May 18, 2011-Capitol Letter (PDF)

Capitol Letter

May 18, 2011

XXXVII Issue 9

 

Contents :

Election Law

State Government Finance

Education

Environment

Firearms

Housing

Immigration

Metropolitan Issues


ELECTION LAW

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

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

Sherri Knuth, LWV Minnesota Public Policy Coordinator

Voter ID Bills

The voter ID bill has passed both the House and Senate and is moving toward Gov. Mark Dayton’s (DFL) desk.

Since the last Capitol Letter™, the House passed SF509/HF210, authored by Sen. Warren Limmer (R- Maple Grove) and Rep. Mary Kiffmeyer (R-Big Lake). The bill passed on a vote of 73-59, largely on party lines. Representatives Denise Dittrich (DFL-Champlin) and Ann Lenczewski (DFL-Bloomington) were the only two DFL’ers to vote in favor of passage.

Because the Senate version of the bill is different, a conference committee was appointed.  With virtually no notice to the public, the committee met on Saturday evening, May 14.

The committee did not adopt a report at that meeting, but posted a conference report on the legislative website on May 16. This report had been amended since May 14 and was adopted and signed without a public meeting. This lack of transparency is a violation of the Joint Rules of the House and Senate, which require that all conference committees be open to the public.

The LWV believes that governmental bodies must protect the citizens’ right to know by giving adequate notice and holding open meetings, particularly when making changes which affect the constitutional right to vote.

Constitutional Amendment for Voter ID

HF1597, also authored by Rep. Kiffmeyer, was scheduled to be heard in the Ways and Means Committee on May 4 but was taken off the agenda after the hearing began. Since then, it has not advanced, and it still has no Senate companion.

HF1597 proposes an amendment to the Minnesota Constitution that would require all voters to present a government-issued photo ID at the polls. Some supporters of a change in statute, however, may be leery of a constitutional amendment to require voter IDs. As indicated in the May 4 Capitol Letter™, Rep. Mike Beard (R-Shakopee) expressed some reservations about a photo ID requirement being put into the constitution. One Republican, Rep.  Paul Anderson (R-Starbuck) has removed his name as a bill sponsor.

Even if HF1597 does not advance before the legislature adjourns on May 23, the bill is not dead. It could be taken up again in 2012, which is the second year of the 87th Legislature.


LWV Minnesota Opposes Voter ID

We urge readers to contact Governor Dayton and urge a veto of SF509/HF210. This legislation would suppress the vote and deny citizens their ballots rather than improving our election system. Minnesota is nationally recognized for its election integrity; this legislation is completely unnecessary.


STATE GOVERNMENT FINANCE

LWVMN 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)

LWVMN Position on Government Spending: LWVMN believes that the highest priority areas for state spending are the following: (1) K-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….


Debby McNeil, LWV Minnesota volunteer lobbyist

It’s Down to the Wire

    
Gov. Mark Dayton (DFL) took office last January 3 and the legislative session began on January 4.  Now, over four months later and with less than a week left in the legislative session, Republicans and the governor are nowhere near reaching a budget agreement for the 2012-13 biennium, which starts July 1, 2011.

The governor proposes a $37.3 billion General Fund Budget that resolves a forecasted $5 billion deficit with a combination of new taxes and spending cuts.  The Republican legislative majority opposes any tax increase. They propose a $34.3 billion budget, which they present as eliminating the deficit just with spending cuts and without new revenue. The Commissioner of Management and Budget, however, has stated that some of the Republicans’ budget numbers are unsubstantiated or inaccurate, so their budget is actually more than $1 billion out of balance. (1) Republicans dispute this.

Over one month ago, the Republicans’ 10 omnibus finance bills had already passed the House and Senate, mostly on party lines. The Agriculture and Rural Development Bill, the smallest in dollar terms ($77 million), has passed and been signed by the governor. But the other nine bills remained in conference committees for several weeks.  

