Legislative Update

The following information was shared with the library community via the MLA and ITEM Legislative Update Newsletter Monday, June 11, 2018 by Sam Walseth, Capitol Hill Associates, in his role as the MLA-ITEM lobbyist.

Pension Bill & PERA
There was interest at the Legislative First Wednesday Update meeting in the newly enacted Pension bill that affects PERA. Here is some information:

PERA Reforms
 
Many librarians work for local units of government and are a part of the Public Employee Retirement Association (PERA). As employers and employees you may have questions about the newly enacted Pension reform bill. 
 
The newly enacted pension bill does not include any increases in the rate of employer and employee contributions to the PERA General Plan, which is most likely the plan that would cover public library employees. There will be changes to the benefits, including the COLA for retirees, under the PERA General Plan. 
 
These changes are expected to improve the funded status of the PERA General Plan, which in turn will improve the financial picture regarding plan assets and liabilities as passed through and presented in employers’ (including municipalities’) financial statements (per GASB). That’s good news for financial reporting purposes and may help with debt ratings.
 
For further review of the Pension changes just enacted into law, take a look at the Legislative Commission on Pensions & Retirement summary:
 
https://www.commissions.leg.state.mn.us/lcpr/documents/omnibus/2018/Summary_of_S2620_1st_Engr.pdf
 

Scholarship Report: Joyce Koerner – Enhancing Quality Staff in 2018

Event: Enhancing Quality Staff in Changing Times 2018 – St. Paul, MN – May 23, 2018

Attendee: Joyce Koerner, Clerk I – Red Wing Public Library


What was your favorite session and why?

Behind the Book was an interesting class.  The instructor went through about 11 lessons or steps that authors use in writing their books.  He had interviewed about 10 authors and compared their thoughts on the thought process they used to write their books.  Everything from coming up with the initial idea to actually publishing.

What’s one (1) idea that you gained from the event that you plan to implement now that you’re back?

As we are ever expanding into an online presence, I would like to see more use of ELM in our library.  More of our patrons are reading e-books, either on an e-reader device, a tablet, phone, or computer.  It would expand the services we already offer.

Would you recommend this event to others and why?

Yes, I would recommend this event.  It is a good way to find out what services are offered in other places and how to get more information about them.  It is also a great way to connect with people from other library and other types of libraries.

SELS Scholarships to the 2018 ITEM Fall Conference Now Available

SELS is pleased to offer three scholarships to attend the 2018 Information and Technology Educators of Minnesota (ITEM) Fall Conference at the Arrowwood Resort in Alexandria, MN on October 25 – 27, 2018. Eligible items for reimbursement may include:

  • registration
  • hotel stay
  • meal on Thursday night should you choose to participate
  • mileage
  • parking

The total reimbursement will not exceed $500. The application deadline for those interested in being considered for a SELS scholarship is Friday, June 22, 2018. Please complete the application found here.

Contact the SELCO office with any questions.

2018 ARSL Scholarships Announced

SELCO is pleased to announce the scholarship recipients to this year’s Association of Rural and Small Libraries (ARSL) Conference to be held September 13 – 15, 2018 at the Bank of Springfield Center in Springfield, IL.

The recipients are:

  • Ingvild Herfindahl – Dodge Center Public Library
  • LaVonne Beach – La Crescent Public Library
  • Lezlea Dahlke – Winona Public Library
  • James Hill – Zumbrota Public Library

Congratulations! We look forward to reading about your experience!

2018 Session Final Report

The following information was shared with the library community via the MLA and ITEM Legislative Update Newsletter Friday, June 1, 2018 by Sam Walseth, Capitol Hill Associates, in his role as the MLA-ITEM lobbyist.

This week Governor Dayton ended all uncertainty over the last remaining bills on his desk. Of note, the Governor signed the omnibus Bonding bill (HF 4425) and the omnibus Pension bill (SF 2620) into law. The Bonding bill contains $1 million for library construction and renovation grants for public libraries. MLA-ITEM requested $10 million for library bonding over the current biennium and with the 2017 bonding bill ($2 million for libraries) and the 2018 bill ($1 million for libraries) we were able to secure a total of $3 million of the $10 million request. This may not sound like a win, but we typically see $2 million appropriated for libraries in any given Bonding bill. 
 
During the signing ceremony on the Pension bill Thursday morning (May 31), Governor Dayton noted twice that this would be the last bill he signs into law as Governor. 

 2018 On the Whole –

 2018 was slated for three months and legislative leaders and the Governor generally agreed on the scope of issues that needed to be addressed, including; a bonding bill, federal tax conformity, elder abuse, the opioid crisis, and fixing the MNLARS (the new vehicle license and registration system). The school shooting in Parkland, FL last February also turned everyone’s attention to school safety, which became a priority of both Governor Dayton and the legislature.
 
