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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.

Legislative Update

The following information was shared with the library community via the MLA and ITEM Legislative Update Newsletter Friday, April 20, 2018 by Sam Walseth, Capitol Hill Associates, in his role as the MLA-ITEM lobbyist.

There are four weeks left of the 2018 legislative session and as expected all the major decision-making will come down to the last weekend (May 18-20). The state’s constitution prescribes Monday, May 21 as the last day, but it also stipulates that the legislature cannot pass bills on a day prescribed for final adjournment (when they adjourn ‘sine die’). Therefore, midnight on Sunday, May 20 is the last chance for the legislature to pass bills. 
 
The House and Senate are currently in the process of assembling their omnibus supplemental spending bills that encompass change items across all of state government. In the ensuing week or so we’ll see the House and Senate produce a tax bill aimed at addressing conformity issues with the new federal tax law. 
 
2018, being the even numbered year in the biennium, is the traditional year for a bonding bill. The bonding bill process has always been a backroom ordeal, making it difficult to track progress on any one proposal. Don’t expect to see a lot of public process on the bonding bill. It will emerge amidst a global deal in the final hours of session. 
 
What’s specifically at stake for MLA-ITEM?
A public employee pension bill aimed at improving the solvency of the various pension funds is in the mix. The Senate didn’t hesitate to move this bill out and approved it 66-0 in March. House GOP leadership will hold the bill until the last days of session as bargaining leverage for the infamous ‘global’ negotiations yet to come. 
 
The supplemental budget bill could impact Regional Library Telecommunications Aid (RLTA), broadband funding and force school districts to implement ‘academic balance’ policies; legislation birthed from a culture war dust up in Edina schools last fall. Funding for library construction and renovation grants are at stake in the bonding bill.
 

RLTA (Regional Library Telecom Aid)

The Governor’s supplemental E-12 bill notes the potential for $350,000 in unspent Regional Library Telecommunications Aid (RLTA) in the current fiscal biennium. Instead of re-purposing these funds for Regional Library Basic System Support (RLBSS), the administration decided to recommend transferring any unspent RLTA funds to the school Telecommunications Equity Aid (TEA) program.

MLA has been working with the House and Senate to keep these public library funds in the public library fiscal world.  Despite testimony from the MN School Boards Association (MSBA) saying they want the funds for TEA, the House Education Finance committee is recommending keeping unspent RLTA funds in public library budgets. The House doesn’t go quite as far as MLA had requested in terms of using the funds for general operating purposes. The House supplemental E-12 budget bill would have the MDE Commissioner work with the regional library systems to re-purpose unspent RLTA funds next March on a variety of broadband and technology expense in a more flexibly manner than the limitations of the federal e-rate program (which RLTA is tied to). 
 
The Senate acquiesced to the MSBA position and their supplemental E-12 bill calls for cancelling unspent RLTA funds back to the state’s general fund and then the bill appropriates $440,000 for TEA. The bill doesn’t make a direct link between unspent RLTA and TEA in how it’s written, but Senate E-12 Chair Carla Nelson confirmed the move and her intent when I testified on behalf of MLA asking to keep the funds in RLTA. Chair Nelson said while she hoped to address library funding issues in the next budget session, she needed these funds for TEA in this non-budget/supplemental session. 
 
MDE has informally said they support MLA’s request to keep the public library RLTA funds in the public library fiscal world. The issue will be sorted out in the supplemental budget conference committee that will organize in the next week or so and will work until the end of session. 
 

