Thursday, January 10, 2019

First Bills of 2019 Introduced.  It's that time of year again when the first set of bills are introduced in the House and Senate.  31 bills were introduced in the House on Thursday and 91 were introduced in the Senate.  One new wrinkle in the House this year is that all funding bills will first be referred to the Ways and Means Committee from which they will be re-referred to the appropriate budget divisions within the Ways and Means structure.  This change raised a few complaints on the first day of session when the House rules were being debated, as the minority believes the new method of bill referral will be less transparent than the practice of previous years when the budget bills were referred to the funding division or committee directly after introduction.  I don't know if this makes the process less transparent, but the possibility exists that an introduction later in the session could be slowed down by the need for an extra referral.  We'll just have to see how it plays out.

With no further adieu, here are the education-related bill introductions with the link to the bill language embedded in the file number:

Senate

SF 7--Nelson--Increases school safety revenue with greater flexibility

SF 14--Wiger--Requires students to take a nationally-normed college entrance test as a requirement for graduation.

SF 15--Goggin--Requires school districts to provide certain access to career options in the military, skilled trades, and manufacturing.

SF 17--Cwodzinski--Requires students take a government and citizenship course in order to graduate.

SF 19--Cwodzinski--Requires students take a personal finance course in order to graduate.

SF 24--Wiger--Increases basic formula by 3% in each year of the coming biennium and additionally ties formula growth to inflation.

SF 25--Wiger--Allows school districts to bond for certain security equipment.

SF 26--Wiger--Increases EL formula (basically doubles formula amount).

SF 27--Wiger--Expands access to innovation zone pilot program.

SF 28--Wiger--Requires school districts to pay cost of college entrance examination for all 11th and 12th grade students.

SF 29--Wiger--Increases equalizing factor for local option revenue program.  No amount designated in bill.

SF 30--Wiger--Increases equalizing factor for operating referenda.  No amount designated in bill.

SF 31--Wiger--Increases equalizing factor for debt service program.  No amount designated in bill.

SF 32--Wiger--Allows districts to use long term facilities maintenance revenue for building modifications that improve school safety.

SF 33--Wiger--Requires assessment for learning readiness for children entering kindergarten.

SF 37--Wiger--Appropriates money for full-service community schools.

SF 49--Wiger--Provides a digital student achievement backpack.

SF 50--Wiger--Proposes $230,000,000 in bonding for school facility safety improvements.

SF 55--Wiger--Increases special education funding and makes changes to special education formula.

SF 81--Wiger--Establishes a Minnesota Reads task force to review literacy programs for children and adults.

House

HF 2--Edelson--Increases revenue for school-linked mental health services, support our students grant program, collaborative urban educator program, full-service community schools, and homework starts at home program.

HF 19--Erickson--Modifies world's best workforce measurements and reports.

HF 20--Erickson--Renumbers statutes for intermediate school districts.

HF 21--Erickson--Surveys teacher preparation programs.

HF 22--Erickson--Modifies student testing provisions.

HF 23--Erickson--Codifies teacher code of ethics in statute and repeals related rule.

Wednesday, January 09, 2019

Dueling Press Conferences.  


The House DFL Caucus announced its first ten bills at a noon press conference that outline their priorities for the 2019 legislative session.  The picture above features newly-elected Representative Heather Edelson along side Education Funding Division Chair Jim Davnie outlining the education portion of the press conference.  The bill they will be sponsoring aims to provide more mental health and student support services to students throughout Minnesota by expanding access to school-linked mental health services and promoting the addition of school social workers, school psychologists, school nurses, and school counselors in districts throughout the state.  From their comments, they will also be considering expanding the full service community school concept.

Among the other bills included in the DFL priorities will promote paid family leave, attempt to rein in drug and health care prices, and require a more comprehensive system of background checks to purchase firearms in Minnesota.

Here is a link to a story relating to the press conference:  First 10 bills offer glimpse of DFL's ‘Values Agenda’

The Senate Republicans unveiled their first five bills at a press conference yesterday and mental health, including increased access to mental health services in schools, was featured in that discussion.  Below is a video of the press conference.


I Always Follow Orders.  So when an item of click-bait told me to Google my own name (because I would be surprised), I did and I have to admit that I am surprised.  It seems that I am not the only Brad Lundell in the United States and "Iowa Brad Lundell" runs a very successful hog operation in Kiron, Iowa, and is a member of the Odebolt-Arthur-Battle Creek-Ida Grove School District Board.  It's a little late to vote for "Iowa Brad Lundell" as the Iowa Pork Producers Pig Farmer of the Year for 2018, but I hope things turned out well for him in that effort.  Seeing we've been looking at Iowa's use of a local sales tax to finance school facility costs, he would likely be a great source of insight on that matter. 

