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RLBSS Bill Introduced in Legislature

The following information was shared with the library community via the MLA and ITEM Legislative Update Newsletter Saturday, February 16, 2019 by Sam Walseth, Capitol Hill Associates, in his role as the MLA-ITEM lobbyist. Additional information was added by SELCO Advocacy Consultant Jennifer Harveland on Monday evening, February 18.

Regional Library Basic System Support
 
HF1282 was introduced Monday at 3:30pm, chief authored by Rep. Mary Murphy. The bill will provide a $4 million annual increase over the current $13.57 million in regional library system support. The bill also amends the distribution formula to the 12 regional public systems to provide more stability in funding to each system.

Net Neutrality
 
Last week the House Commerce Committee reviewed HF 136, which is being referred to as the Net Neutrality bill. The legislation would require internet service providers contracting with the state of local government to abide by net neutrality principals. The legislation is opposed internet service providers, the Cable Association and other industry players, who will fight the bill throughout session. The companion bill, SF 317, doesn’t stand a chance to be heard in the Senate. The issue will likely be a point of negotiation between leadership during the conference committee process later in May.
 
Broadband
 
On Wednesday the House Greater Minnesota Jobs & Economic Development committee will hear an overview of the Border-to-Border broadband grant program. Those testifying include:
 

  • Office of Broadband Development, Department of Employment and Economic Development
  • Minnesota Telecom Alliance
  • Minnesota Rural Broadband Coalition (MRBC)

 
The MRBC has asked for $70 million in new broadband funding. Governor Walz has signaled an interest in supporting $80 million for the fund. HF 7 and SF 9 are the MRBC backed bills we’re tracking this session.
 
Walz Budget due
 
At noon on Tuesday Governor Walz’s much anticipated two-year operating budget for state government services will be released. There have been no leaks that hint to what will be included in his budget plan. Stay tuned for more information on the Walz budget plan.

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. 

 

Additional libraries rally around broadband

By adding their names to the Minnesota Broadband Vision, SELCO libraries are showing their support for a future in which residents of all generations and backgrounds will have access to affordable, high-quality broadband.   Cities, counties and stakeholders around the state including SELCO have already expressed support.  The most recent passed resolutions are from the public library boards in  Harmony on March 7,  Dodge Center on March 10  and Austin and LeRoy on March 14.

The Blandin Foundation, with its many community interests, including sharing news and information on broadband use, policy and trends, is managing this statewide campaign.  There is even a “I Endorse the Minnesota Broadband Vision” Facebook page to “like” as well as post local support. 

Updates


Update – April 19:  Plainview Public Library endorsed the Minnesota Broadband Vision and passed a supporting resolution


Update – April 12:  Houston Public Library supports the Minnesota Broadband Vision


Update – April 6:  Wabasha Public Library resolution passed on March 21 / Caledonia Public Library resolution and Kenyon Public Library resolution passed on March 29


Update – March 30:  Chatfield Music Lending Library March 30 Resolution


Update – March 22:  Lanesboro Public Library March 16 Resolution


Update – March 21:  Resolutions passed by the public library boards in Chatfield and Spring Valley on March 17.


Update – March 17:  Minnesota Broadband Vision resolution passed by the Rochester Public Library on March 16.

 

Libraries Support Broadband Vision

MN Broadband Vision 2016

Libraries around the SELCO region express support for the Minnesota Broadband Vision through board and community resolutions. Here is a template for ease of use.  

The Blandin Foundation, with its many community interests, including sharing news and information on broadband use, policy and trends, is managing this statewide campaign.  There is even a “I Endorse the Minnesota Broadband Vision” Facebook page to “like” as well as post local support. 

Harmony Public Library – March 7, 2016

SELCO Supports Broadband Vision

MN Broadband Vision 2016The Southeastern Libraries Cooperating (SELCO) Board of Directors joins a growing number of governmental agencies support of the Minnesota Broadband Vision. The SELCO resolution stresses the broad array of vital library services which depend on broadband or high speed Internet. The resolution urges Governor Dayton and the members of the Minnesota Legislature to provide leadership, resources and the necessary legal framework to make this vision a reality.

Libraries around the state are encouraged to seek support from local governing authorities, community groups, and individuals who believe that Internet access is an equity issue for all Minnesotans.

MN Broadband Vision

MN Broadband Vision 2016Participants at a recent statewide conference collaboratively developed a broadband vision for Minnesota:

Everyone in Minnesota will be able to use convenient, affordable world-class broadband networks that enable us to survive and thrive in our communities and across the globe.

Cities, counties, community organizations, and regional libraries are actively showing support by endorsing the vision. Local library boards may want to join in as well since a strong telecommunications network is vital to library service. The Bladin Foundation has crafted a draft resolution to aid in generating support. Follow the Broadband Vision Facebook page to keep up with endorsements.