Bonding

Library construction has been a mainstay of the bonding bill for many cycles. Governor Dayton proposed $2.5 million for library construction and renovation grants. We’ve had some positive attention this session in the House with the Kimball folks coming forward with a great story and request. Thanks to Rep. Jeff Howe for his continued advocacy for library projects. Hopefully, we’ll see an agreed to bonding bill emerge in the last night or two of session that includes funding for libraries. Broadband

Broadband

Governor Dayton has proposed an additional $30 million for community broadband funds. The House and Senate supplement bills include $15 million for broadband. Senate Jobs Chair Jeremy Miller spent $15 million of his $17 million on broadband, showing strong support in the Senate. Senator Rich Draheim offered an amendment that would require oversight of broadband service providers and internet speeds. Sen Draheim proposed that providers be required to disclose on their billing statements the average speed they are receiving during the billing period. However, the amendment was withdrawn in the spirit of solely focusing on funding the fund this year, without policy changes, as had been the position of the Rural Broadband Coalition.

In the House, Chair Pat Garofalo also spends $15 million on broadband, but he earmarks $750,000 for satellite providers. The funds are to be spent on 1,000 unserved consumers to aid in satellite equipment installment as well as to lower monthly subscription fees for one year. The Rural Broadband Coalition was disappointed at the amendment, especially since the satellite providers only are only required to meet speed goals of 25/3.

Net Neutrality

Talk of state actions to curb the impact of the FCC’s decision to repeal net neutrality rules have been quiet since January when two DFL law-makers announced they would push legislation to address the issue. However, earlier last week Sen. Karla Bigham (DFL Cottage Grove) and Rep. Debra Hilstrom (DFL Brooklyn Park) introduced legislation (SF 3968 and HF 4411) that would require internet providers doing business with the public sector in Minnesota to abide by net neutrality provisions. The session process is well past policy bill deadlines and the GOP majorities weren’t likely to take up these bills anyway. However, we may see these members make an attempt to offer this legislation as a ‘floor’ amendment in their respective bodies if they can find a bill that is germane to this issue. 

 

Legislative Update

The following information was shared with the library community via the MLA and ITEM Legislative Update Newsletter Monday, March 19, 2018 by Sam Walseth, Capitol Hill Associates, in his role as the MLA-ITEM lobbyist.

Governor’s State of the State Address
Wednesday night (March 14) Governor Dayton delivered his final state of the state address. He reflected on his two terms in office and thanked Minnesotans for their support in giving him the opportunity to serve two terms. He noted several statistics about where the state was financially when he arrived and where the state is today. In terms of education funding he said Minnesota had fallen into the bottom half of states for funding when he arrived and is now ranked 18th.

He touted the advancements in early childhood education funding and said 80,000 kids today are participating in all day kindergarten and PreK programs because of the investments he pushed for. He talked about the value of our workforce in the eyes of the business community and noted a statistic that says Minnesota is the third best state for business.

He talked about fiscal stability for the state budget and urged legislators to not dedicate auto part sales tax revenues for transportation as that would siphon off over $1.3 billion from the general fund in the next four years.

Dayton wants to allow Minnesota’s to buy into MNCare for health insurance coverage. He said Minnesota’s uninsured rate has risen from just over 4% in 2015 to just over 6% today. He talked about gun violence and the need to listen to the children begging for safety measures.

On the issue of conforming Minnesota’s tax code to the new federal law, he said corporations received enough help and Minnesota needs to focus on tax fairness for families. Lastly, he said our future workforce will come from people outside of Minnesota and while that’s hard for some to grasp, it’s a fact of life and we need to be more welcoming of new people to our state.

He indicated that we should expect details of his supplemental budget proposal by Friday. Legislative committees are planning to review aspects of his plan in their respective committees next week.

Governor’s Supplemental Budget
Last Friday (March 16) Governor Dayton released a supplemental budget plan that would leave his mark on the state’s budget for years to come. In the big picture, Governor Dayton wants to revisit several tax provisions he opposed last year yet signed into law. Namely, last year’s repeal of the automatic inflators on the statewide business levy and the inflators on tobacco taxes are targets in his supplemental budget plan. On spending, he would spend $227 million of the $329M surplus projected for the current biennium, raise another $20 million in tax revenue and keep $123 million on the bottom line for the budget reserve/cash flow account.

