MN Legislative Update 2015-04-21

 The following information was shared via email with the library community by Elaine Keefe, Capitol Hill Associates, in her role as MLA-ITEM lobbyist. 

House Legacy Bill: Yesterday the House Legacy Committee competed work on its omnibus bill and passed it out of committee. Rep. Dean Urdahl, chair of the committee, made it very clear in his opening remarks that no group was entitled to any particular amount of Legacy funding, regardless of what they had received in the past. As such, there is no such thing as a “cut” in Legacy funds. We all start out at zero for the biennium, and the amounts we receive will fluctuate – sometimes they will be higher and sometimes they will be lower than in the past. He said that some groups needed an “attitude adjustment.”

I spoke with Rep. Urdahl today and he expressed annoyance at the number of e-mails he had received about the level of library funding in the bill. I assured him that his message was loud and clear and that I would convey it to the library community. I also thanked him for including funding for libraries in his bill, acknowledging that he has long been a strong library supporter.

So, thank you to those of you who contacted your legislators and members of the House Legacy Committee. However, we need to stop complaining about the level of funding provided in the House Legacy bill.

Broadband: I reported last Thursday that the House was providing no new funding for broadband grants, while the Senate had $17 million in its budget and the Governor had $30 million in his budget proposal. However, on Friday when the omnibus jobs and energy bill was heard in the House Ways and Means Committee, $8 million was added for broadband grants. Funding for the Office of Broadband, which had been eliminated in the bill, was partially restored.

Library Construction Grants: Today I met with Rep. Jeff Howe (R – Rockville), a member of the House Capital Investment Committee. He agreed to introduce our bill to provide $10 million for Library Construction Grants. The bill is intended to put Library Construction Grants under consideration for inclusion in the 2016 bonding bill. We need to have it introduced this session so that it is on the radar of the House and Senate Capital Investment Committees as they tour the state this fall to look at proposed capital projects.

House Omnibus Tax Bill: Today the House Tax Committee passed its omnibus tax bill. Yesterday the committee took public testimony. The bill makes deep cuts in local government aid for Minneapolis, St. Paul and Duluth, but not for any other cities. Among the witnesses in opposition to these cuts were Kit Hadley, director of the St. Paul Public Library, and two branch managers. They spoke very eloquently about the impact these cuts would have on library services in St. Paul.

Other provisions of interest in the bill are as follows:

A sales tax exemption for building materials purchased by a contractor under a lump sum contract for buildings used by local governments. This was strongly supported by cities and counties.

An expansion of the current K-12 education expense subtraction to include pre-K expenses and private school tuition. The inclusion of private school tuition was strongly opposed by various school organizations.

A Property Tax Payers’ Empowerment Act, which allows a reverse referendum if a city or county increases its property tax levy over the previous year. The referendum is triggered if a petition signed by 10% of the voters in the last general election is filed by June 30. The referendum must be held on the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November. This was opposed by cities and counties.

A working group to make recommendations on revising the county program aid distribution formula.

Repeal of library debt service aid for Minneapolis.

Data Practices Training for Local Units of Government: The Senate omnibus state government funding bill passed on the Senate floor yesterday. It includes $100,000 in each year of the biennium for the Department of Administration’s Information and Policy Analysis Division, commonly known as IPAD, to conduct training for local units of government on data practices laws. This was initiated by the League of Minnesota Cities. The funding is not included in the House omnibus state government funding bill.

MN Legislative Update 2015-04-09

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 KeefeCapitol Hill Associates

MN Legislative Update 2015-01-27

The following information was shared via email with the library community by Elaine Keefe, Capitol Hill Associates, in her role as MLA-ITEM lobbyist.

Governor’s Budget

Today Governor Dayton released his proposed budget for the FY 16-17 biennium. There are no changes in funding for any library programs. All remain at current funding levels. The Governor is proposing to increase the general education formula by 1% in each year of the biennium, for a total cost of $174.4 million. The general education formula is the primary source of funding for school library media programs. The Governor’s budget also includes $30 million for grants to expand broadband access.

Telecommunications Equity Aid (TEA) and Regional Library Telecommunications Aid (RLTA)

Senator Chuck Wiger (DFL-N. St. Paul), chair of the Senate E-12 Budget Division, introduced SF 78, a bill increasing funding for TEA to $9.75 million per year. This is the amount requested on the MLA/ITEM platform. I asked Senator Wiger to amend the bill to include the increase for RLTA to $3.3 million per year as requested on our platform, and he has agreed to do so. The bill was scheduled to be heard on Tuesday, January 20. Mary Mehsikomer and I were slated to testify, but the committee ran out of time. The bill will be brought back at a future hearing. In the House, Rep. Ron Kresha (R – Little Falls), vice-chair of the House Education Finance Committee, has agreed to introduce a bill to increase funding for both TEA and RLTA.

Regional Library Basic System Support (RLBSS) and Multi-type Funding

Senator Tom Saxhaug (DFL – Grand Rapids) has agreed to introduce a bill to increase RLBSS to $18.57 million per year and Multitype funding to $2.6 million per year. These are the amounts requested on the MLA/ITEM platform. I hope to have chief author in the House lined up this week.

House Legacy Hearing

On Monday the House Legacy Committee held its first hearing of the session. Rep. Dean Urdahl (R- Grove City), chair of the committee, announced that they would follow the same process as in the past, meaning that it is not necessary to have a bill introduced to request Legacy funds. The Minnesota Historical Society presented its request at this hearing, and Valerie Horton gave excellent testimony about the Minnesota Digital Library, which is funded through the Historical Society’s Legacy appropriation.

Elaine KeefeCapitol Hill Associates