Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Busy Wednesday.  The deadlines for the omnibus funding bills is more than two weeks away, but there is a lot of ground to cover as it pertains to the content of those bills, so the hearing schedule is going to be heavy over the next week-and-a-half to get everything heard.  Today's Senate E-12 Funding Division hearing was dedicated to some very interesting bills, two of which involved SEE districts to a great extent.  Senator Mary Kiffmeyer (R-Big Lake) is the chief author of both of these bills--SF 2032 and SF 2567--that deal with the equity revenue program and location equity revenue.  SF 2032 would expand the definition of metro to mirror that of the location equity revenue program that was established last year.  This would add a handful of districts that have geographic area in seven-county metropolitan area within their district boundaries, but whose district office building is located outside the seven-county metropolitan area.  The price tag for the bill is not that steep, but the revenue going to the affected districts is clearly needed.  All but one of the affected districts are SEE member districts.  SF 2567 would change the definition of the metropolitan area, updating to relatively recently established definition called the Minneapolis-St. Paul-Bloomington-MN-WI Metropolitan Statistical Area.  This definition adds Chisago, Isanti, Sherburne, and Wright counties to the current seven-county metropolitan area of Anoka, Carver, Dakota, Hennepin, Ramsey, Scott, and Washington counties.  Under SF 2567, all of the school districts in these counties would receive $424/PU in location equity revenue as opposed to $212/PU.

The debate over revising the location equity revenue program and the variable benefit delivered under last year's omnibus E-12 funding bill may be rendered moot if the Article IV, Sections 1 through 3 of the Senate's proposed omnibus tax bill authored by Senator Rod Skoe (DFL-Clearbrook).  The Article is the Property Tax Article of the bill and in it, the Senate is proposing to change the name "Location Equity Revenue" to "Local Option Revenue" and give all districts in the state--metro and non-metro--the opportunity to levy up to $424/PU equalized at the second-tier equalizing factor of $510,000/PU in referendum market value.  This amount would then be deducted from a district's referendum if its total referendum per pupil unit exceeded $724/PU.  These provisions would be effective for property taxes paid in 2015 for the 2015-2016 school year.  This would put to rest a lot of issues that have emanated from the decisions made in the omnibus tax bill.

The Senate will be debating and passing its tax bill on the Senate floor tomorrow.  The tax cuts contained in the Senate bill ($434 million) are lower than those proposed by both the Governor ($616 million) and the House of Representatives ($503 million).  The Senate puts more revenue into the budget reserve than either the House or Governor.

Here is a link to the Senate Omnibus Tax Bill:  The local option revenue is found on page 45, beginning on line 10.

Education Policy Bills.  Both the House and Senate will be logging long days tomorrow as they assemble their education policy bills.  I posted the initial strike-everything amendments yesterday, but I am certain that more language will be added to both bills in tomorrow's meetings.

Anti-Bullying Bill Heads to Senate Floor.  HF 826, the anti-bullying bill, passed out of the Senate Finance Committee today on a party-line vote.  An amendment offered in committee struck the district penalties out of the bill.  It is my guess that the bill will hit the Senate floor sometime next week.  Given the dramatic changes made to the bill, I expect that it will pass.  It will then go back to the House and all indications are that the House will accept the Senate amendments and attempt to re-pass the bill.  Given the somewhat closer balance between Democrat and Republican numbers in the House, the Democrats cannot afford many defections if they are to be successful in re-passing the bill and sending it to the Governor for his promised signature.  I imagine that opponents of the bill will now focus their efforts on DFLers they see as possibly being vulnerable on the bill if it should pass and see if they can drum up enough votes against it.  Should be an interesting debate in both bodies.

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