Whack-a-Mo at the Capitol – Update for March 9
Monday morning, April 16, 2012
This Week at the Capitol – Update for March 5-9
It’s Whack-a-Mo! Bills, bills everywhere…
…and if there aren’t enough bills to be heard, we’ll hear the same ones again! In a baffling move, after HF1870 (the teacher performance/seniority bill, or “LIFO”) passed off the House AND Senate floor, Chair Garofalo had an “informational only” hearing on it in Education Finance. This action didn’t baffle just me – it was confusing for committee members as well.
Creative politics—or too clever by half?
While the school payment shift bill (HF2083) was on the agenda to be heard Thursday, Chair Garofalo brought a Delete-Everything (DE) Amendment, which supersedes the introduced bill. This isn’t unusual and so the bill taken up in the committee Thursday was actually HF2083DE-2. Whereas HF2083 was a modification of the school payment shift, HF2083DE-2 was the Chair’s Education Finance Bill, an omnibus bill that holds a variety of provisions (pieces of bills), many that have been heard up to this point in session.
Major provisions of HF2083DE-2, currently the House Education Finance bill:
- Moves school payments from 60/40 to 70/30 using the reserve funds (HF2083).
- Contains the entirety of the “last in, first out” bill (HF 1870).
- Requires revenue received from permanent school land trust earnings in excess of $28 per pupil to be used for technology (HF2075).
- Expands nonpublic pupil textbook aid (HF2078).
- Requires any agreement settling any dispute that requires a payment of more than $10,000 of public money to specify the reasons for the agreement (HF2647).
- Allows for “a school board to suspend without pay a teacher whom the school board is proposing to immediately discharge for conduct that is also the subject of a felony charge” (HF2651).
Then it gets interesting
The bill changes the 60/40 school payment shift to 70/30 (the percentage of what is paid to schools in the current school year and what is delayed a year), using the dollars that in statute must refill the state reserves depleted by the last budget fix. In testimony, Minnesota Management and Budget Commissioner Jim Showalter asked that the committee reject this use of public reserves. He said that Minnesota law makes it clear that a surplus first be used to fill reserves, and that this statutory process to replenish the state coffers has long served Minnesota well by getting it back on stable footing before paying back shifts.
Commissioner Showalter, who was previously Governor Pawlenty’s Budget Director, went on: Without these reserves, the state will have no way to handle even average risk.
Funding schools with these dollars is “betting that all goes well – but leaving no fund if it doesn’t.” He cautioned the committee of the “significant risk” in spending down the reserves and flat out stated that “as financial management, this is a bad idea.” It simply exacerbates the budget problem for the next biennium and increases the likelihood that we will need to borrow and take from schools again (especially difficult with a projected deficit in the next biennium that is already over a billion dollars!).
Rep. Greiling offered an amendment to repay the shift by closing corporate loopholes. Her amendment recovered $300 million dollars from “tax dodgers” (her words) who set up “tax havens” (statute language) outside of the U.S. in a huge variety of countries – Belize, Bahrain, Cayman Islands, Costa Rica, Monaco, Jordan, and on and on – 34 listed countries! This amendment failed on a straight party-line vote, with members of the majority claiming that taxing these corporations would cost the state thousands of jobs; Rep. Bills even stated that these corporate taxes were regressive and “falling on the poor.”
A cynical person may see this as sneaky politics. Think about it: I run in the November election having paid schools back and, after winning, to balance the NEXT deficit, I simply reinstate the school shift payments AGAIN next session! Bingo: Win, Win.
Along with this modification in school payment shifts we have the “LIFO” provisions, a bill that received only the aforementioned “informational hearing” in this committee because it had no fiscal note (cost), yet here it is in the House Education Finance bill. And HF1870 (the LIFO bill) is also on its own in conference committee. So why is it in this bill? Stay tuned. (Parent’s United’s Statement on LIFO)
A Look Ahead
Conference committees, Education Omnibus bills from House Policy and the Senate, bill signings and vetoes are all ahead…
HF2083DE-2 will be heard in the House Committee on Taxes Monday at 5:00 p.m.
HF1870 has passed through both the Senate and the House and is now in conference committee.
So just what is a Conference committee? After the House and Senate pass their respective bills a conference committee is appointed to develop a compromise. Learn more…
- Appointed House conferees: Republicans B. Petersen, Downey, Erickson and Woodard, and DFL Mariani.
- Appointed Senate conferees: Republicans Wolf, Daley, Kruse and Olson, and DFL Bonoff.
Expect to see the House present an Education Policy bill in the coming week. It will be interesting to see what the Senate does. While the House has an Education Policy committee and an Education Finance committee, the Senate has one Education committee that deals with both. We await the conference committee meetings schedule.
Ask Your Legislators!
_Question/Comment of the Week
_What do you think of using the reserves to pay back the school shift?
Bills to watch
- Education Finance Omnibus Bill, HF2083DE-2 (Garofalo-R-Farmington)
- Postsecondary enrollment options program expanded, HF2025(Urdahl-R-Grove City)A good opportunity for students that expands post-secondary options.
Click here for more bills to watch and a complete list of education bills heard so far this session.
For weeks now we have been sharing information about states that have adopted some form of supermajority amendment. The information we have found has been eye-opening. I thought this week it might be interesting to see what others are saying.
Forward this on to encourage others to Learn • Network • Act!
Monday Brown Bag, March 12, Noon-1:00 p.m.
Grab your lunch and join the conversation with Mary about education at the Capitol. Ask questions and share your observations.
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