In the next biennium, his supplemental budget proposal would increase state revenue by $580 million and would spend $555 million. E-12 programs are a major recipient of the new spending he’s proposing. Making permanent the newly enacted School Readiness Plus early learning program is a top priority for the Governor and Commissioner Cassellius. The Governor includes a bump in special education funding and of course his previously announced school safety plan is also included. The Governor’s plan also includes state funding to pay for the omnibus pension bill that is starting to work its way through the process.

There’s a small change in the E-12 budget that is of direct interest to library services. The Governor’s supplemental budget plan calls for capturing and repurposing unspent Regional Library Telecommunication Aid (RLTA) funds. The MDE estimates that $350,000 each biennium will go unspent from the current $1.2 million annual appropriation. The plan calls for shifting these dollars into the school Telecommunications Equity Aid (TEA) program. We’re working to learn more about this situation.

On the whole, the Governor’s plan will meet resistance from the GOP majorities in the legislature. Dayton’s position that Minnesota should detach from the federal tax code is in direct opposition to GOP efforts to conform Minnesota’s tax code to the recent federal tax bill. This sets up for gridlock as we head deeper into the 2018 session. Details of his plan will emerge this week as committees dig into his plan.

To see agency detail of the Governor’s supplemental plan go here:
https://mn.gov/mmb/budget/currentbud/gov18-19/
https://mn.gov/mmb/assets/18-19-supplemental-budget-agency-item_tcm1059-330545.pdf

Hearing on HF 1484–Bonding
Thursday afternoon the House Education Finance committee reviewed HF 1484
that appropriates $10 million for the library construction and renovation
grant program.

Chief author Rep. Jeff Howe (R- Rockville) introduced the bill and gave a
brief history of the program and how it’s structured. He thanked Rep. Mary
Murphy for her longtime support of libraries and then asked his two
testifiers from Kimball, MN to talk about their local effort to build a new
library.

Kimball Mayor Tammy Konz and Margaret Arnold, a library friend and leader of
the Kimball library building task force, shared the vision and effort
they’re undertaking to build a new library. Their presentation was well
received and several committee members referenced library projects that had
been funded in their communities through this grant pool.

Library construction and renovation grants would be funded through the
bonding bill, so the Education Finance committee’s work today is just the
start. We likely won’t see a formal version of the omnibus bonding bill
emerge until very late in session.

Session Closure

The following information was shared via email with the library community Tuesday, June 6, 2017 by Sam Walseth, Capitol Hill Associates, in his role as the MLA-ITEM lobbyist.

While the Governor’s line-item veto of the legislature’s operating budget
means the people’s business isn’t quite finished, it is for our practical
purposes.

The final Bonding bill, signed into law, appropriates $2 million for library
construction and renovation projects.

The final Legacy bill, signed into law, appropriates $2.5 million for
library legacy programming for the next two years.

The final E-12 bill, signed into law, doesn’t appropriate new funding for
regional library programs.

If the courts decide against the legislature’s forthcoming lawsuit over the
line-item veto, it’s the Governor’s desire to revisit several items in the
Tax bill. Those items are related to commercial-industrial property taxes
paid to the state, tobacco taxes and changes to the estate tax. He’s also
indicated a desire to revisit the teacher licensure reform package passed in
the E-12 bill.

The 2018 session begins at noon on Tuesday, February 20th.

Samuel P. Walseth, Capitol Hill Associates

E-12 Bill, Special Session Status and Bonding Bill

The following information was shared via email with the library community Wednesday evening, May 25, 2017 by Sam Walseth, Capitol Hill Associates, in his role as the MLA-ITEM lobbyist.

 

After a rough start to the special session last night, the House did finally
get the E-12 bill passed by a vote of 79-54. The bill was taken up by the
Senate this afternoon. Unfortunately, the Senate was short a majority member
and so couldn’t take up votes on the budget bills. Instead, they adjourned
until noon on Thursday. The House followed suit. All of the bills are now
posted and everyone has had time to review them.