At this writing, the Transportation Bill ($62 million) was finished in conference committee and is being heard in the Senate. (2) These omnibus finance bills have been resolved in conference committees, but none has been offered on the floor of either house:

  • E-12 Education ($14.2 billion) (3)
  • Health and Human Services ($10.6 billion) (4)
  • Tax Aids and Credits ($2.6 billion) (5)
  • Higher Education ($2.51 billion) (6)
  • Environment and Energy ($201 million) (7)
  • Jobs and Economic Development ($138.2 million) (8)

These bills appear to be still under consideration in conference committees, but they will likely be resolved soon: Public Safety and Judiciary (SF958) and State Government. (9)

Since the legislature is required to adjourn on Monday, May 23, it will take cooperation of a kind not yet seen to pass a timely budget.  Republican legislators and Gov. Dayton would have to resolve their fundamental differences about increasing taxes or not, and negotiate practically the entire General Fund budget, all in under a week.  At the very least this kind of behavior is poor time management.  But there is also too much focus on political ideology at the expense of cooperation.

When, as this year, the important issues are left to the end, budget decisions are made behind closed doors at the 11th hour by just a few elected officials. The public does not know what is being considered or have any meaningful input regarding the outcome.   

The fact is that Minnesota has a serious and chronic multi-billion dollar deficit that is expected to continue for years into the future. (10) Short-term, hasty solutions made under time pressure are not likely to deal with our long-term budget problem. After all, this is politically difficult!  

But Minnesota will continue to be financially weak if the state operates every biennium on patchwork budget solutions. The state’s economy could be stronger if our elected representatives would get serious in January about working together to shore up the state’s financial situation, instead of getting serious in May just days before adjournment.

Maybe the governor and Republican legislators do not consider May 23 to be a real deadline. Maybe their mental deadline is July 1, the first day of the 2012-13 biennium, when state government will start shutting down without a budget. We deserve better than crisis-avoidance governing from our elected officials.

Proposed constitutional amendments on the budget

The May 4 Capitol Letter reported on two House bills proposing constitutional amendments to restrict state spending. Now there are three bills with Senate companions:

  • HF1598/SF1384 require 3/5 majority in the House and Senate to pass a tax increase. This gives a minority control of the state budget.
  • HF1612/SF1364 limit spending in a biennium to revenues collected in the previous biennium. Revenues beyond that may be used to pay shifts back or to provide for public peace, safety or health threatened as the result of a declared national security or peacetime emergency.
  • HF1661/SF1381  limits spending in a biennium to 98% of forecasted revenues. The remainder goes to reserves. Spending over the 98% is allowed for emergencies and needs a 3/5 vote in both houses. When reserves reach 5% of revenues, sales taxes are reduced.


LWVMN opposes all of these bills. Most of them have not received a committee hearing.  While they may be finished for this session, they could still be passed next session in time to be placed on the ballot for the November 2012 general election.


(1)  http://www.scribd.com/doc/52843211/4-12-11-Admin-Revenue-Letter

(2)  http://www.house.leg.state.mn.us/fiscal/files/trans11.pdf

(3)  http://www.house.leg.state.mn.us/fiscal/files/k1211app.pdf

(4)  http://www.house.leg.state.mn.us/fiscal/files/hhs11.pdf

(5) http://www.house.leg.state.mn.us/comm/docs/Tax_HF42PreliminaryConfCommx.pdf

(6) http://www.house.leg.state.mn.us/fiscal/files/hed11.pdf

(7) http://www.house.leg.state.mn.us/fiscal/files/env11.pdf

(8)  https://www.revisor.mn.gov/bin/bldbill.php?bill=ccrsf0887.html&session=ls87

(9)  The draft conference agreement

(10) Budget Trends Study Commission Report to the Legislature, January 2009.
    

EDUCATION


LWVMN Position:  All Minnesota children should have equal access to a good public education.  State funding for education should be at a level that makes programs of comparable substance and quality available to all.  A student’s access to a good education should not depend on the wealth of his or her school district.

MN Constitution: Article XIII Section 1. UNIFORM SYSTEM OF PUBLIC SCHOOLS. The stability of a republican form of government depending mainly upon the intelligence of the people, it is the duty of the legislature to establish a general and uniform system of public schools. The legislature shall make such provisions by taxation or otherwise as will secure a thorough and efficient system of public schools throughout the state.


