Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Another Busy Day. Session is only a week old and things are already poppin'. It was another full day of committee meetings with the Senate E-12 Funding Division joining the action with their first meeting of the year.

The day led off bright and early with the House Education Policy Committee meeting at 8:00 AM. The bulk of the committee's time was spent on the subject of early childhood education. The first bill up--HF 2983 (S. Peterson)--would establish an Office of Early Childhood Education. Two veritable Minnesota all-stars testified in favor of the bill. Pictured on the left are Dr. Art Rolnick, Vice-President and Director of Research at the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis and Representative Sandra Peterson (DFL-New Hope). Additional all-star testimony was provided by Dr. Karen Cadigan, Director of Outreach and Public Policy at the Center for Early Education and Development at University of Minnesota.

Concern was expressed that, in its original form, the bill would create a new level of bureaucracy that would impede educational progress and restrict parent choice. A major amendment to the bill offered by bill author Representative Peterson allayed many of those concerns and the bill was passed as amended and re-referred to the Early Childhood Learning Finance Division.

The House Education Policy Committee also heard the last reports from working groups that deliberated over the interim. In her report regarding the work of the K-12 Financing working group, Representative Mindy Greiling (DFL-Roseville) outlined the progress made on developing a comprehensive funding reform bill modeled after much of the work done by PS Minnesota. Although this bill will undoubtedly depart from the details contained in the PS Minnesota work, it will likely remain true to the basic framework outlined in that report.

The Senate E-12 Funding Division spent its time discussing bonding requests in the same manner as the House K-12 Funding Division did last week. Delegations from the Osseo School District and the Anoka-Hennepin School District were present to discuss proposals they have developed.

The House K-12 Finance Division met this afternoon and finalized their hearings on bonding proposals. Upon completion of bill presentations, division members were asked to rank the projects heard in the division and rank them in order of their individual priorities. The individual recommendations will be tallied to create the division's set of priorities that will be forwarded to the Capital Investment Finance Division. The Capital Investment Finance Division, chaired by Representative Alice Hausman (D-St. Paul) will assemble the House version of the 2008 bonding bill. At right, Representatives Bob Dettmer (R-Forest Lake) and Sondra Erickson (R-Princeton) are working on their individual project priorities.

The day was not without its lighter moments. I ran into SEE superintendents Larry Peterson from Eden Valley-Watkins, Scott Staska from Rocori, and Scott Thielman during the day. As expected, they were working their legislators on a number of issues. At the left is Larry Peterson visiting with Representative Dean Urdahl (R-Grove City). I can assure you that Larry's arguments were not nearly as fuzzy as my picture of him is. It's always great to run into SEE member administrators and school board members at the Capitol, so don't hesitate to tell me if you are coming down.

In another highlight, I was early for the House K-12 Finance Division hearing and happened across the House Public Safety and Civil Justice Committee, where HF 2906 (Paymar) was being discussed. HF 2906 seeks to tighten up the regulation of dangerous dogs. Arguments were getting a bit hot as committee time ran out, so I guess one could say that the bill about dogfights turned into a bit of a dogfight.

Finally, as I was setting up a camera shot this morning, I accidentally snapped this one instead. The good news is, it's in focus. The bad news? It's my shoe. Catch you all tomorrow.

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