DFLers are furious with what’s been negotiated in some of these bills. The
unions were out in force at the Capitol today asking them to “shut it down”
and for the Governor to “veto everything.” There’s definitely something to
love and hate in this package of legislation. I think everything gets passed
by both bodies by Thursday night and weary crew of 201 legislators will
leave St. Paul.

Bonding Bill

The bonding bill spreadsheet has been released and it contains $2 million
for library construction grants!!

Here’s a link to the bonding bill spreadsheet; we’re on page 1, line 30:

http://www.house.leg.state.mn.us/comm/docs/b8582b99-8e6d-4224-a9cd-525e82634
244.pdf

Samuel P. Walseth, Capitol Hill Associates

Legacy and Bonding Bill Updates

The following information was shared via email with the library community on Thursday, May 18, 2017 by Sam Walseth, Capitol Hill Associates, in his role as the MLA-ITEM lobbyist.

Legacy Bill

This evening the Legacy conference committee wrapped up their work on the
omnibus legacy bill. Library Legacy funding is at $2.5 million/year for the
next two years. The Senate position was $2.2 million/year and the House
brought $2.7 & $2.5 million for the next two years, respectively. The House
position largely won out thanks once again to Rep. Mary Murphy’s hard work.
While she wasn’t actually on the conference committee she sat through the
entire hearing tonight to make sure our funding was secure.

Bonding Bill

Last night the House failed to pass the bonding bill that Chair Dean Urdahl
brought forward. Chair Urdahl has maintained our $2 million for library
construction grants through the process. It’s unclear what kind of process,
if any, they will use to resolve a bonding bill for this session. It’s
possible that they will fail to pass a bonding bill again. Hopefully they
figure it out. Our $2 million for library construction grants has been a
part of every bonding iteration in the House, Senate and Governor’s
proposals for over a year.

Samuel P. Walseth, Capitol Hill Associates

MN Legislative Update 2015-05-20

The following information was shared via email with the library community by Elaine Keefe, Capitol Hill Associates, in her role as MLA-ITEM lobbyist.

Session Ends: Last night at midnight, the Legislature adjourned as required by the constitution. However, there will be a special session to pass an education bill, a legacy bill and possibly other bills as well.

Education Bill Veto: Attached is Governor Dayton’s veto message regarding the education bill. In a press conference this afternoon, the governor described the last-minute negotiations on the education bill yesterday. He offered to sign the bill if legislators would add $125 million — $55 million for School Readiness and the rest to increase the general education formula by 2% each year (the bill passed by the Legislature increased the formula by 1.5% in FY 16 and by 2% in FY 17). House Republicans would not agree to add more than $100 million, so negotiations collapsed.

Governor Dayton will call a special session, but not until there is an agreement signed by the leaders of all four caucuses specifying exactly what will be acted upon during the special session. Governor Dayton said he would prefer to wrap it up by June 1, because by law, that is the date that layoff notices must be sent to state employees whose agencies are not funded. The Capitol is not available for the special session due to the renovations taking place, so the special session will have to take place at another venue. It must be in St. Paul.

Legacy Bill: The legacy bill passed the House last night, but did not pass the Senate. This was not because of any controversy over the bill – they simply ran out of time before the midnight adjournment deadline. Governor Dayton indicated that he thinks it is very important that the legacy bill pass in the special session. There was one change made to legacy funding for the regional library systems at the last minute – rather than $1.7 million in FY 16 and $2.7 million in FY 17, the final bill provides $2.2 million in each year. The funding is the same overall. Funding for the Minnesota Digital Library remains at $300,000 per year.