Lonni Skrentner and Shari Dion, LWV Minnesota volunteer lobbyists

On May 10 the Omnibus Education Finance Conference Committee produced its report for the Education finance bill, HF934, originally sponsored by Rep. Pat Garofalo (R-Farmington) and, as SF1030, by Sen. Gen Olson (R-Minnetrista). As of this writing, the report has not been presented to either house of the legislature. Gov. Mark Dayton (DFL) has not indicated whether he will sign or veto the legislation, though he has stated a preference that finance bills are “clean,” i.e., no policy provisions, and this one contains significant policy changes.

Some of the proposals in the two education finance bills were described in the March 30 Capitol Letter™.

Winners and Losers


The basic per-pupil funding formula increases by $20 in FY12 and $21 in FY13, but this is actually a reallocation of dollars from other education funds. With no new money, this means some school districts will gain and others will lose overall funding. The Senate has provided fiscal tracking sheets that illustrate, district by district, the wide variation between the winners and the losers. For FY12 visit here and for FY13 visit here.

Critics of the bill include Craig Roen, President of Parents United , who said, “This bill does not just create an urban problem…. As written, it pits Rural against Urban, Urban against Suburban. Ultimately, it pits student against student and that is not good for MN.” (1)

This situation reinforces the need to reform Minnesota’s public education funding system. The Commissioner’s Education Finance Working Group, described in the last Capitol Letter™, has met and is expected to produce recommendations soon. Past reform recommendations have not been implemented; we sincerely hope this group’s recommendations will be heeded. The budget crisis, combined with Minnesota’s unacceptable achievement gaps, make the need for an adequate, fair, reliable, and sustainable education funding system urgent.    

Won’t Condone Segregation … or Integration?

The current compromise repeals the desegregation/integration rule, but it continues to fund desegregation transportation. The loss of integration revenue would have a profound impact on the Minneapolis, St. Paul, and Duluth school districts.

In response to the outcry from these districts, some transition revenue will now be supplied to them to offset a portion of their integration aid reduction – resulting in total reductions, respectively, of $94, $78, and $18 per-pupil in FY12 and $174, $145, and $80 per pupil in FY 13. Given rising costs, increased expectations, and other challenges, it is hard to imagine how the loss of these dollars will not impact student achievement – at the very time when we want to increase achievement for all students and close our achievement gaps.

Even with the changes, the conference report states that, “Minnesota does not condone school segregation.” (2) This message would be clearer with legislative support for further enhancement of current integration programs rather than taking the funding out from underneath them.
LWV Minnesota supports correcting racial imbalance in schools and funding to achieve this goal.

Funding Private Schools?

While many of Minnesota’s public schools will be losing funding, private schools stand to come out ahead with a new private school enrollment (voucher) option for low-income students in persistently low-performing schools. LWV Minnesota remains concerned about the wisdom and constitutionality of taking much needed funds from public schools and redirecting them to schools that promote specific religious beliefs. The use of public money or property for the support of religious schools is specifically prohibited by Minnesota’s Constitution (Art. XIII, Sec. 2).

A minority amendment, that would have required private schools to comply with some of the same requirements as public schools if they accepted public dollars, was stripped from the bill in conference committee. The resulting lack of standards and accountability make the transfer of funds from public to private schools even more questionable.

New Measures and Mandates

The Omnibus Ed Finance Conference Report also includes a 17-page Teacher Evaluation and Professional Development bill, which mandates that 50% of a teacher’s performance evaluation be based on student achievement growth.  

Teachers would be graded as “highly effective” if their students, on average, achieved one-and-a-half or more years of growth on statewide assessment tests, and commensurately less effective if their students did less well, down to “ineffective” with less than .5 year of growth! The other 50% of a teacher’s rating would come from their 1-5 performance rating on the district’s appraisal framework. Teacher layoffs would also occur based on these evaluations.  Within each category, seniority would still count.

