Updates from the Government Relations team are sent periodically during the legislative session.                                                  
Legislative Update - April 20, 2016
K-12 and higher education bill heads to House floor

The House Ways and Means Committee met last night and approved both HF3858, the omnibus K-12 education policy and finance bill, and HF3237, the omnibus higher education policy and finance bill. The two bills have been combined and are now HF2749. Ways and Means is the last stop for the bill. It now heads to the House floor.  

Included in the higher education bill are a variety of provisions impacting Minnesota State Colleges and Universities, including developing a plan for offering an academic program for students with intellectual and developmental disabilities. The plan will address how programs will be offered at up to four campuses that have the ability to offer a robust program. This is similar to the language and appropriation included in the Senate higher education budget bill; however, the Senate language directs these programs to be implemented for the 2017-2018 academic year.

The language regarding statewide testing and MCA college ready scores in Article 2 of the bill was deleted in committee. Bill author Rep. Bud Nornes, R-Fergus Falls, said the provisions in Article 2 are in the K-12 education bill, so there is no reason to include them in the higher education bill.

As a reminder, those provisions include statewide testing. There is a requirement that the MnSCU chancellor review and confirm the benchmarks established by the Department of Education show that students are able to successfully complete credit-bearing coursework at a Minnesota state college or university.  

Regarding MCA college ready scores, included in the K-12 bill and no longer in the higher education bill, is language that states that a state college or university must not require an individual to take a remedial, noncredit course in a subject area if the individual met a career and college-ready MCA benchmark in that subject area. The deleted higher education language directed state colleges and universities to consider MCAs alongside other relevant factors when determining course placement for individuals in remedial, noncredit courses. When notifying students and their families about test results, the Department of Education is required to include a statement indicating that students who meet a career and college-ready MCA benchmark are not required to take a remedial, noncredit course at a Minnesota state college or university in the corresponding subject area.  

There is language in the bill regarding promoting the federal loan forgiveness program and requires the Office of Higher Education to develop and distribute informational materials designed to increase awareness of federal public service loan forgiveness programs among Minnesota residents who are eligible for those programs.  

Both K-12 education and higher education have zero budget targets. There is no new funding in the higher education bill. Rep. Lyndon Carlson, DFL-Crystal, expressed his disappointment with no new money and said he’d be voting no on the bill since there is no new money for education. “Almost daily in the media you’re hearing about student debt and the difficulties students are having meeting those obligations so they can attend,” Carlson said. Carlson continued, “With the financial health of the state currently, we could be doing much better for the students, whether they are in E-12 or in higher education.”  

Committee Chair Jim Knoblach, R-St. Cloud, reminded everyone that the state sets a two-year budget, and last year’s budget included substantial education funding increases for education over the previous biennium.  

Looking ahead, once each body passes the higher education bills off the floor, they’ll need to head to conference committee to work through the many differences. At this time, it’s hard to see the path given the House has just the one higher education policy bill, but the Senate has a policy bill and a higher education budget bill that will be rolled into one large Senate supplemental budget bill.  

This week at the Capitol

Wednesday, April 20  

8:30 a.m.
Senate Finance
Room: 1200 Minnesota Senate Building
Chair: Sen. Richard Cohen
Budget Articles:
Equity Article
Natural Resources, Economic Development, and Agriculture Article
Natural Resources and Agriculture Article (PDF) Economic Development Article (PDF)
Natural Resources, Ag, and Economic Dev. Spreadsheet (PDF)
Natural Resources and Agriculture Summary (PDF)

12:15 p.m.
House in Session  

12:45 p.m. *Note: committee will break in the afternoon for caucuses
House Ways and Means
Room: 200 State Office Building
Chair: Rep. Jim Knoblach
HF3888 (Hamilton) Omnibus Agriculture Finance bill.
HF3890 (McNamara) Omnibus Environment and Natural Resources Finance bill.
HF3931 (Garofalo) Omnibus Job Growth and Energy Affordability Finance bill (heard pending referral)
Committee Documents:

Thursday, April 21  

8:30 a.m.
Senate Finance
Room: 1200 Minnesota Senate Building
Chair: Sen. Richard Cohen
Budget Articles:
Health and Human Services Article
Finalization of supplemental finance bill

10:15 a.m.
House Government Operations and Elections Policy
Room: Basement hearing room
Chair: Rep. Tim Sanders
Agenda:  HF3585 (Drazkowski): Labor agreements and compensation plans ratified, authority of exclusive representatives to charge fair share fees and for dues deductions repealed, affirmative approval before interim implementation of state employee collective bargaining agreements required, and legislative approval of political subdivision compensation waivers required.
Committee Documents:

11:00 a.m.
Senate in Session

12:45 p.m.
House Ways and Means
Room: 200 State Office Building
Chair: Rep. Jim Knoblach
HF3467 (Dean): Human services, health, and related boards funding provided; continuing care, health care, MNsure, Health Department programs, chemical and mental health services, children and family services, and health licensing board provisions modified; nursing facility, dental payment, and child care assistance rates adjusted; licenses created; reports required; fees modified; and money appropriated.
HF3168 (Anderson): State government supplemental appropriations and reductions bill
HF291 (Cornish): Traffic violations around school buses fine increased, penalties enhanced and minimum fines established for repeat violations of driving without a license, alcohol use by sensory testing service allowed, avian influenza emergency response funding extended, correctional industries revolving fund transfer provided to the general fund, and money appropriated.
Bills may be added
Committee Documents:
(4/19/2016) H3168A20.pdf
(4/19/2016) 2016_SGFSupplemental_HF3168_1E.pdf

2:00 p.m.
Senate Higher Education and Workforce Development
Room: 1100 Minnesota Senate Building
Chair: Sen. Terri Bonoff
Minnesota Higher Education Facilities Authority - Confirmation Hearing
for Kathryn Balstad Brewer & Gary Benson
Higher Education Facilities Authority - Confirmation Packet (PDF)
Board of Trustees of the Minnesota State Colleges & Universities (MnSCU)
- Confirmation Hearing for Elise Bourdeau
Board of Trustees for MnSCU - Confirmation Packet (PDF)  

Important Links:

  • Most recent bill introductions related to higher education (compiled by Government Relations team) SPREADSHEET (updated 4/20/16)
  • Committee schedules can be found HERE
  • Many committee hearings and floor sessions are streamed live via the web or broadcast on television. More information and a schedule can be found HERE

Government Relations team:

Jaime Simonsen – Jaime.simonsen@so.mnscu.edu
Bernie Omann – Bernie.omann@so.mnscu.edu
Jim Grathwol – jim.grathwol@so.mnscu.edu