Legislative Update

The following information was shared with the library community via the MLA and ITEM Legislative Update Newsletter Wednesday, March 13, 2019 by Sam Walseth, Capitol Hill Associates, in his role as the MLA-ITEM lobbyist.


School Media Specialist bill advances in the House
Last Friday the House Education Policy committee reviewed HF 247, a bill to incentivize school districts to hire licensed school media specialists. The hearing was very positive and legislators themselves rely heavily on staff for research of legislative ideas so they seemed to understand the need and importance of having licensed school media specialists in school settings.
The bill was sent to the House Education Finance committee where it has already had an informational hearing. The House won’t unveil their omnibus education finance bill for several weeks, but now is a good time to share your support for HF 247 with your House members, especially if they serve on the House Education Finance committee.
The companion bill, SF 2010, has not been reviewed by the Senate E-12 budget committee.
Regional Funding Bill challenged in the Senate
Last week SF 1704 was reviewed by the Senate E-12 committee. Sen. Mark Johnson (R – East Grand Forks) did a great job presenting the bill. E-12 Chair, Carla Nelson (R – Rochester), challenged the testifiers about the need for new state aid for library systems because state law requires counties to maintain their local effort for library funding.
A subsequent message to Chair Nelson clarified that the MOE statute was amended in 2011. Counties were able to secure a permanent change to MOE statutes as they relate to public libraries. Since 2011 a city or county need only provide its library 90% of the funding that it provided in 2011.
Hennepin County Library Director Credential Change
Hennepin County is seeking a change to a specific statutory requirement for the Hennepin County Library Director. HF 2097 (Rep. Mike Freiberg, DFL – Golden Valley) was introduced last Thursday and was already reviewed by the House Government Operations committee, which Rep. Freiberg chairs. The bill was passed out of the committee and referred back to the House floor. The committee report was adopted today and the bill was given its Second Reading. That means it rests on the House General Register and in order to be viable as a stand-alone bill the Senate will need to pass the companion (SF 2267) by second deadline which is Friday, March 29th.
SF 2267 is in Senate Local Government, which is chaired by Sen. Dan Hall (R – Dakota County) who also happens to be the chief author of the bill. This committee meets Tuesday mornings at 8:30am so it will be heard either Tuesday the 19th or Tuesday the 26th.
Library Legacy
Our library legacy bill has been introduced in both bodies and is HF 1973 (Mary Murphy) and SF 2210 (Jeff Howe).
Governor’s Bonding bill
Governor Walz’s Bonding bill recommends $1.5M for Library construction and renovation grants. Historically, the administration requests $2 million for this program. The final bonding bill last session provided $1.5 million for funding to this program. MLA routinely requests $10 million in funding for the program.

Bill Tracking “My Bills” Feature
You can use a feature called “My Bills’ to track House and Senate bills by bill number and topic. When you log in, your bills will be listed along with information about recent or upcoming significant action. You must log in to see this information; MyBills does not send email alerts. Library community members have reported that this feature has a lag on updates–it isn’t a “breaking news” source.

MLA/ITEM are the primary activists for these bills: 

Increase Basic Funding for Regional Library Systems 
      Regional Library Basic System Support (RLBSS)
Increased funding from $13.57 million to $17.57 million annually with a corresponding formula change to provide stable funding for all regional public library systems across the state. The bills include language authorizing expanded uses of RLTA funding. Hearings have been held for both bills and motions were made to consider them for possible inclusion in the omnibus bill.  

HF 247
Create Grant Pool for Library Media Specialists 
MLA and ITEM support funding a grant pool to enable school districts to increase access to licensed library media specialists in districts that face a shortage of licensed media staff. It was heard in the house committee. At this time there is no companion Senate bill.

SF 2210/HF1973
Legacy funding for regional public library systems for arts and cultural heritage programming.  $2.5 million for each year of the biennium. This is the same amount as was appropriated in the last budget cycle.

There are other issues MLA/ITEM supports. Other organizations or groups are the primary activists. In some cases, library advocates are members of these other groups. An example is broadband, where librarians serve as members of task forces and advocacy groups.

Some of the bills that are relevant to the library community:

SF0081/HF835 Minnesota Reads task force creation

SF0209/HF555 ISP adherence to net neutrality

SF1428/HF907 After-school community learning programs appropriation

HF2097/ SF2267 HCL library director requirements

Various broadband bills.

Senate Education Bill Disappointing

The following information was shared via email with the library community on Monday, March 27, 2017 by Sam Walseth, Capitol Hill Associates, in his role as the MLA-ITEM lobbyist.