Tuesday, January 08, 2019

And We're Off!


It's a little early in the year for a horse-racing comparison, but the Legislature kicked off (Oops!  Wrong sport!) today with the new majority being sworn in at the House of Representatives and the Senate reconvening.  There is one new Senator--Senator Jeff Howe who replaced former Senator Michelle Fishbach--with the Republicans maintaining control of the body.  Until last week, it appeared it would be a one-vote majority at 34-33, but with Senator Tony Lourey resigning to become Commissioner-designee at the Minnesota Department of Human Services, Republicans have a two-vote edge pending the results of a special election to be held on February 5.

At any rate, it's time to pull out the programs, because as the old saying goes "You don't know the players if you don't have a scorecard."  The links below lead you this year's line-ups in the House and Senate.

House Members

Senate Members

And here are the committee rosters.  As I wrote late last year, the Senate has combined the E-12 Funding and Education Policy Committees into one committee--surprisingly named the Education Funding and Policy Committee--that will be chaired by Senator Carla Nelson.  The House Education Finance Division will fall under the auspices of the House Ways and Means Committee and will be chaired by Representative Jim Davnie.  The House Education Policy Committee will be chaired by Representative Cheryl Youakim.

Here are the links to the aforementioned committees.

Senate E-12 Finance and Policy Committee

House Education Finance Division

House Education Policy Committee

The House has also created a subcommittee that will deal with early childhood issues and will have jurisdiction over budget areas in education and health and human services that provide service to Minnesota families with children who have yet to enter school.  That committee will be chaired by Representative David Pinto.  Below is a link to that committee:

Early Childhood Finance and Policy Division

Frankly, I was surprised that the Legislature convened on a national holiday.  Everyone knows that January 8 is the birthday of  Elvis Presley and somehow the mail was delivered and banks were open today.  Anyway, here's a video of an Elvis television performance from 1956 summing up how I hope the Legislature treats me in 2019.


Sunday, December 09, 2018

A Veritable Avalanche of Activity.  I haven't blogged since my election wrap-up and it's high time I write about what has been going on since.  The new House majority has chosen Representative Melissa Hortman as the speaker-designee and barring the unforeseen, she will be the next Speaker of the Minnesota House of Representatives.  Representative Hortman was first elected to the Minnesota House of Representatives in 2004 from the northwest suburban area and served as House Minority Leader during 2017 and 2018 sessions.  Representative Ryan Winkler will serve as House Majority Leader.  Winkler is returning to the Legislature after being out for three years.  First elected in 2006, Winkler resigned from the Legislature in 2015 to accompany his wife to Brussels, Belgium, where she worked for an international hotel group.  In an odd twist of sorts, Winkler is replacing Representative (and Lieutenant Governor-elect) Peggy Flanagan, who replaced him in the special election following his resignation.  Former Speaker Kurt Daudt will serve as Minority Leader.  In a recent development, the third caucus--the New House Republican caucus--consisting of four members (Representatives Munson, Drazkowski, Bahr, and Miller) has been established.  How that plays out in terms of organization and voting remains to be seen.

The new House majority has selected its committee chairs and complete membership rosters will be available soon.  Representative Jim Davnie (DFL-Minneapolis) will be the chair of the Education Funding Committee and Representative Cheryl Youakim (DFL-Hopkins) will be the chair of the House Education Policy Committee.  The House has also established an Early Childhood Committee that will be chaired by Representative Dave Pinto (DFL-St. Paul) that will have jurisdiction over education and human service budget items that deal with the early childhood population.

Here is a link to the committee schedule and list of committees and their respective chairs:  2019 House Committee Information

Things have also changed in the Senate.  The Republican candidate--Jeff Howe--won the special election to replace Senator Michelle Fishbach who resigned to become full-time Lieutenant Governor under Governor Dayton and go on to become Republican gubernatorial Tim Pawlenty's running mate.  With Pawlenty losing in the primary to eventual Republican candidate Jeff Johnson, Fishbach lost her Senate seat.  With the election of Howe, the Republicans retain their 34-33 edge for Senate control.

