Before we get to this week's news from the Capitol, I would like to remind area citizens that Sen. Bill Ingebrigtsen and I invite the public to attend a town hall meeting we are co-hosting 10 a.m. this Saturday (April 18) at the Lakes Café in Perham (136 W Main St).
One of the things we can talk about is the Legislature's progress on a variety of bills that will comprise the state's new two-year budget. The focus of late has been on getting final committee passage of those omnibus finance bills so they can arrive on the floor for full votes in each body.
As chairman of the House Higher Education Policy and Finance Committee, I was pleased our panel this week approved a comprehensive higher education bill which freezes and then reduces tuition for students in the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system's two-year schools.
Provisions in H.F. 845 include a $105 million increase in funding for MnSCU, which reports show has among the highest two-year tuition rates in the nation. The bill includes a tuition freeze in 2016 and a 1-percent reduction in 2017 for two-year schools. It also provides a tuition freeze in 2017 for four-year schools.
Students are the focus of our higher education committee in the House. This is the first tuition reduction in recent memory for two-year students.
Policy items in the package include:
Conducting year-long student teaching preparation programs.
Providing a loan forgiveness program for teachers who work in areas deemed to have a shortage of instructors.
Facilitating the transfer of students between associate and bachelor's degree programs. Developing a plan to encourage students to complete work in their field of study.
Revamping requirements pertaining to remedial or non-credit courses.
Implementing new measures to respond to sexual harassment, sexual violence and sexual assault on campuses.
This is crunch time in the Legislature, where we will spend long hours on the House floor and sometimes work through weekends to thoroughly discuss these omnibus bills one by one. Your thoughts on the issues always are welcome via email, by attending this Saturday's town hall meeting or by participating in a legislative survey I am conducting that is available online by clicking here. We are about ready to close the survey and tabulate the results, so now is the time to participate if you haven't already done so.
On a final note, here is some information regarding road construction in the area:
Expect a detour on Highway 34 between I-94 near Barnesville and Highway 59 at Dunvilla once a 19-mile resurfacing project begins April 20. Highway 34 will be closed to through-traffic and drivers will be detoured to I-94, Highway 108 and Highway 59. The work is expected to reach completion in July.