Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Back in Action.  The Legislature returned to work today after its Easter/Passover break and they dove right back into action with a full day of floor action, committee hearings, and conference committee proceedings.  The largest part of the day was dedicated to the passage of the Education Policy Bill (HF 2397) on the Senate floor.  The bill passed on a vote of 39-21 after debate of two-plus hours and 13 amendments being offered.  Eight of the thirteen amendments passed, two were withdrawn, and three failed.  There is nothing particularly earth-shattering in the bill, although there are some interesting provisions.  The most comprehensive program contained in the bill is English Language literacy program requirements contained in SF 2611 (Torres Ray)/HF 3062 (Mariani).  There are a lot of new requirements in this legislation, but it is difficult to tell whether or not districts with high concentrations of English Language learners are already doing much of what will be required under the provisions of this legislation.

Here is the text of the Senate bill (without the amendments added today):  https://www.revisor.mn.gov/bills/text.php?number=SF1889&session=ls88&version=latest&session_number=0&session_year=2014

Here is the text of the House bill as it passed the House:  http://wdoc.house.leg.state.mn.us/leg/LS88/HF2397.3.pdf

One item of interest in the House bill is the implementation of new eligibility requirements for the determination of special learning disability and the repeal of the current rule that requires districts use the discrepancy model to identify learning disabled students.  For those of you familiar with and supportive of Response to Intervention and Multi-Tiered Support Systems models, this would be a huge step forward.  This language can be found in Article 4, Section 13, of the House bill (p. 131).

Supplemental Budget Conference Committee Begins Deliberations.  The conference committee on HF 3712--the omnibus supplemental appropriations bill--met for the first time this afternoon and started going through each bill and explaining differences that exist between the two bills.  It was the intention of the conference committee to go through the entire bill, but because this year's supplemental appropriations bill contains all of the spending from all of the funding divisions, the length of the bill (462 page House bill and 492 page Senate bill). there were simply too many provisions for the conference committee to digest in one sitting.  The education articles in each bill (Article 13 in the Senate bill and Articles 16 through 21 in the House bill) will be presented tomorrow.

Deb Griffiths has put together a tremendous side-by-side comparison of the education provisions in the two bills that is available at the SEE website.  Here is a link to that report:  http://www.schoolsforequity.org/files/86094559.pdf

Last But Not Least.  The House Education Policy Committee held an informational hearing on two bills today.  Because the Legislature is past its deadlines for acting on bills in committee, the hearings were solely for informational purposes.  HF 2113 (Clark) would require school districts to provide aquatics instruction, which would be pretty difficult in school districts that do not have access to a swimming pool.  That said, it was a very interesting hearing and the bill is supported by a number of public safety organizations.  I never realized the discrepancy that existed in drowning deaths between white and minority populations.  Here is an article on the bill that was published in City Pages, the alternative Twin Cities news weekly.  I don't know if it's a civil rights issue in the traditional sense of that term, but the data presented at the hearing was compelling.

Link:  http://blogs.citypages.com/blotter/2014/04/dfl_rep_clark_says_bill_requiring_swimming_instruction_in_schools_is_a_civil_rights_issue.php

The other bill heard was Representative Mariani's HF 3045, which instructs the Minnesota Board of Teaching to develop a teaching license reciprocity agreement with other states.

As I stated earlier, neither of these bills will be heading anywhere this session, but they may find their way onto future legislative to-do lists.

Health Insurance Transparency Act Conferees Named.  The conferees for HF 2180, the Health Insurance Transparency Act developed by Education Minnesota, have been named.  The House conferees with be Representatives Erin Murphy (DFL-St. Paul), John Ward (DFL-Brainerd) and Greg Davids (R-Preston).  The Senate conferees are Senators Katie Sieben (DFL-Newport), Vicki Jensen (DFL-Owatonna), and Jeremy Miller (R-Winona).  It is unclear when the conference committee will start meeting, but while there are differences in the bills, things could come together rather quickly.  I will certainly let you know when things start proceeding.

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