Senate E-12 Omnibus Bill

Despite your grassroots efforts, we fell short in the Senate E-12 bill this afternoon. The committee didn’t fund any portion of our library systems request in SF 1033. Instead, the committee put $288 million of their $300 million target into the basic education formula.

There’s another $4 million in the bill to expand early learning programs. There’s $6 million for Reading Core and a few other odds and ends and smaller change items. The Senate E-12 committee heard a request to expand school Broadband Equity Aid, but they didn’t include that funding either. Overall, it’s a very basic E-12 bill with no real drama (see the House bill for that).

At this point of session we’re in tough shape for our systems’ requests in the E-12 bill. None of the three players; Governor, House & Senate, have much for library initiatives in their education proposals. The House bill has $50,000/year for two years for the Center for the Book.

If the Legislature moves forward with their own ‘round 1’ E-12 package it’s likely the Governor will veto it and demand an increased spending target. He’s asking for $709 million for E-12 where as the legislature is at $300 million in the Senate and $258 million in the House.

Assuming the E-12 target increases in any ‘round 2’ negotiation, the likely places for additional dollars are to get the school general education formula to 2&2, more money for PreK and help with TRA.

Senate Legacy Bill

We’ll likely see the Senate’s Legacy bill rollout Thursday morning at 10am.

Bonding Bill

There’s still no sign of a House bonding bill. The Senate bonding bill, SF 210, awaits floor action at some point when leadership is ready to take it up. SF 210 includes $2 million for library construction and renovation grants.

Samuel P. Walseth, Capitol Hill Associates

Call your Senator – SF 1033

Please contact your Senator about including SF 1033 in the Senate Omnibus Education Finance bill. Time is of the essence!  Regional library systems systems need your support for the requested funding increases. Hearing from constituents is important for this issue.

 Don’t know what to say? Here are some talking points–feel free to customize/tailor as you wish:

  • No new dollars have been invested in Minnesota library systems since FY2009.
  • Due to the nature of the current formula, SELCO has lost over $500,000 in the past six years resulting in stressed services for libraries.  
  • The library systems provide the foundation for Minnesota residents to access cooperative statewide services including MNLINK interlibrary loan, ELM databases, reciprocal borrowing privileges, Overdrive eBooks, training, and support.

If your Senator is not on the Committee, ask her/him to ask their colleagues to include SF 1033 in the omnibus education finance bill.Senate Information:

Don’t know your Senator? Find them here:

MN Legislative Update 2015-04-30

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

Legacy Bill: This afternoon the House passed its omnibus Legacy bill, HF 303, on the floor by a vote of 97-31 . No amendments were proposed to the Arts and Cultural Heritage article of the bill. When Rep. Dean Urdahl described the bill at the beginning of the debate he once again emphasized that there were no cuts in the bill because there is no such thing in Legacy. The Senate Legacy bill is expected to be released next week.

Omnibus Education Finance and Policy Bills: Yesterday the Senate passed its omnibus education finance bill and its omnibus education policy bill on the floor. Last Saturday the House passed its omnibus education finance and policy bill (finance and policy are combined in a single bill).

The House appointed its conferees this afternoon. They are Rep. Jenifer Loon (R – Eden Prairie), Rep. Sondra Erickson (R – Princeton), Rep. Ron Kresha (R – Little Falls), Rep. Bob Dettmer (R- Forest Lake) and Rep. Roz Peterson (R – Lakeville). Senate conferees are expected to be named tomorrow. I will send out an alert with contact information for the conferees once they have all been named.

Here is a rundown of the key issues for libraries in these bills:

Regional Library Basic System Support (RLBSS): The Senate provides an increase of $1.5 million per year. Because of the 90%/10% payment schedule, the actual amount of the increase will be $1.35 million in FY 16 and $1.5 million in FY 17 and beyond. The Senate also changes the RLBSS formula by reducing the ANTC portion from 25% to 17% and by increasing the base amount from 5% to 13%. The funding increase ensures that every regional library system receives an increase under the new formula. The House has no increase and no formula change.

Regional Library Telecommunications Aid (RLTA): Both the House and Senate bills include nearly identical language to more closely align RLTA with the federal e-rate program.

Telecommunications Equity Aid (TEA): The Senate increases funding for TEA by $1.5 million per year for the 16-17 biennium only. The House provides no increase.

School Technology: The Senate requires school districts to reserve future increases in revenue from the School Endowment Fund for technology and telecommunications infrastructure, programs and training.

After School: The Senate provides $500,000 per year in the 16-17 biennium only for after school programs. The House provides no funding.