There has been some shuffling in the Senate Committee structure.  With Senator Fishbach's departure, Senator Jeremy Miller (R-Winona) has become President of the Senate.  In doing so, he gave up his committee chairmanship of the Jobs and Economic Growth Budget and Policy Committee.  Senator Eric Pratt (R-Prior Lake) will take over the chairmanship of that committee, leaving his position as Chair of the Senate Education Policy Committee.  Instead of naming a new chair to the Education Policy Committee, Senate leadership is combining the Education Policy and Education Funding Committees with the single committee being chaired by Senator Carla Nelson (R-Rochester), the current chair of the Education Funding Committee.  No word on how large that committee will be and who will serve as members.  (Dizzy yet?).

Add to the mix a new Governor, which will likely mean new decisionmakers at the Minnesota Department of Education and one can see how one is going to need a scorecard the first few weeks of the 2019 Legislative Session to keep everyone straight.

Billions and . . . .


The November budget forecast was very strong although we cannot channel our inner Carl Sagan and say "billions and billions."  We'll have to settle for a billion and a half.  At any rate, this is very good news.  Most observers believed the budget forecast would be up due to economic performance, but it's also important to remember that with Governor Dayton's veto of the omnibus supplemental appropriations bill and the tax cut/conformity bill last year, that very little in terms of new revenue has vacated the state coffers in the past year.  It is unclear when the Legislature and Governor will tackle the tax conformity bill.  At one point, it appeared it would be done almost immediately after the 2019 session commenced, but recent rumblings have legislative leadership backing away from that strategy.  At any rate, something will get done on this point during the Legislative Session and that will cut into the projected surplus.

It's always important to remember that budget forecasts are just that:  forecasts.  Economic performance in nationally and in Minnesota has accelerated rapidly due to (insert your favorite reason here) over the past twelve months.  Even with the uptick, I expect the Governor and Legislature to proceed cautiously throughout the coming session.  If the economy softens, revenues will diminish and I think the last thing the new DFL majority wants to do is put themselves in a situation where cuts in the base budget will be necessary.

Here is a link to the Management and Budget page outlining last week's forecast:  November Forecast -- Sublinks to Additional Documents on Page

One Last Piece of Election Analysis.  The results were all plausible (although I didn't see the House majority flipping), but I thought the margins of victory for the statewide DFL candidates exceeded what I thought they would be and I wouldn't have been surprised had the Republicans won the Attorney General or State Auditor's race.  But the DFL swept all of the races and the margins for Governor-elect Walz and United States Senator Tina Smith were greater than what most polling showed.

Recent rankings of the congressional districts with the highest levels of voter turnout showed that Minnesota had three (Districts 2, 3, and 5) that ranked in the top twenty nationally.  All of these districts were won by Democrats and that undoubtedly added to the statewide totals for all DFL statewide candidates.  Add to that the high turnout in which DFL challenger Dean Phillips ousted incumbent Congressman Eric Paulson and DFL challenger Angie Craig ousted incumbent Congressman Jason Lewis and one can see another contribution to the new DFL majority in the Minnesota State House of Representatives.  Just another angle in what turned to be a very interesting election.

Friday, November 09, 2018

Always a Classic!



I've used that clip before and I just can't help it if Fred Willard's little schtick from The Mighty Wind is just about the perfect starter when trying to describe a major event and election day is always a major event in Minnesota.

I doubt anyone is clamoring for my insight, but that doesn't mean I am bereft of some observations.  During the SEE regional meetings, I tossed out a number of projections and I did get the big three correct, although the Smith/Housley and Walz/Johnson races tipped more heavily to the DFL side than I thought they would.  Where I was wrong (and obviously wrong in a very big way) is that I thought the Minnesota House of Representatives would remain under Republican control.  

I'm not saying people should or shouldn't have seen this coming, but one has to give credit to the House DFL for running a very clearly defined campaign zeroing in on House districts where Hillary Clinton won the popular vote, getting solid candidates to run in those seats (one of my witticisms is that if there's going to be a wave election, you have to have candidates that can stay on the surfboard), and crafting a message that worked for those districts.  Add to that effort that the close races almost exclusively tipped to the DFL and the seat-swap rose to 18 seats.  But even without those close races tipping blue, the DFL would have picked up the requisite number of seats to take control.  

I was late to the mental dance on this one (hey, it happens when you turn 65!), but in mid-October, I started to get a ton of negative internet ads about DFL candidates in the East Metro suburbs running in seats occupied by and thought safe for Republicans and that made me think that something in the polling must be showing up.

