Oops. Forgot to Blog. Was working on a couple of memos last evening and neglected my blogging responsibilities There isn't a lot to report on the legislative front. The House Ways and Means Committee met yesterday morning and melded HF 3171--the House omnibus education finance bill--together with the other division funding bills into HF 3172. HF 3172 is now the House omnibus "omnibus" bill, combining all the work of the various funding divisions into one bill that governs all proposed funding increases. The Senate will be following the same procedure and there will be a single conference committee this session instead of the usual pattern of having a conference committee for each funding division.
The Senate bill was heard in the Senate Tax Committee yesterday morning where its tax impacts were discussed. The Senate has a zero overall property tax levy target, but there are several property levy increases in the bill. In order to achieve the zero levy target, the Senate bill proposes to increase the equalizing factor for the total operating capital program. The new equalizing factor is about 5% higher for taxes payable in 2015 and then slides back to an increase of about 4% for taxes payable in 2016. Given the increase and then the slight erosion in the increase the equalizing factor that these equalizing factor changes are being used to "balance" the bill as opposed to implementing any long term structural tax relief. Because the total operating capital program affects all school districts, the levy component is a good place to deliver property tax relief both large and small. After hearing the bill, the Tax Committee re-referred the E-12 funding bill back to the Finance Committee, where it will be combined with bills from the other funding divisions in a manner similar to what was done in the House.
The rumored schedule has the full House of Representatives taking up HF 3172, the super-omnibus funding bill, on Thursday. The Senate will likely follow suit on Friday and if all goes as scheduled, conference committee could begin as early as the weekend or early next week.
Fate of Policy Bills? One of the questions yet to be resolved is that of the policy bills that usually accompany the funding bills from each division. Policy has largely been stripped from the omnibus funding bills, an action that will require these bills to travel separately. There are two major obstacles to the passage of policy bills this session: (1) time remaining in the session and (2) a perceived lack of appetite for passing anything other than the major appropriations bills. That doesn't mean they won't pass, but the chances of anything happening will likely be nearly totally dependent on the timeline and with another tax bill, the omnibus appropriations bill, and the bonding bill likely to receive the lion's share of the attention from this point forward, the odds of passing major education policy bills through both houses and complete a conference committee to resolve any differences that might exist between the Senate and House bills. Put this issue in the "yet to be determined' column.
Regional Meetings Completed. We completed our round of spring regional meetings yesterday in Sauk Rapids (thanks for hosting Dan!) and I am always amazed at the spirit of the group when we meet. What made this year's set of meetings interesting is that the timing of the meetings made each meeting very different, as during the first few meetings there was a lot of conjecture about what might happen and by the end of the round of meetings, the Senate and House bills had pretty much taken shape and the discussions had a different tone and slant. I want to thank everyone who participated in the meetings. We are a member-based organization and the input from all members is valued. These meetings provide SEE leadership with perspectives and data that is crucial to advancing the organization's legislative priorities. So thanks again! It was great seeing all of you and hearing your opinions.