ST. PAUL – Rep. Bud Nornes, R-Fergus Falls, called out House Democrats Tuesday for acting on a $3.6 billion higher education bill while continuing to delay the election of four University of Minnesota Board of Regents, a constitutional duty of the Minnesota Legislature.
“It really is a dereliction of duty on behalf of House Democrats,” said Nornes, former Chair of the House Higher Education Committee and current minority lead on the division. “Failing to elect a new class of regents is a disservice to the candidates, a disservice to the selection committee and a disservice to the University of Minnesota. Most importantly, it is a disservice to the students and to the state’s taxpayers who fund this institution with billions of dollars.”
Nornes issued a letter to House Speaker Rep. Melissa Hortman, D-Brooklyn Park, last week, urging her to end the delay.
House Republicans installed four new regents in mid-February of 2017, meaning Democrats are more than two months behind schedule this year. With work on a new two-year state budget now consuming efforts at the Capitol, Nornes said he is leery of Democrats failing to conduct votes on new regents before the Legislature adjourns.
“If inaction continues, the governor would have the authority to appoint whomever he chooses, with no legislative oversight and no due process,” Nornes said. “That would be just one more example of the Legislature ceding its power to the executive branch. It also would create an undesirable scenario, where eight of the 12 members would be up for selection 2021, causing an unnecessary level of instability and uncertainty at our state’s flagship university."
As for the omnibus higher education bill itself, the $3.6 billion total represents a $304 million increase for 2020-21 – more than twice the increase Gov. Tim Walz proposes. It also includes a provision allows undocumented immigrants to get a larger stipend under the State Grant Program than legal Minnesota citizens. During debate, Democrats rejected Republican amendments to remove or alter the language, and rejected amendments urging action on regent elections.