Despite agreement on the priority topics, the 2018 the session ended with Governor Dayton vetoing two major bills that encompassed many of the priority issues. The ground for the vetoes was sown a year ago when the relationship between the Governor and legislature was severely diminished in the wake of the 2017 tax bill, which Dayton felt he was forced to sign and his subsequent line-item veto of the legislature’s operating budget because of it. 
 
In previous sessions, the three leaders, Dayton, Speaker Daudt and Majority Leader Gazelka spent many hours together toward the end of session crafting the outlines of budget and tax deals. Tellingly this year, they met very little. Despite repeated veto warnings from Dayton, the legislature gambled that they had done enough with the Supplemental bill and the Tax conformity bill to address Dayton’s concerns and sent them to him on the last night of session.  
 
Three days later (May 23), following through with his promise, Governor Dayton vetoed the Legislature’s two significant bills; the omnibus Supplemental bill (SF 3656), and the Tax Conformity bill (HF 947). His reasons for the two vetoes run the gamut of policy items he didn’t like in the Supplemental bill, deeper tax cuts than he would allow in the Tax Conformity bill, not enough education funding, and perhaps a feeling that there was an overall lack of respect toward his administration and a sense that he needed to defend the role of the Governor in the legislative process. The blame game has begun and despite calls for a special session to take up scaled back versions of the two vetoed bills, Dayton has said he will not call a special session.

2018 Election Cycle

We now turn to the election season where the stakes are enormous. The DFL and GOP need to select a Gubernatorial candidate for November and will take the first official stab at doing so on June 2 at their respective party conventions. It’s possible that both parties will see candidates run through an August primary to gain the November ballot slot under their party’s banner. 
 
House Speaker Kurt Daudt is defending a 77-57 GOP majority. House DFLers are banking on a slate of new candidate recruitment and a potential national ‘blue wave’ for their attempt to retake a majority in the House. While not on the ballot until the 2020 election, the Senate Republican majority has taken an interesting twist. GOP Sen. Michelle Fischbach has taken the oath of office for Lieutenant Governor and there will be a special election (held on the general election date, Nov. 6) for her seat. The outcome of that special election could flip control of the Senate, which now stands at a 33-33 tie. While this special election will be expensive and hard fought, SD 13 (central MN) is traditionally very conservative (63% for Trump in 2016) and state Rep. Jeff Howe (R – Cold Spring) is running and is well positioned to hold the seat for the GOP.
 
In addition to the battles for Governor and control of the legislature all eight Congressional seats are on the ballot. We also have both of our U.S. Senate seats on the ballot this November due to the midterm resignation of Al Franken. All state constitutional officers, Attorney General, Secretary of State and State Auditor, are up for election as well. We’re told the ad-buys for the Twin Cities media market this fall have already been purchased and Minnesotans should brace for an unprecedented amount of political money and ads being dumped on them this fall. Hang on for a bumpy ride to the November 6 general election.
 

Scholarship Report: Sandy Pilarski – Enhancing Quality Staff in 2018

Event: Enhancing Quality Staff in Changing Times 2018 – St. Paul, MN – May 23, 2018

Attendee: Sandy Pilarski – Library Associate, Winona Public Library


How does attending this event relate to your current role in your library?

I work a service desk where I help the public with whatever they bring to me. Most of the time I can answer their questions or give them some guidance, but all interactions require elements of customer service. I feel everyone can learn more to assist in performing their job well, even if it comes down to self-assessment and self-care to help you be a better you. This symposium provided tips, tricks, and components of relatable moments from other library staff.

What was your favorite session you attended and why?

Cultivating a Seed Library: Sowing and Growing a Successful Seed Library Program at Your Library. I found this session very interesting since so many people like to garden and eating whole foods is such a popular topic. It was the story of how the St. Paul’s Riverview Library began their seed library. They explained how they staffed it from inception to harvest making just $57 to support the next year’s seed packets lending program. A real grassroots effort and story.

What’s one (1) idea that you gained from the event that you plan to implement now that you’re back?

I liked the fundraiser idea of selling your garden harvest and partnering with our Friends of the Library volunteers.

Would you recommend this event to others and why?

I would recommend this event to others as a way to connect with other library staff and share ideas and failures. There are so many people willing to share their thoughts and talents once you make the initial connection. It is a large group of helpers with a wide array of talents.

How Do Governor Dayton’s Vetoes Impact Libraries?

The following information was shared with the library community via the MLA and ITEM Legislative Update Newsletter Wednesday, May 23, 2018 by Sam Walseth, Capitol Hill Associates, in his role as the MLA-ITEM lobbyist. 

There is a lot to report this week.

