May 22, 2014

Vol. XLI No. 5    

                                      League of  Women Voters Minnesota 

Print Capitol Letter

 

 
LWV Minnesota advocates on public policy issues for the purpose of creating a strong democracy. Our positions are reached through a study and consensus process and are detailed in our Program for Action.  The reports in each Capitol Letter™ are largely the work of volunteer citizen lobbyists.

 

The work of LWV Minnesota is entirely nonpartisan; we never support or oppose parties or candidates.
Finding bills, committees and legislators:  If you would like more information about a bill, committee or legislator cited in the Capitol Letter, please visitthe Minnesota State Legislature webpage: http://www.leg.state.mn.us/ 
 
LWV Minnesota also conducts voter education and outreach. Our voter service work is separate from our advocacy work and is never used to advance a particular policy agenda or issue. 

 

Table of Contents

Election Law

Campaign Finance

Education

Environment

Immigration

State Government Finance

  

ELECTION LAW

LWVUS Position: Voting is a fundamental citizen right that must be guaranteed.

LWV Minnesota Position: Support improvements in election laws regulating election procedures, voting and school district elections.

By Sherri Knuth, Policy and Outreach Manager

Companion Bills HF2166 and SF 1811: Electronic rosters. Rep. Carolyn Laine (DFL-Columbia Heights) and Sen. Terri Bonoff (DFL-Minnetonka) This bill, described in the March 26 Capitol Letter™, was passed very late in the session on strong bi-partisan votes in both bodies and was then signed by the governor. The final bill is different from the bill as first introduced; it does not provide for further study of electronic rosters.

The final version provides that counties, municipalities and school districts may choose to use electronic rosters to verify pre-registered voters and process election day registrants. The technology must meet specific requirements enumerated in the bill. The Secretary of State’s office is required to evaluate the use of electronic rosters in the 2014 general election.

Session Daily reported that Rep. Laine, House author of the bill, regretted that the evaluation “would consist of a report on the experience of participating cities rather than an evaluation on the potential cost savings of using an electronic roster system.”

The bill does not provide any funding for electronic rosters.

CAMPAIGN FINANCE

LWV US Position: Methods of financing political campaigns should ensure the public’s right to know, combat corruption and undue influence, enable candidates to compete more equitably for public office, and allow maximum citizen participation in the political process (Revised 1982).

LWV Minnesota Position: Support improvements in election laws regulating campaign practices.

By Sherri Knuth, Policy and Outreach Manager

Despite widespread public dissatisfaction with the role of big money in politics, the Minnesota legislature did not pass any of the campaign finance reform bills we’ve been following this session. (See the summary in the May 8 Capitol Letter™.)

LWV will continue to work for reform. At the LWVUS convention in June, LWVUS will be releasing a new toolkit on campaign finance for use by local and state LWVs. LWV Minnesota will continue with education and outreach by working with local LWVs, members and the public. Look for more news from us in the future on this important issue.

EDUCATION

LWVUS Position:  Support equal access to education.  Support federal policies that provide an equitable, quality public education for all children Pre-K through 12.

LWV Minnesota Position:  Secure equal educational opportunities for all Minnesota children.

By Lonni Skrentner, Volunteer Lobbyist

The Omnibus Supplemental Appropriations Bills (HF3172/SF2785) came out of conference committee, was passed by the House and Senate, and approved by the governor. It includes a $25 increase on the per pupil formula raising it to $5,831, approximately a .4% increase. $4.5 million was allocated to return English Language Learning to a six year term instead of five, $9 million to help fund the new teacher evaluation requirement in districts not participating in the alternative compensation program, and $250,000 to fund recovery programs. Although student abuse of drugs and alcohol has not declined, schools that provide education after re-hab have been disappearing.  The bill also includes $3.5 million to fully fund school lunches for all who qualify and $4.65 million for Early Childhood Family Education, by linking ECFE to the per pupil formula.  Parents United has created a chart with all of the education appropriations included in this bill.

Forty five million dollars has been included in the Health and Human Services bill to provide grants for earlier mental health intervention.  This hopefully will impact thousands of students over the next several years.

The conference committee report for the Omnibus Education Policy Bill (HF2397/SF1889) passed both the House and the Senate and was signed by the governor.  It is a real mish-mash of changes and additions, so it is impossible to cover it all in a few words.  Important to this observer are the following.  Several points deal with language – more help for English language learners and credit for what they know with a new bi-lingual seal allowed on high school diplomas.  Teachers who teach in their native language (i.e. many immersion teachers) do not have to pass the MTLE (teacher test) in English. 

Other points deal with requirements for types of student learning.  For the first time in a decade we see reference to applied and experiential learning, which in this educator’s opinion are the best types of learning -- a step away from multiple choice tests, hopefully! Also, schools are directed to supply accurate and regular information regarding Post-Secondary Enrollment Options (PSEO).  With the rise in college tuition, this could become an important way for families to save money. Go to Parents United for details on this policy bill.

ENVIRONMENT 

LWVUS Position: Natural resources should be managed as interrelated parts of life-supporting ecosystems. Resources should be conserved and protected to assure their future availability.  Pollution of these resources should be controlled in order to preserve the physical, chemical and biological integrity of the ecosystem and to protect public health.