Another contributing factor was the DFL victories in the 2nd and 3rd congressional races.  It wasn't that many years ago that it was pretty difficult to find enough Democrats in Dakota County to fill a school bus, but that has certainly changed over the past few decades and the DFL now holds nine of the twelve House of Representative seats in the county.  Some of this was fueled by performance by the top of the DFL ticket, with Governor-elect Walz winning Dakota County by 12 points and United States Representative-elect Angie Craig winning by 11 points.  A number of the House races were close and there were interesting swings.  Representative Roz Peterson won by five percentage points in 2016 and lost by a similar margin in 2018 to Representative-elect Alice Mann.  Representative Anna Wills won by over 7 percentage points in 2016, but lost this time around by 4 percentage points to Representative-elect John Huot.  The closest race is where Representative-elect Anna Claflin defeated Representative Keith Franke 51% to 49%.  The caveat in that race is that Claflin won the Dakota County portion of that legislative district by 64% to 37%.

A similar pattern was borne out in the 3rd congressional district, with the DFL taking over a number of seats that had been in Republican hands for quite awhile.  Again, these were districts where Hillary Clinton out-polled President Trump in 2016 and United States Representative-elect Dean Phillips ran an aggressive campaign against Congressman Eric Paulsen.  Of the 21 State House districts that are located in part or total in the 3rd congressional district, 17 are now held by DFLers.  Notable flips took place in District 44A, represented by Representative Sarah Anderson for the past twelve years, and 34B, represented by Representative Dennis Smith since 2014 in a seat formerly held by former Speaker of the House Kurt Zellars.

Turnout was very high in this election at 64% of eligible voters participating.  It was the highest mid-term turnout in Minnesota since 2002.  Turnout was down ten percentage points from the 2016 Presidential election, where Minnesota led the nation with just under 75% voter turnout and it will be interesting to see if projected higher turnout will help Republicans in 2020.  It used to be an old saw that higher turnout almost automatically helped Democrats, but given the shifting national political tides we have seen over the past two decades, that may no longer be the case.  

So where does this leave us?  The Senate remains under Republican control, as Republican State Representative Jeff Howe defeated Stearns County Board Member Joe Perske in the bid to fill the open seat resulting from former Senator Michelle Fishbach's retirement and officially filling the spot of Lieutenant Governor.  The Senate Majority Caucus unanimously re-elected Senator Paul Gazelka as their leader.  The new House Majority elected Representative Melissa Hortman, who had served as House Minority Leader when the Republicans were in control, as Speaker and Representative-elect (and former Representative) Ryan Winkler as their Majority Leader.  This gives the House leadership a decidedly suburban feel.  Given the fact that control of the House did hinge on the DFL victories in suburban seats, one can understand the reasoning, but expect the Republicans who control a vast majority of the exurban and deep rural House districts to mention this several times (I will probably lose track at three million) between now and 2020.  The House majority caucus chose Representative Liz Olson of Duluth as their whip.  The Senate minority led by Tom Bakk does not foresee any changes in its leadership structure and while Speaker Kurt Daudt has indicated he may step down, that is not a certainty.

With all the talk of immigration, the President's tweets, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez' speaking schedule, and the plethora of negative advertising employed by both sides during the campaign, the topic of education did not come up a whole lot.  But those of us in SEE saw the results of Bill Morris' polling during his presentation at our September meeting that education was seen as the state's most pressing issue by 27% of poll respondents.  While folks are intent on talking about seats Hillary Clinton won in 2016 and other aspects that are a bit on the inside-baseball side of things, I think it is important to note that for all the talk about all the money that is going out to school districts, costs for school districts are rising faster than the rate of inflation and the 2% and 2% annual increases trumpeted by the Legislature after the 2016 session simply didn't appear substantial to a lot of the voting public.  To me, it recalled the 2006 mid-term election when much of the talk centered on the aftermath of the Iraq War, but suburban seats were won by the DFL largely on the education issue.  There will be a lot on the plate of the new House majority in the session ahead, but I expect education funding (in all of its aspects) to be one of the main courses.

I think a positive for SEE is that Speaker-elect Hortman is familiar with the equalization issue and understands how differences in property wealth dictate differences in educational opportunity.  The suburbs are not monolithic as property wealth differences between different suburban areas are as great as they are statewide, which makes tax policy tricky if it isn't done with a wide scope.  Governor-elect Walz has campaigned on a one Minnesota theme (I see four Minnesotas, but no one has asked me) and our equalization efforts do have statewide application, so hopefully we can find traction in the year ahead as we push for increased referendum and debt service equalization.

And so, we marshal on.  I will be blogging more often now as legislative news will start picking up.  Always feel free to contact me with questions and comments.