Broadband: The omnibus jobs and economic development conference committee had great difficulty in reaching agreement. They ultimately settled on a bare-bones bill that passed just seconds before the session ended. It provides $10.838 million for broadband grants in FY 16 only. This is down from the $20 million provided last year and the $30 million proposed by Governor Dayton.

Seed Library Exemption: The omnibus agriculture policy bill, HF 1554, includes an exemption from seed regulations for “interpersonal sharing of seed for home, educational, charitable or personal non-commercial use.” The bill was presented to the governor on May 15, which means that he has until midnight on Tuesday to sign or veto it. I fully expect him to sign the bill. It passed the House 102-25 and passed the Senate 64-0.

Student Information: In my previous description of the omnibus education bill, I neglected to mention that the provision initiated by the St. Paul Public Schools to conform Minnesota’s data privacy law to federal law with respect to students records is included in the bill. This will allow school districts to share students addresses with their local public library for the purpose of obtaining library cards for all students without having to make the addresses public.

Elaine Keefe, Capitol Hill Associates

Minnesota Library Legislative Update 05-14-2014

The following information was sent via e-mail on May 14, 2014,  from Elaine Keefe, MLA/MEMO Lobbyist.

Library Construction Grants

House and Senate DFLers have reached agreement on two bills to fund capital projects.  One is a traditional bonding bill totaling $846 million.  The other is a cash bill totaling $279 million.  Library Construction Grants are funded at $2 million in the cash bill.  Out of the $2 million, $570,000 is earmarked for the Jackson County Library, $257,000 is earmarked for the Perham Library and $50,000 is earmarked for the Bagley Library. The bonding bill requires a supermajority of 3/5 of each body to pass.  That means that Republican votes are needed to pass the bonding bill.  It is far from clear whether enough House Republicans will vote for the bill.  Negotiations are ongoing, so there may be changes made to the bill between now and tomorrow, when it is scheduled to be brought up on the House floor. The cash bill does not require a supermajority.  Governor Dayton has said he is opposed to using cash to pay for capital projects, but it is not clear whether he would actually veto a cash bill.  The cash bill includes a number of projects that are important to the Governor, such as the remodeling of the Minnesota Security Hospital, grants for Early Childhood Facilities, grants for Local Road Improvements and the Local Bridge Replacement Program.

Omnibus Supplemental Budget Bill

The conference committee negotiating the budget bill is supposed to finish its work tonight. Some budget areas were completed last night, but E-12 education was still being negotiated. The conference committee has not met in public today and we are still waiting for a meeting to be announced for this evening.  Looks like it will go down to the wire.

Minnesota Library Legislative Update 05-12-2014

The following information was sent via e-mail on May 6, 2014,  from Sam Walseth, MLA/MEMO Lobbyist. Additional linked information added.

The 2014 legislative session must close at least one week from tonight. However, the legislature cannot pass bills on a day prescribed for Sine Die, and May 19, 2014, is such a day.  Therefore Sunday evening (May 18, 2014) is the last opportunity to pass bills. There is pressure to finish the session as early as Friday night (May 16, 2014), but most speculate that we’ll go until midnight on Saturday (May 17, 2014) and they will avoid a Sunday session. However, Sunday sessions have certainly occurred in recent memory.  

Neither the House or Senate have passed a bonding bill. Both bodies have produced a bill that is awaiting floor action, but at this point it appears they will pre-arrange a bonding deal between the House, Senate and Governor and pass one bill without going through a conference committee process. Nothing has changed from our initial positions for Library Construction Grants; $1 million in the Senate bill and $3 million in the House bill.

The omnibus supplemental bill is still in the works. Leadership is pressing them to finish their work by tomorrow night. It appears they have sub-division targets to work with. The plan appears to be that the bill will spend $263 million which is between the Governor’s $243 million and Legislature’s $293 million. E-12 appears to get $54 million of this target. Higher Education appears to get $22 million. The E-12 figure is decent and could create room for some Telecom Equity Aid, but I still think increased TEA funding is a long shot.