Wild Week. It was a bit of the week that was at the Capitol last week as things got on the rail and starting moving. Both the House and Senate have now passed their versions of the bonding bill and that bill is now in conference committee. As has been reported, both legislative versions of the bill exceed the Governor's bill by about $300 million and unlike in previous years, the Governor has made it clear that he's not going to line-item veto projects from the conference committee report until it is pared down to his recommended amount. Instead, he's telling the Legislature that he will continue vetoing the whole bill until the Legislature approves a version that he is comfortable signing in total. Of course, the possibility remains that individual projects contained in the bill could garner enough Republican votes to override a gubernatorial veto, but that remains to be seen as the conference committee proceedings unfold.
In other big legislative doings, the Legislature passed the re-instatement of the General Assistance Medical Care program that the Governor line-item vetoed from the 2009 Omnibus Health and Human Services bill at the end of the last legislative session. I don't know what the land-speed record for a veto is, but the Governor's veto of this bill probably earned at least the Bronze medal. One of the first orders of legislative business this coming week will be an attempted override of that veto, but I would be surprised if the override attempt will be successful.
Needless to say, we've moved to the big kids' section of the midway and it's going to resemble Mr. Toad's Wild Ride from this point forward.
Speaking of Mr. Toad's Wild Ride. I got a phone call early on Friday morning from Denny Carlson informing me that I was quoted in the StarTribune. I went online and there I was talking about how SEE would oppose efforts to eliminate the referendum cap. I really found the story to be well-timed, seeing that just a day before I had expressed my expectation that we would be seeing this item discussed in the near future. While a new bill has not been introduced yet this session, bills that propose that the referendum cap be eliminated were introduced last year and those bills could always be heard again.
"The Song Remains the Same" isn't just the name of Led Zeppelin's live album/concert film, it's also pretty much the story of this issue since the referendum cap was first insituted in 1991. And it goes the same way for both sides. About 10 districts in the state want the referendum cap eliminated and the rest of us don't and the arguments have remained the same. If anything has changed, it's probably the fact that less districts want uncapped referendum capability than did back in 1988 when the Skeen lawsuit was filed.
I get the fact that some districts still believe getting rid of the referendum cap is a good idea that is useful to them. But the referendum, even though it is at its all-time high in total revenue generated at slightly over $800 million, is probably decreasing in popularity among districts. It's not that districts don't want access to referendum authority, it's just that this horse has probably been ridden as hard as it can be ridden. Further, if the cap were eliminated, it would give legislators the opportunity to say "Well, you can always pass as much referendum as you'd like." As stated above, that system would work for about 10 school districts.
Mid-morning on Friday, I got a call from WCCO radio asking me if I'd like to be on Dom Giardano's show on Friday afternoon. I responded that I'd go on the show, but I told the producer that I wondered why they'd want to discuss this issue on The Good Neighbor. The producer told me she thought it was a hot issue. I replied that--in terms I've used earlier in this entry--that the issue is less hot now than it was in 1991. I know that many of you listened to my approximately 3 minutes on the air with Giardano and I hope my points came across fairly well.
One point I wanted to make clear in the interview is that 5 of the 6 school districts grandfathered above the current referendum cap have capital projects levy, a couple of which are almost $700 per pupil. These levies are not subject to the referendum cap and aren't unequalized. While 25 districts (and several SEE districts) have capital projects levies, from the statewide statistics, it's obvious that property wealth plays a great role in who has these levies.
Needless to say, I don't think my interview threatened the Tiger Woods' coverage earlier on Friday, but it's always nice to be on the radio and I did enjoy the opportunity to state our side of the story.
Norm Draper has been writing some great education stuff (including the stories that don't quote me) thus far this sesssion, including Friday's article on the referendum cap. Great to see.
Referendum Cap Article: http://http://www.startribune.com/politics/state/84750237.html?elr=KArks:DCiUBDia_nDaycUiD3aPc:_Yyc:aUU