Friday, August 17, 2018

Great Meeting in Lindstrom (can't find the umlaut) Last Night.  The Chisago County Board has taken an increasing interest in education and last night they hosted a meeting of local school districts (Chisago Lakes, Forest Lake, North Branch, Rush City, and the St. Croix River Education District) to discuss some possibilities for improved funding for districts in the area.  Each of the districts in attendance falls below the state average in terms of per pupil revenue and the fact that Chisago County is a low property wealth county complicates matters as it is difficult for these districts to pass voter-approved referenda to make up the difference where state revenue falls short.

Deb Griffiths gave her school finance presentation and I urge all SEE members to take advantage of the opportunity to have Deb out to provide your community with this information.  It is clear and concise and shows how school districts throughout the state with few exceptions constantly find themselves behind the funding eight-ball.  It works in multiple venues and Deb's experience in giving the presentation to audiences beyond the school board setting makes it an ideal way for districts to give communities as a whole a better understanding of the funding challenges faced by school districts.

It is truly great to see the Chisago County Board joining the education funding debate and pledging its support to remedying funding and property tax inequities that plague so many members of SEE.  For my part, I want to encourage SEE members to explore the possibility of working with your city councils and county boards and see if synergies like the one happening in Chisago County are possible in your area.

Another Loss to the America's Cultural Mosaic.  Most of you know I'm quite the music fan, having grown up in the 1960's with my transistor radio next to my ear.  Like many of you, I was saddened by the news yesterday of the death of Aretha Franklin.  In honor of The Queen of Soul, here's a great video clip of her in high-powered action.  


Thursday, August 16, 2018

A Belated Tribute to Barbara Baker.  



There are very few people still involved with SEE whose service dates back to the era when Barbara Baker was leading the organization.  Back in 1979, Barbara's management company--Baker Research & Consulting--ran the organization and run it she did.  I first met Barbara when I was on Senate Education Committee staff in the late-1980s and I had the pleasure working for her in my first years as a lobbyist in the early-1990s.  To say Barbara was a tenacious advocate for the cause of funding equity understates the case.  She never raised her voice, but she always got her point across firmly and politely.  Barbara was at the helm when the members of SEE (then known as the Association for Stable or Growing School Districts--ASGSD) comprised the plaintiffs in the Skeen v. Minnesota lawsuit and that was an extremely arduous task and one she performed with her usual aplomb.  That effort was an organizational challenge, but Barbara saw the organization through the successful district court decision (in which the plaintiffs won) and the subsequent reversal by the Minnesota Supreme Court.  The day the Supreme Court decision came down, Barbara was disappointed, but refused to sulk.  The same day we had a press statement ready to go and managed somehow to maintain control over discussion of the issue.  No small task, but there was no task that Barbara found too daunting.

On a personal note, I know I wouldn't be where I am today without Barbara and ASGSD taking a chance on me.  Barbara provided me with a lot of guidance on the how-to's of lobbying.  I had an extensive background in the legislative process and a pretty good handle of education finance when I was brought on board, but I lacked the finesse that a good lobbyist needs to succeed and Barbara served as a mentor in helping me acquire those skills.  I will never forget when Barbara and I were meeting with a high-ranking official in Governor Carlson's office to discuss his line-item veto of the first debt service equalization appropriation.  I attempted to explain what we were trying to accomplish when the official stopped me and said something to the effect "Well, that's socialism."  In my younger days, I could go from zero-to-sixty in the spirited debate department and, after the initial shock of the statement, I was about to blow up.  Barbara could see the steam coming out of my ears and before I could say anything, she took control of the conversation and, as was her style, calmly disagreed with the official.  We left the meeting in good shape and afterwards had a good laugh about how I had avoided an embarrassing, and perhaps damaging, situation.  It was one of the many lessons I learned from working with Barbara.

It's not just me that benefited from Barbara's expertise and ability.  People are surprised to learn that the MSBA Delegate Assembly would almost break out in riots--rhetorical and otherwise--when the Skeen lawsuit was in court.  The lawsuit divided school districts in a lot of ways and there were tons of hotly-contested resolutions that were specific and which had winners and losers in terms of the proposed policy effects.  Barbara worked the floor of those sessions and was a magnificent vote-counter.  Those efforts helped keep the equity issue front-and-center in the education funding debate and whatever progress we have made over the almost 40 years that SEE has been in existence are built on the foundation that Barbara and the early SEE pioneers carefully and firmly laid in place.

Here is a link to Barbara's obituary from the StarTribune:  Barbara Anne (Brooke) Baker Obituary