Omnibus Tax Bills: The House passed its omnibus tax bill on the floor yesterday. The provisions I reported on in my April 22 update remained unchanged. The Senate released its omnibus tax bill on Monday and passed it out of committee yesterday. It will be brought up on the Senate floor on Monday. Here are the provisions in the bill of interest to libraries:

Local Government Aid is increased by $21.5 million in FY 17 (payable in calendar year 2016) and by $45.6 million per year in FY 2018 and beyond. LGA will be paid to cities in four installments rather than in two. The new payments dates are March 15, July 15, September 15 and November 15.

County Program Aid is increased by $25 million in FY 17 (payable in calendar year 2016) and by $29.7 million per year in FY 2018 and beyond.

Elaine Keefe, Capitol Hill Associates

SELCO Approves RLBSS Legislative Initiative

Hand writing formula on blackboardThe SELCO/SELS Board of Directors voted unanimously to support a change to the Regional Library Basic System (RLBSS) formula during the 2015 legislative session. It joins the Arrowhead Library System and the Pioneerland Library System boards in endorsing this legislative initiative.  During the coming months, each of the other regional library boards will be asked to support the proposal to amend current statutory language.

Minnesota supports regional library service around the state through an appropriation of RLBSS aid administered by the Department of Education. Members of the library community reviewed the current formula and support different percentages while retaining the same calculating factors: base, population, area, and equalization. The adjusted formula will reduce funding volatility and make SELCO budgeting more stable.  Should the RLBSS appropriation increase by $1.2 million per year above the current $13.5 million amount, the equalization portion of the formula would be reduced from 25% to 17.5%.  If the proposed funding increase is $2 million or greater, then the equalization factors will be reduced from 25% to 15%.  In each case, whether equalization is at 17.5% or 15%, the funds previous assigned to that category will shift to the base to cover basic operational expenses.

If approved the new formula would become effective in 2016.

Background information on the proposed RLBSS change.

Reduced Revenue for SELCO

Two months into this budget year and the final calculations for Regional Library Basic System Support (RLBSS) are not what was expected.  SELCO will need to reduce the FY2014 budget by $115,514 to balance anticipated revenue and expenses. 

SELCO staff will revisit earlier financial discussions that led to the budget approved June 26 and identify areas of potential savings.  Anytime one needs to “find” a six figure amount in a budget already in place for two months, it is tough but the staff will take this opportunity to examine what are the essential tasks and those activities, while nice, if discontinued would not be harmful to local library service and still able to save funds.

2013 Minnesota Legislative Session Summary

The following information was sent via e-mail on June 5, 2013 from Elaine Keefe, MLA/MEMO Lobbyist. Additional linked information added.

State Budget Overview

The Legislature and Governor Dayton agreed on a budget for the 2014-15 biennium that erases a projected $627 million deficit and provides additional funding for education and local governments.  In order to raise the revenue to accomplish this, income taxes were increased on the top 2% of income tax filers, cigarette taxes were increased by $1.60 per pack and the sales tax was broadened to include some business services.  With DFL majorities in both the House and Senate and a DFL governor, the budget negotiations were far less contentious than they were two years ago when most of state government was shut down for 20 days because Governor Dayton and the Republican-controlled Legislature were unable to agree on a budget. 

 Here is a summary of legislative action affecting libraries:

Education Payment Shift

Repayment of the shift has proceeded much more rapidly than many had expected.  Under current law, whenever a state economic forecast projects a budget surplus, the surplus must first be used to replenish the state budget reserve (if necessary) and any remaining surplus must be used to repay the shift until a 90% /10% payment schedule is achieved. Although the November 2012 and February 2013 forecasts both projected a deficit for the 2014-15 biennium, those forecasts also projected surpluses at the close of the current biennium, which ends on June 30.  Hence, the shift was reduced by $1.3 billion after the November forecast and by another $290 million after the February forecast, resulting in a current payment schedule of 86.4% / 13.6%.  Under the budget deal reached by the Governor and Legislature, if there is a surplus after the close of the current biennium, that amount will be used to repay the shift without waiting for the November forecast.  The current estimate is that this will be another $300 million.  This should be sufficient to reach a 90/10 payment schedule. 

Library Appropriations in the K-12 Budget

Current funding was maintained for Regional Library Basic System Support (RLBSS), Regional Library Telecommunications Aid, Multitype funding, ELM and Telecommunications Equity Aid. We also succeeded in getting an amendment included in the omnibus education bill changing the terminology for RLBSS and Multitype funding from “grant” to “aid” to better reflect how these programs are administered. 