It’s easy to support the goal of improved teaching and evaluation. Many elements work together to get effective teachers in classrooms, and LWV Minnesota supports that goal. When it comes to teacher evaluation, the devil is in the details. Though student achievement and teacher quality are certainly connected, it is not a simple straight line to tie student results on standardized tests to teacher performance. Many are concerned that the current teacher evaluation proposals, ironically agreed to during National Teacher Appreciation Week, are far too prescriptive.

The Conference Omnibus Bill also includes a laundry list of other policy items, including an A-F School Grading system, Principal Evaluations, repeal of the 2% staff development set-aside, and a prohibition of adoption of the Common Core Standards. While some mandates are lifted, several new requirements would be costly to school districts and difficult to implement.

Basically, in its current form and taken as a whole, the report offers a mixed bag. Perhaps collaboration between the Governor and the legislature will result in improvements. Time is short!

(1) http://www.parentsunited.org/1105122.html

(2) http://www.house.leg.state.mn.us/hrd/bs/87/HF0934.html     


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.

Gwen Myers, LWV Minnesota volunteer lobbyist

Rollbacks to Environmental Protections

Repeated requests from the environmental community to stop the rollback of 30 years of environmental protections have largely fallen on deaf ears. In spite of Minnesotans’ demonstrable affection for our sky blue waters in lakes, rivers and streams, our wetlands that protect this clean water, the hunting and angling possible because of our remarkable environment – in spite of this, the majority party is passing legislation that threatens it all.

Omnibus Environment Finance Bill


Conferees on the Omnibus Environment Finance bill have reached agreement on HF1010. At this writing, the Conference Report has not been considered on the floor of either house, but it will be scheduled soon. This finance bill contains a number of policy provisions which would weaken existing laws that protect our air and water, including the following:

  • Restricting DNR’s tree nursery operations by selling one of their two nurseries and limiting the use of this high quality planting stock to reforestation on state lands only, with excess trees allowed to be sold only to licensed nurseries, not private landowners. It also raids nursery funds for one million dollars.  
  • Weakening permit standards for large factory farms which often come with million-gallon manure lagoons.
  • Exempting large ethanol facility expansions from mandatory environmental review, a threat to our waters, among other things.
  • Increasing the petition signature requirement to request an environmental assessment worksheet on a major project from 25 to 100 individuals, and limiting these signatories to only the county in question and adjoining counties. This is a special burden in rural areas.  
  • Repealing the DNR's authority to promulgate rules to protect the Mississippi River under the Mississippi River Corridor Critical Area law.
  • Removing pollution restrictions for new coal plants, leading to increased greenhouse gases and .mercury-contaminated fish.
  • Limiting phosphorus pollution into Lake Pepin from June to September only.
  • Threatening the future of native wild rice, Minnesota’s state grain, by suspending enforcement of the current science-based sulfate standard for wild rice waters. This is to aid copper mining companies. We believe historic wild rice areas must be protected.
  • Requiring all water rules to be submitted to the Legislative Coordinating Commission before enactment, adding bureaucratic hurdles which will slow the process.


This is a finance bill with the goal of protecting and restoring our environment, and it should finance environmental analysis, monitoring, permitting and environmental review activities. Unfortunately, cuts made in this bill take the environment’s share of the General Fund well below historic levels, to less than 1%. Aside from the impact on scientific analysis, these cuts will slow business and municipal projects seeking permits to expand operations or upgrade wastewater facilities, for example.

Along with our allies in the Minnesota Environmental Partnership (MEP), LWV Minnesota believes that our environmental agencies need additional funds. These can be found through proposed hunting and fishing license fee increases to provide for the game and fish fund, as well as the proposed increase in the boat license surcharge to provide revenue for the Aquatic Invasive Species (AIS) program.

This bill significantly reduces Minnesota’s commitment to clean air and clean water. LWVMN urges Gov. Mark Dayton (DFL) to veto the bill unless there are significant changes made to the Conference Report.

