The following information was shared via email with the library community by Elaine Keefe, Capitol Hill Associates, in her role as MLA-ITEM lobbyist.
Legislative Calendar: On Tuesday legislators returned from their Passover/Easter break. Next week many budget committees will be releasing their omnibus budget bills. The Senate E-12 Education Budget Division will release its omnibus budget bill online next Tuesday. They will take public testimony on Wednesday and then will consider amendments and pass the bill out of committee on Thursday. The House Education Finance Committee has not yet announced when its omnibus bill will be released. There is a great deal of work to be done before the May 18 adjournment deadline.
Budget Targets: Before leaving for the Passover/Easter break, House and Senate leaders announced their budget targets. The education community was shocked and deeply disappointed at the very low targets for education, particularly in the context of a state budget surplus of nearly $1.9 billion. The House has allocated just $157 million in new funding for education over the next two years. The Senate has allocated $350 million. This is in contrast to Governor Dayton’s proposal to spend an additional $694 million on education. The House and Senate targets will make it very difficult to obtain funding increases for libraries, despite the positive reception our bills received when they were heard in committee.
Senate Legacy Hearing: On Monday, April 13 at 6pm the Senate Legacy Subcommittee will be taking testimony on the Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund. Ann Hutton and Melinda Ludwiczak will present our request for regional public libraries. The hearing will take place in Room 15 of the Capitol.
Governor’s Bonding Proposal: This week Governor Dayton released his bonding proposal, which totals $842 million. It includes $2 million for Library Construction Grants. This is the first time funding for this program has been included in a governor’s proposal. The likelihood of a bonding bill of that size is very slim. Traditionally the Legislature passes a fairly small bonding bill in the odd-numbered year session and a much larger bill in the even-numbered year. House Republicans have said they have no interest in passing any bonding bill this year. However, they have left open the possibility that they could agree to a small bill as part of the end-of-session negotiations.
Regional Library Telecommunications Aid (RLTA): The governor’s supplemental education budget bill was made public on Tuesday. It includes some changes to the eligible uses of RLTA to more closely align it with the federal e-rate program. The CRPLSA RLTA Committee reviewed the language and suggested two clarifying changes. MDE has agreed to one of them and is considering the other. Last night the House Education Finance Committee took testimony on the governor’s supplemental budget. I testified about that we support the new language on RLTA but were working with MDE on a couple of tweaks to it. I also expressed disappointment that there is no new money for libraries in the governor’s budget and urged the committee to consider including Rep. Nornes’ bill to increase funding for RLBSS and multi-type funding and Rep. Kresha’s bill to increase funding for TEA and RLTA as they put together their omnibus education funding bill.
State of the State: Governor Dayton will deliver his state of the state address tonight at 7pm before a joint session of the Legislature. The address will be live-streamed on many websites, including the House of Representatives website, the StarTribune, the Pioneer Press and MPR and affiliates. The address will also be broadcast live on MPR.
Elaine Keefe, Capitol Hill Associates