MN Legislative Update 2015-04-21

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

House Legacy Bill: Yesterday the House Legacy Committee competed work on its omnibus bill and passed it out of committee. Rep. Dean Urdahl, chair of the committee, made it very clear in his opening remarks that no group was entitled to any particular amount of Legacy funding, regardless of what they had received in the past. As such, there is no such thing as a “cut” in Legacy funds. We all start out at zero for the biennium, and the amounts we receive will fluctuate – sometimes they will be higher and sometimes they will be lower than in the past. He said that some groups needed an “attitude adjustment.”

I spoke with Rep. Urdahl today and he expressed annoyance at the number of e-mails he had received about the level of library funding in the bill. I assured him that his message was loud and clear and that I would convey it to the library community. I also thanked him for including funding for libraries in his bill, acknowledging that he has long been a strong library supporter.

So, thank you to those of you who contacted your legislators and members of the House Legacy Committee. However, we need to stop complaining about the level of funding provided in the House Legacy bill.

Broadband: I reported last Thursday that the House was providing no new funding for broadband grants, while the Senate had $17 million in its budget and the Governor had $30 million in his budget proposal. However, on Friday when the omnibus jobs and energy bill was heard in the House Ways and Means Committee, $8 million was added for broadband grants. Funding for the Office of Broadband, which had been eliminated in the bill, was partially restored.

Library Construction Grants: Today I met with Rep. Jeff Howe (R – Rockville), a member of the House Capital Investment Committee. He agreed to introduce our bill to provide $10 million for Library Construction Grants. The bill is intended to put Library Construction Grants under consideration for inclusion in the 2016 bonding bill. We need to have it introduced this session so that it is on the radar of the House and Senate Capital Investment Committees as they tour the state this fall to look at proposed capital projects.

House Omnibus Tax Bill: Today the House Tax Committee passed its omnibus tax bill. Yesterday the committee took public testimony. The bill makes deep cuts in local government aid for Minneapolis, St. Paul and Duluth, but not for any other cities. Among the witnesses in opposition to these cuts were Kit Hadley, director of the St. Paul Public Library, and two branch managers. They spoke very eloquently about the impact these cuts would have on library services in St. Paul.

Other provisions of interest in the bill are as follows:

A sales tax exemption for building materials purchased by a contractor under a lump sum contract for buildings used by local governments. This was strongly supported by cities and counties.

An expansion of the current K-12 education expense subtraction to include pre-K expenses and private school tuition. The inclusion of private school tuition was strongly opposed by various school organizations.

A Property Tax Payers’ Empowerment Act, which allows a reverse referendum if a city or county increases its property tax levy over the previous year. The referendum is triggered if a petition signed by 10% of the voters in the last general election is filed by June 30. The referendum must be held on the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November. This was opposed by cities and counties.

A working group to make recommendations on revising the county program aid distribution formula.

Repeal of library debt service aid for Minneapolis.

Data Practices Training for Local Units of Government: The Senate omnibus state government funding bill passed on the Senate floor yesterday. It includes $100,000 in each year of the biennium for the Department of Administration’s Information and Policy Analysis Division, commonly known as IPAD, to conduct training for local units of government on data practices laws. This was initiated by the League of Minnesota Cities. The funding is not included in the House omnibus state government funding bill.

2014 Minnesota Library Legislative Summary

The following information was sent via e-mail on July 7, 2014,  from Elaine Keefe, MLA/MEMO Lobbyist.

Below is a summary of 2014 legislative action affecting libraries. Most of this information has appeared in previous reports.  This will enable you to have all of it in one place.

Library Construction Grants

Library Accessibility and Improvement Grants were re-named Library Construction Grants, and $2 million was provided in the bonding bill for these grants.  This is the most that we have ever received for this grant program (in the 2010 legislative session the Legislature allocated $2 million, but the funding was line-item vetoed by Governor Pawlenty).  The bonding bill also clarifies that renovation includes remediation of conditions hazardous to health or safety, and includes three earmarks: $570,000 for the Jackson County Library, $257,000 for the Perham Library and $50,000 for the Bagley Library.  In a separate appropriation, the city of Cosmos received $600,000 for a new municipal building that will include the public library.

Telecommunications Equity Aid (TEA)

The MLA/MEMO platform asked for an increase of $6 million in TEA.  We had excellent hearings on our bill in both the House and Senate.  The House Education Finance Committee included a $5 million increase for TEA in its budget bill.  However, the Senate provided no increase, and neither did the final omnibus supplemental budget bill.  The top priority for the House was an increase in the general education formula, while the Senate’s top priority was funding for early childhood programs.  In the end, there was simply not enough money, and TEA was left out of the final bill. I do think we did a good job.