Omnibus Environment Policy Bill

While SF1115 contains useful efforts to combat the spread of Aquatic Invasive Species, it has several other provisions, some identical to HF1010, that roll back environmental protections, including the following:

  • Weakening wetland replacement requirements for the mining industry, particularly copper mining, whose acid mine drainage threatens the Boundary Waters and Great Lakes watersheds.
  • Exempting large ethanol facility expansions from mandatory environmental review.
  • Increasing the petition signature requirement to request an environmental assessment worksheet on a major project from 25 to 100 individuals, and limiting these signatories to only the county in question and adjoining counties.
  • Allowing Lutsen Ski Resort to remove even more water from the Poplar River, a designated trout stream, to make snow, thus saving the expense of pumping water from Lake Superior, but threatening the trout. The resort has consistently violated its DNR permit and this conflict should be resolved through permit negotiations with the DNR.
  • Delaying until 2014 adoption of local ordinances for private subsurface sewage treatment systems that dump untreated sewage into our lakes, rivers and streams. There are many thousands of these “straight-pipe” systems in the state, polluting our waters every day.

The conference committee on SF1115 met on Monday, May 16. MEP sent the conferees a letter, signed by MEP member organizations, urging the conferees to recall the value Minnesotans place on our clean air and water, and to remove these offensive provisions in conference. As the MEP letter concludes, “Minnesota should be about Protecting Our Water – which is not a Democratic or Republican issue, but instead reflect long-held Minnesota values.”

In spite of this, conferees agreed on a conference report including all the destructive provisions described above. It will appear on the floor of each house in the near future.

It should be noted that these omnibus bills are made up of a number of bills which were introduced and began their individual treks through the committee process. A few of these bills are both in an omnibus bill and travelling independently, so they may die in one place but continue on in another. Keeping track of where these bills are in the process and how they have been changed by amendment has been a constant challenge to professional environmental lobbyists. Without their assistance, these environmental reports would have been incoherent this session.

Thanks to MEP and lobbyists from MEP and member organizations for on-going assistance.

FIREARMS

LWVUS Position: Protect the health and safety of citizens through limiting the accessibility and regulating the ownership of handguns and semi-automatic assault weapons, and support the allocation of resources to better regulate and monitor gun dealers.

LWVMN Position: Action to support restrictions on the sale, possession and use of firearms by private parties in the state of Minnesota.


Mary Lewis Grow, LWV Minnesota volunteer lobbyist

On Saturday evening, May 14, the House passed HF1467, sometimes called the “Shoot First” bill, as its last business of the day.  The vote was 79 in favor and 50 against.  All but two Republicans, Rep. Connie Doepke (R-Orono) and Rep. Carol McFarlane (R-White Bear Lake), voted in favor of the bill.  The Democrats split 48 nays and 9 yeas. The Senate floor vote has not yet occurred, but the bill is expected to pass by a wide margin there as well.

Before the floor vote, Rep. Tony Cornish (R-Good Thunder) announced changes to his bill to bring it closer to the Senate version, retaining just two of its original major provisions, described in the last Capitol Letter™. Unchanged is the primary provision, which would allow the use of deadly force as a first resort rather than a last resort, with no duty to retreat, if the shooter has a “reasonable” belief that he or she is in danger of substantial bodily harm.  In testimony against the bill, Dakota County Attorney James Backstrom said that this changes current law and historic precedent by allowing people to shoot to kill with impunity, based on a subjective judgment. (1)

Although some media stories mistakenly portrayed the bill as merely expanding the definition of “residence,” to which the Castle Doctrine already applies, the broadened definition of residence is only a part of the bill.  Of far greater significance is the fact that it takes out into the public domain the allowable use of deadly force when and if the shooter judges it necessary in order to prevent a forcible felony or substantial bodily harm or death.  

The House bill also retains a modified reciprocity provision that would allow holders of permits-to-carry from other states to carry guns when they are in Minnesota as well, even if their state has looser background checks and lower training requirements than we have in Minnesota.  They would, however, be subject to Minnesota law while here.

While this bill could cause serious consequences for the public, even some of its sponsoring legislators demonstrated a lack of understanding of the bill’s provisions. In the Senate Finance Committee hearing, Sen. Bill Ingebrigtsen (R-Alexandria) a co-sponsor of the Senate companion, SF1357 (chief author Sen. Gretchen Hoffman (R-Vergas)), argued that if this bill became law, a person could carry a weapon into the places that currently have signs banning guns from their premises.  Neither the House nor Senate bill has anything to do with this issue!

