Thursday, February 04, 2010

Session Begins. Is it just me or does anyone else think that it's ironic that the 2010 Legislative Session is kicking off the same week as the final season of the ABC drama "Lost?" Think about it. Castaways scratching for their lives on a magical island where strange and gruesome things happen. Conspiracies. Warring tribes. Time-travel (as in history repeating itself). Parallel universes. You name it. "Lost" is eerily similar to the legislative session. Thank goodness that the seasons for these items always comes to an end and usually with a cliff-hanger.

Thursday saw the beginning of this edition of the Minnesota Legislature and things got off to a smooth start. The biggest item of business was the massive number of bill introductions in both houses of the Legislature. The House saw 329 new bill introductions while the Senate saw 193. A lot of those bills are capital projects that are being heard for possible inclusion in the 2010 bonding bill.

There isn't much to report on the education front in regard to these bills introductions. Representative Mindy Greiling (DFL-Roseville) has re-introduced the "New Minnesota Miracle" as HF 2431. Representative Pat Garofalo (R-Farmington) has introduced HF 2508, which would formalize the school payment shift and early property tax recognition shift enacted as part of the Governor's unallotment measures taken just before the beginning of the 2010 fiscal year. There are currently no Senate companions to these bills.

SEE will obviously have great interest in both of these bills. We have worked hard on the "New Minnesota Miracle" and although revenue to implement this bill immediately clearly isn't available--and probably won't be for several years--it is crucial that the education community continue to make the case that the level and distribution of the current education funding formula is not sufficient to meet the needs of Minnesota's student population.

Representative Garofalo's bill would probably help make the best of a bad situation. No one likes funding shifts, but they are preferable to base reductions. Further, putting the shifts into statute would provide school districts with stronger planning ability. My guess is decisions on the Garofalo bill will not take place until the waning days of session, which should occur just about the same time frame as Kate will decide between Jack and Sawyer on "Lost."

Another bill of interest that has been introduced is HF 2645 (Greiling)/SF 2328 (Bonoff), a bill that would repeal MS 127A.46, the statutory provision that requires the Governor to withhold payments to school districts with sufficient fund balances as defined by law. This bill will also likely be part of discussions as the final budget balancing package is put together.


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