Tuesday, May 20, 2008

After the Lovin'. I wasn't there when this picture was snapped, so I can't honestly say if these three were actually humming that old Englebert Humperdinck hit (unfortunately for you folks, I'm staying with the musical theme) as they stood together announcing the final agreement, but as proclaimed, after all the loggerheading, hair-splitting, and decimation of mountains and subsequent construction of mole-hills, the Legislature ended its work and it has the markings of a very successful session. Certainly, not everybody is leaving the Capitol with a wide smile on their face, but this was a very productive session given the fact that the state is nearly $1 billion short in its revenue projections for the remainder of this biennium. Painful cuts were made to many programs and reserves were significantly reduced, making the challenge facing everyone in 2009 a formidable one indeed. But in the meantime, let's enjoy the fact that rivers of political blood didn't stain the Capitol stairs and take stock of the fact that some measure of bi-partisan comity (and sometimes, comedy) was achieved this session.

As many of you know, I am quite a baseball fan and I've decided that watching the Legislative Session is a lot like watching a baseball game. There are ample opportunites for second-guessing the manager on his strategic choices. During the session, I found myself often wondering "Why did Kelliher bunt there when she should have swung away?" or "Why did Pogemiller pinch-hit for Stumpf in that situation?" or "Why didn't Pawlenty order a brush-back pitch there?" Time to jump off the analogy wagon, given I think most of you are getting it. The game is over for this year and, in a major difference from a baseball game, we don't know the "winner" in terms of either politics or policy. I guess the lesson is that for those of us in the stands, the folks in the dugout are "doing what they are doing" and while we can venture a guess as to the pressures and strategies being employed to meet those pressures, the ultimate expression of that interplay is largely outside of our control--in the short term. In another difference from the game of baseball, we get to vote for the managers and players every election cycle (making--in my estimation--Ron Gardenhire one lucky guy).

So as we enter another election season, I urge all of you to take the time to get acquainted with the issues and the candidates and express your stances to your local candidates. You folks are the ones living with the results of the recent legislative session and only you can determine whether or not these decisions are rightfully being proclaimed as the greatest thing since sliced bread (what's so great about sliced bread anyway?). The election season makes you part of the game. SEE stands ready to provide its members with the tools and information necessary to make your exchanges with legislative candidates both positive and productive.

Governor Vetoes Statewide Teacher Health Pool. HF 1875--this year's edition of the mandatory school employees health insurance pool legisation--was vetoed by the Governor on Sunday, May 18. I have yet to get a gander at the Governor's veto message, but I will have one available for your perusal at Thursday's general membership meeting.

I honestly don't know what lies ahead for this concept. Last session, the bill was vetoed because the pool would have been self-insured. This session, the pool was to provide only fully-insured products. So it's been deemed a loser on both those counts. So the reason it continues to get final approval is beyond that. Could it be. . .(doing my best Dr. Evil here). . .that Education Minnesota continues to insist that participation in the pool be mandatory? One frustration I have with the continued presentation of this concept is that it really ignores the progress a number of school districts and their bargaining units have made in assembling customized health care packages to their employees that save the districts money while providing the teachers and other employees with the coverage they deem most important to their bargaining unit's most pressing needs. So, stay tuned.

Other Items. For Thursday's meeting, I should be in the position to report on education-related items that were in other bills that passed in the waning days of the legislative session. Primary among these is the pension bill, which contains a number of provisions related to education. With the legislative decision not to pass an educational policy bill this year, I've had time to look at the other bills in much greater depth and will be in a position to report on them.

Regional Meetings Set. The schedule for our June round of regional meetings has been set. They are as follow:
  • Monday, June 9--Owatonna District Office
  • Tuesday, June 10--Hojie's Restuarant (Mmm-Mmm Good), Dassel
  • Wednesday, June 11--MASA Conference Room, St. Paul
  • Monday, June 16--St. Cloud District Office
  • Friday, June 20--Creamery Crossing Restaurant (Another Mmm-Mmm Good), Isanti

Hope to see many of you there. These are always productive meetings.

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