Homework Help

Our bill to fund an online Homework Help service statewide was introduced in both bodies but did not receive a hearing.  There was heavy emphasis this year on providing additional funding for large existing programs, leaving little room in the budget for new initiatives. Our bill was introduced in the Senate by Senator John Hoffman (DFL – Champlin) and in the House by Rep. Kathy Brynaert (DFL – Mankato)

General Education Formula

The general education formula (which is the main source of funding for school media centers) will increase by 1.5% in each year of the biennium.  It will rise from the current $5,224 per pupil to $5,302 in FY 2014 and to $5,806 in FY 2015.

Total Operating Capital

MDE included language in its omnibus policy bill that would have prohibited school from using total operating capital to pay for annual licensing fees for software.  I raised a concern about that language on behalf of MEMO.  After much negotiation, MDE agreed to amend the language to specifically allow the use of total operating capital for software and annual licensing fees.  This passed in the omnibus education bill.

Minitex and MnLINK

Funding for Minitex and MnLINK was increased by $300,000 per year.  It is the first increase for Minitex and MnLINK since the 2007 session.  Our authors were Senator Kent Eken (DFL – Twin Valley) and Rep. Ryan Winkler (DFL – Golden Valley)

Higher Ed Systems

MnSCU funding was increased by $102 million and the University of Minnesota by $79 million.  Most of these funds are earmarked for freezing undergraduate tuition. 

Legacy Funding for Regional Public Libraries

Regional Public Library Systems received $3 million per year to provide arts and historical programs. This is the same level of funding provided during the current biennium.  The funds will be distributed via a revised formula that replaces the equalization factor with a “qualifying system entities” factor.  We had to fight hard to retain this level of funding after the Senate bill proposed to reduce it to $1 million per year in an effort to maximize the funding for the State Arts Board.  Many thanks to everyone who contacted their senators and the members of the Legacy conference committee to urge them to maintain the current funding level for regional public libraries.  You were definitely heard! 

Legacy Funding for the Minnesota Digital Library

The Minnesota Digital Library received $300,000 per year.  This is an increase over the current $250,000 per year appropriation.  As in the past, this funding is appropriated to the Minnesota Historical Society with a directive to cooperate with Minitex and jointly share the appropriation. 

Legacy Percentage to the State Arts Board

The Senate Legacy bill added a provision in statute requiring that 50% of all future appropriations from the Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund would be allocated to the State Arts Board.  Senator Cohen insisted that this was the intent when the Legacy Amendment was passed.  The final bill requires that 47% go to the State Arts board in the future. 

Data Privacy

Our bill to extend current data privacy protection for public library patron records to electronic data stored by a vendor was introduced by Senator Kari Dziedzic (DFL – Minneapolis) and Rep. Steve Simon (DFL – St. Louis Park).  It was heard in both bodies and passed out of the House Data Practices Subcommittee before we learned that other provisions in current law already afforded this protection to such data.  Our bill became the vehicle for the omnibus data practices bill, but our provision was deleted after we learned it was unnecessary. 

Library Accessibility and Improvement Grants

Although it was not a traditional bonding year, the Governor and the House were eager to see a large bonding bill pass. We were encouraged to get a bill introduced to fund Library Accessibility and Improvement Grants, and so a bill to provide $3 million was introduced by Rep. Mary Murphy (DFL – Hermantown) and Senator Alice Johnson (DFL – Spring Lake Park).  The House included $1.5 million in the final version of its bonding bill, but the bill failed to get the required supermajority on the House floor.  It needed 81 votes and only got 76 votes.  The Senate never did produce a major bonding bill.  In the end, a very small $176 million bill passed, with most of the funds allocated for renovation of the Capitol.  A major bonding bill will be on the agenda for 2014. 

Aid to Cities and Counties

Aid to cities was increased by $80 million and aid to counties was increased by $40 million.  The trade-off is that levy limits will be in place for 2014.  The limits are relatively generous — the city or county’s aid plus levy for either 2012 or 2013, whichever is greater, plus 3%.

Sales Tax on City and County Purchases

Cities and counties will no longer have to pay sales tax on their purchases beginning January 1, 2014.  The sales tax was imposed on local units of government (except for school districts) in 1992 as a way to solve a budget deficit.  There have been repeated attempts to repeal the tax since then, and despite broad agreement that the tax was bad policy, it was difficult to repeal it because of the loss of revenue to the state. This is a great win for cities and counties.  Public libraries were partially taxed and partially exempted in 1992 when the tax was first passed.  We won a full exemption a few years later, so this will not have a direct effect on public libraries.