Library Services Task Force

A proposal by MDE to create a task force passed, except that the language was changed to require the commissioner to consult with various stakeholders, including representatives of MDE, regional public library systems, multi count, multitype library systems, public libraries in the metro area and Greater Minnesota, library media specialists, the Office of Higher Education, the Association of Minnesota Counties and the League of Minnesota Cities.  They are charged with looking at “increasing service delivery and collaboration between library governance systems, options for changing current library procedures and library governance systems to increase collaboration between library systems, and ensuring equitable and cost-effective access to library services statewide.”  A report must be issued by February 1, 2015.

E-Books

The MLA/MEMO platform asked the state to investigate the wide variance in pricing for e-Books for libraries as compared to individuals, and to explore possible remedies. This will be addressed in the Library Services Task Force mentioned above.  The charge states that “In addition to addressing physical library services, the commissioner also must consider how to increase access to emerging electronic services.”

Exception to the 20 Hour Minimum

The Legislature passed a provision authorizing MDE to grant a public library an exception to the requirement that it be open at least 20 hours per week to receive Regional Library Telecommunication Aid if requested by the regional library system for one of the following reasons:

  1. Short term closing for emergency maintenance and repairs following a natural disaster
  2. In response to exceptional economic circumstances
  3. Building repair or maintenance that requires public areas to be closed
  4. To adjust public service hours to respond to documented seasonal use patterns

This was proposed by MDE in its education policy bill after it was recommended by the regional public library systems.

General Education Formula

The general education formula will increase by $25 per pupil. This is the primary source of funding for school library media programs.

Border-to-Border Broadband Development Grants

$20 million in one-time funding was provided to the Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED) for grants to expand broadband to unserved and underserved areas. Eligible applicants include businesses, local governments, nonprofits, Indian tribes, cooperatives and LLCs formed for the purpose of expanding broadband access. Among many factors that the Department of Employment and Economic Development may consider in prioritizing applications is whether the applicant will “offer new or substantially upgraded broadband service to important community institutions including, but not limited to, libraries, educational institutions, public safety facilities and healthcare facilities.”

Data Privacy

A bill was passed requiring vendors handling confidential government data to abide by the data practices act as if it were a government entity, regardless of whether the vendor’s contract includes notice of this requirement. We supported the bill, which was introduced in response to a Minnesota Supreme Court decision in the Timberjay case, where the court ruled that the vendor was not obligated to follow the data practices act unless it was specified in the contract.

Maintenance of Effort (MOE)

As part of Governor Dayton’s unsession effort to repeal outdated laws, MDE proposed to repeal most of the library MOE language in 134.34 and replace it with a cross reference to the language in the 2011 tax bill that reduced all MOE requirements to 90% of the 2011 amount and froze them at that level permanently. While MDE saw this as merely clearing out obsolete language, we had hoped that eventually we could undo the freeze and return to the previous law, which would be far more difficult to accomplish if the language in 134.34 were repealed. After I testified against this provision in both the House and the Senate, and many of you contacted your legislators to express concern, MDE agreed to withdraw the language on the condition that we agree to work with them over the interim to come up with an agreement for the 2015 legislative session.

Tax Bill

Three provisions of interest to public libraries were included in the final tax bill:

  1. The deadline for cities and counties to certify their levies is changed from September 15 to September 30.
  2. Local government aid is increased by $7.8 million. A House proposal to index LGA to inflation was NOT adopted.
  3. A sales tax exemption was adopted for building materials purchased and donated by a private entity for construction of an addition to a city library facility before July 1, 2015. This is intended to benefit the Marshall Library.

2015 Legislative Session

The 2015 legislative session begins on January 6, 2015.

Minnesota Library Legislative Update 05-15-2014

The following information was sent via e-mail on May 15, 2014,  from Elaine Keefe, MLA/MEMO Lobbyist.

Telecommunications Equity Aid (TEA)

The omnibus supplemental budget conference committee has finally reached agreement on the education portion of the budget. The agreed upon language was made public this morning. Unfortunately, it does not include any increase in funding for TEA.  The $54 million education target was simply not large enough to accommodate an increase in TEA, given that the House’s top priority was an increase in the general education formula and the Senate’s top priority was early learning programs.  I do think we set the stage well to make a strong case for an increase in TEA next year.

General Education Formula

The general education formula will increase by $25 per pupil. This is the primary source of funding for school library media programs.

Broadband Access Grants

The economic development portion of the omnibus supplemental budget bill includes $20 million in one-time funding for grants to expand broadband to unserved and underserved areas. The omnibus supplemental budget bill will be finished up by the conference committee later today. It then needs to be approved by the House and Senate in the next few days. The last day that bills can be passed is Sunday. Legislative leaders hope to adjourn earlier than that, but we shall see.