Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Omnibus Bill passes House.  After an extended floor debate which saw multiple amendments offered (with very few--and none for which a roll call was requested--adopted), the House passed the omnibus education funding bill by a vote of 80-53.  8 Republicans joined the entire DFL caucus in supporting the bill.  Most of the debate centered on the work of the assessment working group that met last summer to develop a new assessment system for Minnesota's high school students.  There has been a concerted effort over the past few weeks by opponents of the report (especially the elimination of the GRAD) to heighten concern among the public regarding the proposed changes and it showed in the buttons with the slogan "Don't Dumb Down the Diploma" worn by a number of legislators and the number of amendments related to the proposed assessment changes.  It's obvious that the DFL members took caucus positions on the amendments, keeping the more contested amendments off the bill.  Some majority members "walked" on a few amendments, but there was sufficient opposition to keep the bill "clean" (at least in the eyes of the majority).

Here is a link to the roll call votes on the amendments and the bill:

Tax Committee Takes Testimony, Amends Tax Bill, and Sends it to the Floor.  SF 552, the Senate version of the omnibus tax bill, was discussed in the Senate Tax Committee today.  Milaca Superintendent Jerry Hansen testified in favor of the Education Advancement Revenue program that is part of the bill.  As described yesterday, the Education Advancement Revenue will bring districts with less than $300/PU in referendum revenue up to that amount and will swap revenue from the newly-created component with referendum revenue in districts with more than $300/PU.  In other words, new revenue for districts with less than $300/PU in referendum revenue and tax relief for districts for a vast majority of districts with referendum revenue in excess of $300/PU.

In another matter, the tax bill was amended to include the integration levy that was not included in the Governor's budget (but was subsequently made a part of the House omnibus education funding bill).  The Senate omnibus education funding bill did not include the integration levy in its work.

Senate Education Funding Bill Expected UP Tomorrow.  Speaking of the Senate omnibus education funding bill, it is expected to be debated and approved tomorrow on the Senate floor.  The Senate is covering a number of bills this week and protracted debate on any of them could slow things down and prevent a timely approval of the bills.  It is my guess that debate on the Senate bill will center on two sets of provisions:  (1) the Senate's re-establishment of the general education levy, and (2) the assessment section that is similar to that of the House.

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