The Thursday committee hearings covered a number of interesting issues. The House Education Innovation Policy Committee led off the day with the discussion of three bills. The first of these was Representative Dave Baker's HF 1254. HF 1524 would create an incentive program for school districts and school bus contractors to convert their fleets to propane from diesel. The money for the grant program would come from the settlement Volkswagen reached with the Federal government arising from Volkswagen's falsifying of emission data. An issue that has arisen in regards to this proposal is the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency's wanting to make certain that legislative earmarks don't endanger Minnesota's chances of receiving its fair share of the proceeds under the settlement. As many of you know, there are always stipulations that accompany any court settlement and those will have to be followed. Nonetheless, Representative Baker's bill would provide a shot in the arm toward making school bus fleets run both more cleanly in terms of emissions and more effectively in terms of starting in cold weather. The House Education Innovation Policy Committee also covered HF 1289, Representative Erickson's bill encouraging school districts to make certain students are aware of AP/IB opportunities that exist, and HF 1376, the Governor's technical bill also carried by Representative Erickson.
The House Education Finance Committee covered two bills. The first was HF 1380. This bill is carried by Representative Kelly Fenton and seeks to build upon the grant program that helps paraprofessionals work toward their teaching licenses. The testimony on the bill featured several paraprofessionals who have taken advantage of the program and it was quite compelling. Most using the program are working toward a special education teaching license and as we all know, the shortage of teachers in that area is both keen and statewide. The committee then turned to HF 1255, Representative Loon's bill to increase the number of school-linked mental health clinics in the state. As in the case of the previous bill, the testimony provided for the bill was quite compelling. Dr. Sandy Lewandowski, superintendent of Intermediate District 287, along with a teacher and parent associated with the district provided a very concise description of the challenge being faced by the intermediate districts and special education cooperatives throughout the state in terms of the complexity of students they are serving in Level 4 settings.
The day ended with the Senate Education Policy Committee, which covered SF 768, the Senate companion to the HF 1255 carried by Senator Greg Clausen. The same witnesses who provided testimony in the House did so in the Senate. And for those who think that repetition doesn't accomplish much, they are wrong in this instance. The testimony on his issue is compelling regardless of how many times one hears it. In fact, it picks up strength with each presentation. The Senate also heard the Senate version of the Governor's technical bill carried by Senator Eric Pratt, SF 1222, the companion to HF 1376.
While I am on the Cartoon Kick. As I was watching the SE Minnesota school closing crawl across the bottom of my television screen on Thursday night, I couldn't help but think of Underdog's nemesis, Simon Bar Sinister, and his diabolical snow-producing ray gun featured in the adventure "Go Snow." For your entertainment, here's the first installment of that thrilling adventure.