Dayton follows through with Veto threats
 
This morning Governor Dayton followed through with his promise to veto the Supplemental Budget bill and the Tax Conformity/One-time Education funding bill. He’s expected to sign the Bonding bill, which contains $1 million for library construction and renovation grants. 

What was lost in the 990 page now vetoed Supplemental bill for libraries?Language for RLTA that would allow the regional systems to re-purpose those funds for broadband expansion outside of the e-rate program is now vetoed. This means that regional libraries will either need to spend all of their fiscal year 2019 funds or any unspent funds will be cancelled back to the state’s general fund at the end of the biennium (June 30, 2019). $15 million for border-to-border broadband expansion funds is lost as well due to the veto. 
 
Expect the political blame-game to fire up this summer. There will be a constant stream of rumors about a one-day special session to pass a Tax Conformity package that Dayton and the four legislative caucus leaders can all sign off on. I’ll tell you about it when it happens, but don’t hold your breath. As for the other pieces of the Supplemental Budget bill re-emerging in any special session, don’t count on it. Most likely we’re done for 2018 and can get on with planning for the next big budget session in 2019.

2018 Legislative Session Closes

The following information was shared with the library community via the MLA and ITEM Legislative Update Newsletter Tuesday, May 22, 2018 by Sam Walseth, Capitol Hill Associates, in his role as the MLA-ITEM lobbyist.

2018 Session closes, but it’s not over yet…

The last night of a legislative session is always a display of organized chaos and this year’s version didn’t disappoint. In fact, so much happened in the last two hours on Sunday night that we’re still sorting through what exactly happened. The next question is what will happen in the next two weeks. Under the parameters of the state’s constitution, Governor Dayton has 14 days to either sign, veto or ‘pocket veto’ the bills the legislature put on his desk this weekend. A ‘pocket veto’ would occur on a bill if the 14 day period expires and the Governor has not signed a bill into law. Without his signature, the bill is vetoed.

What’s at stake for libraries?

Bonding
A Bonding bill (HF 4425) emerged at the last minute and passed both bodies. The bill appropriates $825 million in general obligation bonds. Unfortunately, the bill only has $1 million for library construction and renovation grants. It became difficult to hang onto the $2 million in funds as negotiators added more projects to the omnibus bill, but didn’t increase the overall price tag of the bill. There are no earmarks for these dollars. The bill also contains $25 million in cash for school safety and security upgrades. Districts can apply to MDE for up to $500,000 in grants to help cover the costs of identified physical security needs. The Governor is likely to sign this bill, but could line-item veto individual projects.

Supplemental Budget Bill

A 990-page Supplemental budget bill (SF 3656) that contains policy provisions and funding changes across all of state government. It includes language on RLTA that would allow the regional systems to repurpose unspent RTLA funds for other broadband expansion purposes. The bill also contains $15 million for the Broadband Development fund. Governor Dayton said repeatedly over the week that he will veto the bill. However, we can expect a steady drum beat of interest groups to emerge, asking him to sign it because it contains particular provisions of interest to them. 
 

Tax Conformity

A Tax conformity and one-time emergency school aid bill (HF 947) was put together on Sunday and was sent to the Governor. The bill contains virtually the same tax conformity bill the Governor vetoed last week, but the legislature is hoping to sweeten the deal with the addition of $50 million in one-time money for schools. The bill also allows districts to apply to MDE to transfer Community Education reserves and repurpose any staff development funds encumbered under the 2% set-aside. The GOP is arguing this package creates an additional $225 million in available funding for schools to deal with any budget shortfalls this year. The Governor has said he will absolutely veto this bill. However, vetoing the Tax conformity package means a difficult tax filing season next year. Expect enormous pressure on the Governor to sign the bill.
 

Pension Reform

And last but not least, the Pension bill (SF 2620) passed. As expected, the Pension bill was held hostage until the very end and was the last bill passed by both bodies. The bill contains a major improvement to the Teachers Retirement Association (TRA) that has been in the works for several year. We expect Governor Dayton will sign this bill soon.

2018 ARSL Scholarships Available

SELCO is pleased to offer four scholarships of up to $1,000 each to attend the 2018 Association for Rural and Small Libraries (ARSL) Conference! This event will be held at the Bank of Springfield Center in Springfield, IL on September 13 – 15, 2018. The following items may qualify for reimbursement:

  • registration
  • hotel
  • meals other than the five included in your registration
  • transportation
  • parking

The application deadline for those interested in being considered for a SELCO scholarship is Wednesday, June 6, 2018. Please complete the application found here.

Please note that there is a wait list for registration at this time. You must be registered to receive this scholarship.

In the event there are more than four scholarship applicants, names will be drawn by lot. Contact the SELCO office with any questions. 

Session Update

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. 
 

Bonding

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. 

“Academic Balance”

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.

Pension Reform

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.