Before we get to legislative news, I want to pass along word regarding the DNR’s confiscated equipment auction, which is scheduled for 9 a.m., Saturday, April 29, in Zimmerman. The DNR indicates the auction hasn’t been held since 2014 and that a large inventory is available. Click here for a list of firearms, bows and hunting/fishing/trapping equipment up for auction, along with more on the location and information about preview events that are scheduled.
As for this week at the Capitol, it’s been a rather busy week or so on the House floor as we work to conduct votes on the series of omnibus finance bills that will form the foundation of the state’s next two-year budget.
Here is a quick look at a few that have received approval:
The House approved a transportation plan to invest $6 billion over the next 10 years toward the state’s transportation needs without raising taxes.
The proposal creates a new fund of existing tax revenue streams called the Transportation Priorities Fund. This new fund uses current, transportation-related state tax revenues to invest $450 million in new dollars for roads and bridges. Additionally, the transportation proposal would fund:
- $25 million for the Small Cities Road Assistance program
- $300 million for Corridors of Commerce program
- $35 million for rail grade crossings
- Funding to repair or replace all 97 bridges on MnDOT's local bridge priority list
A K-12 education bill approved by the House invests $1.1 billion in education over the previous budget level. It also targets more than $300 million for proven early learning programs including scholarships and school readiness aid, and works to attract and keep the best teachers in the classroom.
Highlights in House File 890 include:
- $22 million for a new, targeted academic achievement initiative that funds before school, afterschool and summer programs to help low-income students who are falling behind their grade-level peers
- Over $300 million for proven early learning programs, including $31 million over base
- Provides better coordination of our nation-leading mixed delivery system of quality early education options to ensure the best outcomes for at-risk young children and their families
- $40 million for enhanced school readiness aid that gives 74 school districts with voluntary pre-k more flexibility to either continue the program or fund other early education needs
- Puts parents in the driver’s seat of their child’s education by allowing them to choose an early learning program that works best for their child and family
- Continues Republican-led efforts to strengthen teacher recruitment and retention, especially in areas with teacher shortages
- Repeals the “last in, first out” default in state statute to allow schools and local bargaining units to negotiate mutually beneficial staff retention decisions that better serve students, teachers and schools
- Protects kids by permitting school districts to provide child sexual abuse prevention instruction
- Protects kids’ health by requiring school districts to test for the presence of lead in water of public school buildings
- $2.3 million to implement a new Professional Educator License and Standards Board to replace the troubled Board of Teaching and bring clarity and consistency to our teacher licensure policies
The House approved a partial tuition reduction for two-year state colleges as part of a higher education funding bill. The bill provides $3.2 billion in General Fund appropriations – a $149.5 million increase over the current biennial total. This includes $1.4 billion to the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system, an increase of $93.6 million in 2018-19.
The package features a tuition freeze for two year state colleges during the 2017-18 school year and a 1-percent reduction in 2018-19. Tuition at state universities would be frozen in 2019.
In addition to the Minnesota State system, the bill also funds:
- U of M: $1.1 billion ($22 million increase over Feb. forecast)
- Office of Higher Education: $501 million ($33.8 million above Feb. forecast)
- Mayo: $2.7 million (even with Feb. forecast)
Other items in the package include:
- Requiring a public post-secondary institution to admit an applicant who is in the top 10 percent of their high school graduating class.
- Establishing a workforce development scholarship to incentivize students to enter high-demand occupations after high school graduation.
- Funding a program for student debt counseling through the Department of Education.
- Creating student loan forgiveness programs for people who relocate to Greater Minnesota, or pursue aviation, agricultural or teaching degrees.
- Prohibiting mandatory student activity fees at public post-secondary institutions.
- Establishing a scholarship program for qualified teachers of color.
- Creating an academic program for students with intellectual disabilities at Minnesota State.
Look for more news from the Capitol as things unfold. Until then, have a nice weekend and enjoy the nice weather.