Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Budget Conference Committee Moving (E-12 Portion Not).  Yesterday saw the first movement in over a week on the omnibus supplemental appropriations bill and four portions of state spending (Health and Human Services, Tranportation, Higher Education, and State Departments) are now approved.  This leaves the Environment and Natural Resources, Economic Development and Agriculture, and E-12 Education as the only segments yet to be unveiled and approved.

From what I hear, the major hang-up is how much money should be dedicated to the basic formula.  The House bill contained a 1% formula increase, but with the overall budget target for E-12 dropping by over $20 million from the mid-$70 million range for $54 million, that provision will have to be pared back considerably.  From what I understand, the House is holding tight around one-half of a percent, but even that is difficult to accommodate given the "tails" target that affect the revenue available for next biennium.  The Senate has a number of early childhood initiatives they are promoting and are holding fast to them.  The Senate also has one-time revenue for teacher evaluation costs in non-alternative compensation districts and that is a high priority for Education Minnesota and being a one-time expenditure, it has the advantage of not counting toward fiscal obligations in the next biennium.

The conference committee has been instructed to finish its work today, but it's 3:45 PM and there's not a lot of action.  That doesn't mean things won't happen quickly, but to finish today, things are going to have to happen quickly.

HITA Bill Passes.  Education Minnesota's Health Insurance Transparency Act (HF 2180) passed both bodies today by comfortable margins.  The final vote was 79-50 in the House (6 Republicans joining all the DFLers) and the debate was very short.  Things got a little more interesting in the Senate.  The debate was more heated and there was a motion to reject the conference committee report.  That motion failed on a vote of 27-39 on an almost strict party-line vote.  That made the final vote a fait accompli , as the vote to pass the conference committee report was 40-27, with two Republicans voting for the measure and one DFLer voting against.  I will provide a summary of the new procedures at a later date. A lot of this is busy-work, but it's still a pain and it continues to promote the impression that school district boards and administrations simply don't care about their employees.

Education Policy Conference Committee Report Passes.  The conference committee report on HF 2397 passed the Senate floor yesterday on a vote of 37-27.  As I reported yesterday, there was speculation that the conference committee report would be rejected due to opposition to the PSEO language in the bill that allows post-secondary institutions to advertise the advantages of their program.  The effort to point that out only swayed 3 DFLers to oppose the bill, but with 4 Republicans voting yes, those defections were more than made up for.

Here is a link to the final roll call:

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