This week, House leaders unveiled our “Top Ten List” of priority bills for the 2011 Legislative Session. I was pleased to see that a bill I’m carrying – House File 7, which abolishes many local government mandates, made the cut.
Time and again we hear from local governments telling us they want certain state mandates gone, and now we’re in a position to help them out.
For weeks I’ve been meeting with nearly two dozen House and Senate lawmakers in an effort to identify the most egregious state mandates that local governments want repealed. To their credit, more than 200 mandates have been submitted by cities, counties, and school boards from across the state. We’ve revised and prioritized that list, and while it’s still a work in progress and more will likely be added in the future, I thought I’d mention a few that can be eliminated with a House floor vote.
• Setting aside 2% of a school’s basic revenue funding for teacher staff development. Eliminating this mandate would untie the school board’s hands and let them use this money as they wish.
• Teachers contracts must be settled by January 15. The problem here is if schools don’t meet the deadline, they must pay a financial penalty to the state. In Winona, that penalty cost the district tens of thousands of dollars.
• Learning and Development Credit. This regulation again tells schools how to spend their revenue, forcing them to reduce or maintain the average class size between grades Kindergarten through 3rd grade at a 17 to 1 ratio.
• Maintenance and Effort requirement for libraries. This requires counties and cities to pay a minimum amount for local libraries.
• Reporting of Pre Trial Diversion Program for juveniles. County attorneys are required to report to the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension. We’re told that this reporting is unnecessary and expensive.
• Out of state travel policy. This mandate tells each city and county to develop and maintain an out of state travel policy, just in case someone actually wants to look at it.
• Pay Equity Compliance. This law forces a local government to pay for an equity study to make sure workers in women-dominated fields are being paid at the same levels as those in men-dominated fields. We’re told that this mandate is no longer necessary and leads to inflated employee costs.
• Police Vehicle Pursuit Training. Requires a city’s police officers to obtain pursuit training – and for the city to pay for those 8 hours every four years. Apparently, officers learn how to do this when they’re in school.
• Limitation of part time officers on a police department. Currently the state tells a city it can only employ a small number of part time officers. Repealing this provision allows them to hire as many as it wants.
It’s worth noting that nothing in this comprehensive bill says the local unit of government can’t continue any of these policies if it chooses to do so. This bill would simply get the state out of the way and give the locals the freedom to make that choice.
It’s important for us to lessen the burdens on local units of government this session because with a $6.2 billion state budget deficit, we know their Local Government Aid will be reduced. Eliminating some of these unneeded mandates will help them minimize that reduction.