Sunday, May 18, 2008

Another Park, Another Sunday. Yes, they even write songs about Sundays and I thought I'd remind you of that with mention of this Doobie Brothers' classic. For awhile last night, it looked like I might be titling this entry "Never On Sunday," the catchy tune made popular by the Greek movie of the same name that charted as a hit in 1961 recorded by The Chordettes (Sheboygan, Wisconsin's finest).

Another possible title for this entry--and the one that is most accurate--paraphrases Robert Duvall's classic line from "Apocalypse Now," only this time it would go something like "I love the smell of a roomful of haggard and bedraggled legislators, staff, and lobbyists at 5 in the morning." After a week of being on the physical and emotional yo-yo that is the end of the legislative session, it appears (I have learned to not go further than that), that the final deal has been struck and we have come to the denouement. The budget side of the deal was announced and ratified by the conference committee on HF 1812 just before sunrise this morning and the tax conference committee is receiving its finishing touches. There is some consternation about the tax conference committee, as the Governor appears to have won on the issue of a property tax cap of 3.9% for cities and counties (not counting levying for police) for the next three years. Legislative leadership wanted to have the cap apply for only one year. So, stay tuned.

And the news is comparatively good for E-12. The contents of HF 6, the bill passed by the Legislature last Tuesday and subsequently vetoed by the Governor on Friday, were amended into HF 1812, the mega-ginormous budget balancing bill, and are slated for approval. Again, the primary elements of that bill include:
  • $51 per pupil unit in one-time money.
  • $51 per pupil in one=time transferability from operating capital to the general fund.
  • Increased revenue for pre-kindergarten screening.
  • Increased revenue for the school milk program.
  • An extension of the special education task force.
  • An appropriation for the Principals' Leadership Academy.
  • A correction in the referendum ballot language for referendum renewal questions.
This isn't going to magically make the kinds of deficits we are looking at throughout Minnesota, but it certainly is appreciated and does show legislative support for correcting the financial plight being faced by school districts. I don't want to be accused of taking sides in this, because the Governor did support the proposal in the end, but I don't believe we would have seen this increase accomplished without the efforts of legislators in both the House and Senate, particularly the leadership provided of the respective E-12 funding division chairs: Representatives Mindy Greiling (DFL-Roseville) and Nora Slawik (DFL-Maplewood) in the House and Senator LeRoy Stumpf (DFL-Thief River Falls) in the Senate. Kudos to them for not giving up and making certain the cause of increased education funding stayed in front of the Legislature and Governor all session.

Teacher Health Insurance Pool. That bill--HF 1875--has been sent to the Governor and awaits either signature or veto. Thanks to all of you who contacted both legislators as the bill was being discussed and the Governor's office after the bill was passed. I have written a letter to the Governor outlining SEE's opposition to the measure, but it always helps for the Governor and his staff to hear specific examples of how legislation will adversely affect their school districts in real terms. The Governor has another week or so to decide the bill's fate, so keep those cards, letters, e-mails, and phone calls coming!

And Thanks to All of You. I have always kept the blog up-to-the-minute, but by the looks of the counter, membership is using (and I hope appreciating) this tool. Thanks for getting back to Deb and me quickly when we came to you with questions. It always helps to have the latest information to provide legislators as they wrestle with the issues of the day. So, again, thanks for being great members.

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