By Gwen Myers, Volunteer Lobbyist

Much to everyone’s amazement, the Legislature adjourned almost three days early, on May 16. After two very long days and much negotiating behind closed doors, an $846 million bonding bill for construction projects plus a $200 million cash supplement passed with more than the 60% vote needed for the bonding segment.

The Reinvest in Minnesota (RIM) Reserve did not fare well in the final bonding bill, HF2490. Rather than the $32 million in the House bonding bill, the conference committee granted only $6 million, not a complete surprise, since the Senate bill did not include the program, nor did the Governor include it in his bonding request. RIM Reserve includes important money for environmental programs and was described in the April 16 Capitol Letter. RIM Critical Habitat received $2 million to match federal funds to acquire fee title to wildlife habitat.

The Triclosan bill, HF1322/SF1166, described in the March 26 Capitol Letter, was successfully amended to what became SF2192. It states that in order to “prevent the spread of infectious disease and avoidable infections and to promote best practices in sanitation, no person shall offer for retail sale in Minnesota any cleaning product that contains triclosan and is used by consumers for sanitizing or hand and body cleansing.” For some reason it was important not to mention the dioxins in our water that result from triclosan use. The ban is effective Jan. 1, 2017.

Forever GreenHF2619/SF2304 – Rep. David Bly (DFL-Northfield); Sen. Kevin Dahle (DFL-Northfield) –which supports innovative, high performance crop development, was also described in the March 26Capitol Letter™. The bill became part of the Omnibus Supplemental Appropriations Bill, HF3172 , and was finally funded for $1 million.

The bill to reestablish the Legislative Water Commission - HF1769/SF1601 – Rep. Peter Fischer (DFL-Maplewood); Sen. Bev Scalze (DFL-Little Canada) – also described in the March 26 Capitol Letter™, passed as part of the Omnibus Supplemental Appropriations Bill, with funding of $145,000.

IMMIGRATION

LWV Minnesota PositionsThe Department of Public safety should recognize the Matricula Counsular as an acceptable document to prove identity for obtaining a driver's license.   

By Judy Stuthman, Volunteer Lobbyist

 

Two DFL legislators, Reps. Carlos Mariani and Karen Clark, along with GOP legislator Rep. Rod Hamilton, spoke in support of HF 348 at the Ways and Means Committee hearing on the last day of session.

SF 271 was passed in the Senate during the 2013 Legislative Session.  It was hoped that its companion bill, HF 348, would pass in the House this session but it didn't happen.  If passed, it would have modified driver's license application procedures and requirements so the undocumented in our state would once again be able to drive legally.  It was sent to the House Ways and Means Committee on April 2nd and on the final day of the 2014 session, it did pass out of the committee with bipartisan support.  But there was not time to bring it up for a floor vote.  The advocates working to pass this bill did good work and hopefully helped to lay the groundwork for passage in the 2015 Legislative Session.    The issue also was helped by a letter from the Minnesota Business Immigration Coalition urging passage.  The coalition members include:  MN Agri-Growth Council, MN Chamber of Commerce, MN Lodging Association, MN Milk Producers Association, Midwest Food Processors Association, and the MN Restaurant Association.  Support also came from AFFIRM, a coalition of supporters from faith, civic and community groups of which LWV Minnesota is a member. 

Federal immigration reform would help this issue, but the states are responsible for issuing driver's licenses and MN could be proactive and pass the bill as eleven other states have done (and Washington D.C. and Puerto Rico).  To quote the letter from the Business Immigration Coalition, “Minnesota must do everything possible to ensure that road users receive sufficient preparation and pass required tests to be licensed to operate a vehicle.  We support SF 271 because it will allow for secure, limited driving privileges for all residents; verification of drivers' identities for law enforcement; and increased public safety.”

There is a need to educate people across the state as to the value of allowing the undocumented to obtain driver's licenses.  LWV members could help move this forward before the next session begins.  Though it is a disappointment that it did not make it to the House floor, I am happy that we did not see any negative immigration related bills come before the House and Senate as has been the case for most of the 10 years I have been a volunteer lobbyist on this issue.

STATE GOVERNMENT FINANCE

LWV Minnesota Position: Support a balanced and diversified revenue system that is equitable, progressive, and reliable. Support of long-term financial management projections and a budget reserve. (1995)

LWV Minnesota Position on Government Spending: The highest priority areas for state spending are the following: (1) preK-12 (regular) education; (2) Health Care: (3) Environmental protection....

Criteria for Limiting Spending (1) State subsidies for sports teams, convention centers and similar projects should be among the first items to be curtailed….

By Jeanne LeFevre, Volunteer Lobbyist

Capital Investment billOn May 15th, the House passed a bonding bill (HF2490, Rep. Alice Hausman; DFL- St. Paul) with a net impact of $846 million of general obligation bonds, and a $200 million capital projects bill that would be funded by general fund money (HF1068; Rep. Hausman). Both bills were passed by the Senate on May 17th and approved by the Governor on May 20th.

Supplemental tax billThe supplemental tax bill - HF3167 (Rep. Ann Lenczewski; DFL-Bloomington)/ SF2726 (Sen. Rod Skoe; DFL-Clearbrook) passed both the House and Senate on May 16th and was approved by the Governor on May 20th.  The major emphasis of the supplemental tax bill was property tax relief, with increases in the homestead credit, the renters’ property tax refund and the agricultural homestead market value credit. 

 

Copyright 2014 League of Women Voters Minnesota (LWV Minnesota)