Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Tuesday Heartbreak. A song by Stevie Wonder (from the awesome album "Talking Book" pictured at the left) and what is being felt by legislative education policy makers after the Governor's veto of SF 3001, the 2008 education policy bill. The veto message is not available on-line at the moment, so here is a brief synopsis of his objections:

  • Report card provisions--Hate 'em.

  • Expedited rule-making for state and district technology standards--Uffda.

  • Achievement gap plans--Nada.

  • Raising the drop-out age from 16 to 18--No way.

So, the bill (now Chapter 310) will be returned to the Legislature (the Senate first because it is a Senate File) where it is unclear whether or not an override will be attempted. A straight party-line vote would be sufficient to override in the Senate, but given the difficulty an override attempt would face in the House, it will be interesting to see if an override is attempted at all.

More news on this one as it comes available along with a link to the veto message.

An Idea that Keeps Getting Worse. Senator Don Betzold unveiled his proposed changes to the mandated statewide health insurance pool supported by Education Minnesota. One would think after all the time spent refining the bill, it would be getting better after all of these years. Unfortunately, that is not the case.

Basically, what the new proposal does is prohibit school districts or cooperatives from self-insuring. In other words, if you, as a district, self-insure, you would no longer be able to do that. Further, the service cooperatives, because their pools are self-insured, would be put out of business.

Under the bill, a board would be created that would sell insurance to all school districts. Under estimates provided by the Service Cooperatives, an additional $111 million in costs would be passed onto school districts due to the elimination of the "wholesale" option provided through health insurance. Being forced to buy insurance through the proposed state pool would constitute a "retail" option, complete with extra taxes and fees. Hence, the increased costs.

The best way to frame this issue is the "wholesale" versus "retail" comparison. Self-insurance currently saves districts considerable amounts because they are able to avoid taxes and fees. As stated in the earlier paragraph, those savings would evaporate under the proposed pool.

It is important to explain procedure from here, the bill number is HF 1875. Senator Betzold amended HF 1875 in the Senate Finance Committee today to contain the newly-developed proposal similar to what is proposed in his SF 2747. So, when contacting your Senators--anjd we need you to contact them as soon as possible--tell them to oppose HF 1875. It is unclear when the bill will hit the Senate floor, but it could be as early as tomorrow (Wednesday). Announced plans have said that neither house of the Legislature will have floor sessions on Wednesday, but with negotiations sputtering, it's anyone's guess as to whether that will end up being the case.

Call your Senators now (Deb will be getting out an alert as well) and tell them to take this dog to the pound.

While I was Writing. The House passed HF 6, the conference committee report that contains the funding provisions agreed upon by the House and Senate education funding working group that was part of HF 1812, the budget reconciliation act. The vote on the bill was 97-35, with 10 Republicans joining all DFLers in passing the bill.

Debate on the bill has now resumed in the Senate--remember that it was briefly discussed last evening--and a vote will be forthcoming shortly.

Edit: Senate passed HF 6 on a vote of 55-10. It know goes to the Governor for who knows what. The initial vote totals are sufficient to override a gubernatorial veto, but I doubt every Republican who voted for the bill on final passage would be there on an override attempt. Because the bill got to the Governor last evening, it will have to be vetoed or signed before the end of the session.

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