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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.

2019 Session Underway

The following information was shared with the library community via the MLA and ITEM Legislative Update Newsletter Monday, February 4, 2019 by Sam Walseth, Capitol Hill Associates, in his role as the MLA-ITEM lobbyist.

The first month of the 2019 session is behind us. As expected, it’s been a slow (and cold) start to the new legislative cycle. The Walz-Flanagan transition is mostly settled- however, second tier agency posts (assistant and deputy commissioners) are still coming together. The new House DFL majority is starting to hum now that staff are settled into their new positions. The House and Senate committees have mostly been conducting overview hearings. A few marquee DFL-backed policy bills are set for their initial hearings this coming week in the House, including legislation on paid sick leave and wage theft prohibitions are on the docket.

The Senate is taking a slower approach as the GOP majority knows the DFL House and Governor Walz will ramp up an ambitious agenda this month and through session. The Senate also has a special session to fill the seat vacated by Tony Lourey (DFL-Kerrick) who took the reins as Commissioner of the Department of Human Services earlier in January. His son, Stu Lourey, is running to replace him in the special election set for Tuesday, February 5th. Rep. Jason Rarick (GOP-Pine City) is a formidable challenger for the Senate District 11 special election and the race is expected to be close. Senate District 11 spans Carleton and Pine Counties. Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka is hoping to flip this seat and give his caucus a two seat majority, which would provide significant breathing room as they brace for the DFL’s agenda to land in their chamber.

Walz-Flanagan Budget Plan

One thing certain about the Walz-Flanagan operation; it’s a tight-lipped, no leak, operation. Walz’s time in D.C. and his core staff are exhibiting better habits around the ‘cone of silence’ than we’re used to in Minnesota level politics. The new Governor’s budget is due on February 19 and it’s unclear how he’s going to put forward the progressive agenda he campaigned on.

The state’s budget picture isn’t helping him either. The state’s fiscal consultant, IHS, has already signaled a lowering of future GDP figures that we’ll see in the February forecast. The $1.5 billion surplus for the next biennium (FY 20-21) may hold, but the tails projections (FY 22-23) that showed a mere $456 million surplus are expected to vanish at the end of the month when the updated forecast is released. There’s already speculation that the DFL will seek general fund revenue increases to pay for their hoped for education plans.

MLA-ITEM Agenda

Your lobbying team has been active in working our top funding priorities into position for the general fund budget debate ahead. Rep. Mary Murphy will champion our proposal to increase funding to the 12 regional public library systems. MLA is asking for a $4 million annual increase to Regional Library Basic System Support (RLBSS) and a formula distribution change that has been approved by the 12 regional library boards. We’re seeking the chief authorship support from another senator.

An emerging library advocate in the legislature is Rep. Mary Kunesh-Podein (DFL New Brighton). Rep. Kunesh-Podein is a licensed school media specialist. She’s introduced HF 247 which would create an grant pool that schools could apply for to incentive them to hire more licensed school media specialists. We’ve also begun exploring authors for our Legacy and Capital Investment requests. Actual bill numbers for these various proposals are still weeks away as there is a significant amount of time to attain the appropriate permissions for drafting and ‘jacketing’ bills, getting them signed and then formally introduced.

The legislative committee process will heat up in March with the first policy deadline set for March 15. The more significant committee deadlines for MLA-ITEM’s legislative proposals are March 29 and April 12. The legislature will be gone on a Passover/Easter break from April 13 – 22. Session must end on May 20.

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
 

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.
 

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.

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.

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.

February Budget Forecast

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

On Wednesday, the state released an update to last December’s budget forecast. The good news is a previously projected $188 million deficit has turned into a $329 million surplus. Help from the federal government in the form of Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIPs) funding helped reduce state expenditures in the Health & Human Services budget area by $247 million. The federal tax bill is pushing up GDP numbers and corporate tax collections have increased. 
 
Still, the $329 million surplus figure represents less than 1% of the total state $46 billion biennial budget. Governor Dayton and DFL lawmakers urged caution on additional spending and suggested that a bonding bill in the neighborhood of $1.5 billion is the more appropriate focus for this session. GOP lawmakers met the forecast numbers with skepticism, suggesting the GDP figures and tax collection assumptions are artificially low. The bottom line is today’s forecast, while positive in that we have a surplus, does put a damper of hopes for additional budget items this session. 
 
The few additional budget items that seem to have bi-partisan support at this time are fixing public employee pension programs and additional dollars for school safety features in the wake of recent school shootings. Here’s a link to additional budget forecast details: https://mn.gov/mmb/forecast/forecast/

Legislative Update

The following information was shared via email with the library community Thursday, February 15, 2018 by Sam Walseth, Capitol Hill Associates, in his role as the MLA-ITEM lobbyist.

Ann Walker Smalley & I met with Senator Ron Latz (D-St. Louis Park, SD46) to discuss his legislation on net neutrality. We offered the support of MLA+ITEM as the bill is introduced.  Sen Latz’s office supplied these Net Neutrality Talking Points.
 

There is still time to register for Library Legislative Day and make appointments to visit your legislators to discuss the MLA+ITEM Legislative Platform. Do it today!