreds of millions in auto part sales tax revenues to road and bridge projects this week. Some of the union trade groups are supporting this proposal, while many labor groups oppose it because it will create a permanent hole in the state’s general fund, making it difficult to fund education and HHS service when revenues get tight. 
 
Here’s a rundown of issues of direct interest to the MLA-ITEM platform:
 

Bonding

The House Capital Investment committee unveiled a bonding bill and it includes $2 million for Library construction and renovation grants. The bill was debated and passed out of committee last Friday. The Governor has said the bill’s total of $825 million in general obligation bonds is too low to meet the state’s needs. It’s unclear if Chair Dean Urdahl has a super-majority of votes to pass this bill off the House floor. “Thank you” notes to Chair Urdahl will be well received. He talked about the merits of the library bonding program on Friday when they went over his bill. At this time we haven’t seen a Senate bonding bill emerge yet. 
 
Here’s a link to the House bonding bill:
http://www.house.leg.state.mn.us/comm/docs/863ce166-8962-41a9-a1bd-1c927b719dcd.pdf
 
Here’s a link to the spreadsheet for the House bill:
http://www.house.leg.state.mn.us/comm/docs/42c4fa4d-9347-4339-803c-44fe7ef44649.pdf
 

RLTA

The battle over what to do with potentially unspent RLTA funds will come to a head in the supplemental budget bill conference committee negotiation, which will mostly take place behind closed doors. MLA wants the House position to prevail and that’s how folks should talk about the issue if they’re reaching out to conference committee members. 
 
We don’t know who those conference committee members are at the moment, but we know that Chair Jennifer Loon (GOP Eden Prairie) will most likely be one of them. Comments of “thank you for your support of RTLA for public libraries” and “please defend the House position” can be send to Chair Loon this week. She’ll appreciate knowing we’re still invested in this issue and are paying attention.
 

Net Neutrality

During debate on the Senate’s supplemental budget bill, Sen. Ron Latz offered an amendment that would have required internet service providers doing business with the state and local government units to abide by net neutrality principals. The amendment was challenged for not being germane to the budget bill and was ruled out of order. 

Broadband

The Governor proposed $30 million for broadband funding. The House and Senate have proposed $15 million. The fate of new broadband funding lies with getting a deal on the supplemental budget bill. Sen. Latz was able to get language amended into the Senate’s supplemental bill that gives priority to broadband grants to recipients that abide by ‘net neutrality’ rules.

“Academic Balance”

The Senate’s Supplemental Budget bill, SF 3656, contains a controversial education policy provision called “academic balance.” The provision mandates school boards to adopt a policy that some argue could have unintended consequences on the heart and soul of teaching and learning. You can read the provision and judge for yourself. It’s found on line 553.29 in the massive supplemental bill (SF 3656), which you can link to here:
https://www.revisor.mn.gov/bills/text.php?number=SF3656&version=latest&session=ls90&session_year=2018&session_number=0

[120B.25] ACADEMIC BALANCE POLICY.
A school board must adopt a written academic balance policy. At a minimum, the policy must prohibit discrimination against students on the basis of political, ideological, or religious beliefs. A student must not be required to publicly identify their personal beliefs, views, and values for the purpose of academic credit, classroom, or extracurricular participation. The policy must include reporting procedures and appropriate disciplinary actions for policy violations. The disciplinary actions must conform with collective bargaining agreements and sections 121A.41 to 121A.56. A district must post the policy on the district’s Web site during the 2018-2019 school year, provide a copy to each district employee, and include the policy in subsequent editions of the student handbook.