McHenry Response to CRPLSA

The CRPLSA directors and each of the 12 regional library board chairs have received a response from Kevin McHenry, Minnesota Department of Education Assistant Commissioner.  McHenry’s letter addresses  CRPLSA’s concerns  regarding earlier  management decisions at PCLS and PLS.   McHenry’s letter summarizes recent MDE investigations:

  1. State Library Services and the Department’s finance staff have completed a review of PCLS.
  2. MDE has asked PLS to provide documentation related to recent telecommunication costs and services.

Assistant Commissioner Kevin McHenry response to CRPLSA concerns

MN Legislative Update 2015-04-30

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

Legacy Bill: This afternoon the House passed its omnibus Legacy bill, HF 303, on the floor by a vote of 97-31 . No amendments were proposed to the Arts and Cultural Heritage article of the bill. When Rep. Dean Urdahl described the bill at the beginning of the debate he once again emphasized that there were no cuts in the bill because there is no such thing in Legacy. The Senate Legacy bill is expected to be released next week.

Omnibus Education Finance and Policy Bills: Yesterday the Senate passed its omnibus education finance bill and its omnibus education policy bill on the floor. Last Saturday the House passed its omnibus education finance and policy bill (finance and policy are combined in a single bill).

The House appointed its conferees this afternoon. They are Rep. Jenifer Loon (R – Eden Prairie), Rep. Sondra Erickson (R – Princeton), Rep. Ron Kresha (R – Little Falls), Rep. Bob Dettmer (R- Forest Lake) and Rep. Roz Peterson (R – Lakeville). Senate conferees are expected to be named tomorrow. I will send out an alert with contact information for the conferees once they have all been named.

Here is a rundown of the key issues for libraries in these bills:

Regional Library Basic System Support (RLBSS): The Senate provides an increase of $1.5 million per year. Because of the 90%/10% payment schedule, the actual amount of the increase will be $1.35 million in FY 16 and $1.5 million in FY 17 and beyond. The Senate also changes the RLBSS formula by reducing the ANTC portion from 25% to 17% and by increasing the base amount from 5% to 13%. The funding increase ensures that every regional library system receives an increase under the new formula. The House has no increase and no formula change.

Regional Library Telecommunications Aid (RLTA): Both the House and Senate bills include nearly identical language to more closely align RLTA with the federal e-rate program.

Telecommunications Equity Aid (TEA): The Senate increases funding for TEA by $1.5 million per year for the 16-17 biennium only. The House provides no increase.

School Technology: The Senate requires school districts to reserve future increases in revenue from the School Endowment Fund for technology and telecommunications infrastructure, programs and training.

After School: The Senate provides $500,000 per year in the 16-17 biennium only for after school programs. The House provides no funding.

Omnibus Tax Bills: The House passed its omnibus tax bill on the floor yesterday. The provisions I reported on in my April 22 update remained unchanged. The Senate released its omnibus tax bill on Monday and passed it out of committee yesterday. It will be brought up on the Senate floor on Monday. Here are the provisions in the bill of interest to libraries:

Local Government Aid is increased by $21.5 million in FY 17 (payable in calendar year 2016) and by $45.6 million per year in FY 2018 and beyond. LGA will be paid to cities in four installments rather than in two. The new payments dates are March 15, July 15, September 15 and November 15.

County Program Aid is increased by $25 million in FY 17 (payable in calendar year 2016) and by $29.7 million per year in FY 2018 and beyond.

Elaine Keefe, Capitol Hill Associates

CRPLSA Letter to Assistant Commissioner McHenry

CRPLSA recently communicated two major concerns to Minnnesota Department of Education Assistant Commissioner Kevin McHenry pertaining to the management and oversight of regional public library systems.

  1. CRPLSA supports the ongoing investigation by the Department and State Library Services (SLS) into recent anomalies in Regional Library Telecommunications Aid (RLTA) as created by the FY2015 application from the Pioneerland Library System (PLS).
  2. CRPLSA appreciates the speed with which MDE and SLS conducted the administrative, organizational and fiscal review of Plum Creek Library System (PCLS).  The letter further emphasized that the other regional library staff and governing boards quickly reviewed their individual credit card policies, as well as grant expenditure and reporting policies to verify good management procedures.

Letter to MDE Assistant Commissioner Kevin McHenry

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

Updating Regional Library Telecom Aid

From State Librarian Jennifer Nelson – an update for Regional Library Telecommunication Aid (RLTA)

The Governor’s supplemental budget includes a provision to modify Minnesota Statutes, section 134.355, Subd. 8-10, Regional Library Telecommunications Aid (RLTA). Established in 1998, RLTA provides state funds to offset the cost of internet access in public libraries that participate in the federal e-rate program. Responding to changes in e-rate and what libraries have told us about their needs, State Library Services has proposed several updates to the program this year.

Specifically, our proposal clarifies that all entities included in a regional library system’s RLTA application must file or be included in an e-rate application. It also ties payments to e-rate funding commitment decision letters. Our intent with this is to ensure that actual costs and e-rate discount rate are documented as the funding year starts. Responding to recent concerns about how RLTA is apportioned, we anticipate that payments will be pro-rated for each applicant based on their e-rate discount. In this way, we can be assured that 100 percent of the eligible expenditures for each applicant are covered between RLTA and e-rate.

The proposal also anticipates that Minnesota libraries will benefit from increased funding for e-rate Category Two services. It directly aligns eligible RLTA expenditures with e-rate non-voice Category One, which allows eligible expenditures to expand or contract as technology changes over time. Likewise, we propose expanding eligible RLTA expenditures to include e-rate Category Two services once Category One needs for a funding year have been met. While this does not guarantee that funds will be available each year, it does mean that if pricing for Category One services decreases, RLTA funds can be used for an array of expenses that contribute to robust access to the internet through public libraries, including internal connections and managed Wi-Fi.

These proposed changes ensure that all libraries are treated equitably and well-supported in their efforts to improve access to the internet, increase bandwidth and update equipment.

For more information, email Jen Nelson or call 651-582-8791.

MDE Logo 2013

Telecom Talking Points

Libraries Strengthen Minnesota logo smallCRPLSA director, Peg Werner, VLS, was instrumental in preparing the Broadband and Telecommunications Access for Schools and Libraries legislative talking points. The focus of this legislative initiative supports an increase of $6 million for the school Telecommunications Equity Aid (TEA) program, as well as ongoing funding of the current $2.3 million appropriation for  Regional Library Telecommunications Aid (RLTA) to ensure equitable access to broadband and Internet services. The talking points outline 10 specific services affected by the availability and the level of bandwidth, ranging from technology support for displaced workers to Internet-based audio and videoconferencing technology is used to connect educators, librarians, and peers across the globe.

More information about CRPLSA legislative initiatives may be found on the Advocacy page.