And, in rising to express their support for the bill during the House floor debate, more than one legislator demonstrated misunderstanding not only of the bill’s intent, but also of current law. They argued that the bill was needed so that they and other Minnesota residents would have the right to defend themselves in their homes.  But Minnesota law already provides people with the right to use whatever force is necessary to defend and protect themselves in their homes. Minn. Stat. sec. 609.065.

Hopes for preventing Rep. Cornish’s bill from becoming law now rest with Gov. Dayton and a possible veto.  Assuming House votes remain the same, a veto over-ride currently looks unlikely.

(1) “Gun Bill: It’s a Chilling License to Kill,” Star Tribune, May 10, 2011.


HOUSING

LWVMN Position: All people have a right to housing. The public and private sectors should work together to ensure that everyone has access to adequate, decent, affordable housing.


Jeanne LeFevre, LWV Minnesota volunteer lobbyist

Compromise Renters’ Credit Adopted

In its final report on May13th, the Omnibus Tax Conference Committee adopted a new and complex approach to property tax refunds (commonly called Renters’ Credits) for Minnesota’s low- and moderate-income renters.  

Going into conference, the House had proposed to reduce the portion of rent deemed to be property taxes from 19% to 12%.  The Senate position called for a lesser reduction, from 19% to 15%.  While the compromise position limits the reduction from 19% to 15%, it also limits eligibility for renters’ credit refunds in two ways.  First, the income eligibility limits are reduced in general, and second, two categories of renters are established with different income eligibility criteria for each.  

For renters with household members who are either seniors or people with disabilities, income eligibility is reduced to levels that will result in an average reduction in the credit of $190 and the complete loss of the refund for approximately 5,100 households. Families who have neither senior nor disabled members fare considerably worse, with an average refund reduction of $335 and a complete loss of the refund for approximately 67,400 families.

Overall, the new approach cuts the Renters’ Credit by 46 percent in the FY 2012-13 biennium, compared to base funding. It cuts $186 million in FY 2012-13 and $205 million in FY 2014-15.  

Although the dollar figure cut is the same as in the House tax bill, the overall impact is substantially different because of the changes to eligibility criteria. Under the new approach, about one in four of all currently-eligible households would no longer qualify for a property tax refund - that’s 72,500 households. (1)

LWV Minnesota opposes these cuts, based on our position that, “[a]ll people have a right to housing. The public and private sectors should work together to ensure that everyone has access to adequate, decent, affordable housing.” This bill will deny current benefits to 72,500 households and put many families in homeless shelters.

(1) “Tax conference committee considers dramatic cuts to renter property tax refunds,” Minnesota Budget Project, May 13, 2011.

IMMIGRATION

LWVMN Position:  Support incorporating immigrants into our communities by providing access to education, by endorsing the development of secure identification documents, and by respecting the right of law enforcement personnel to perform their duties without the burden of interpreting federal immigration policies.  Oppose residents with legal immigrant status running for local office.


Kathy Tomsich, LWV Minnesota volunteer lobbyist

Under a Separation Ordinance, police determine immigration status only if a person has been arrested and put in jail. They do not check the status of every person they stop for speeding if, for example, the individual has an accent. Separation Ordinances have been discussed in previous issues of the Capitol Letter™.  

Separation Ordinances aid police in establishing trust with the immigrant community so that immigrants are willing to report crimes and cooperate with police. This is a major factor in enabling police to maintain public safety for all residents.  Banning Separation Ordinances would result in destroying this trust, and this is what HF358 would do.  

LWVMN opposes HF358, authored by Rep. Bob Barrett (R-Shafer).  It passed its second committee, Judiciary Policy and Finance, in spite of testimony overwhelmingly in opposition by representatives of police departments, for the reasons cited above.  

Data privacy issues were also raised in the hearings.  Currently, city employees are not allowed to ask residents personal questions unless they relate to their duties. HF358 would ban any rule/order that forbids city employees from asking a resident about their immigration status.  A housing inspector or a receptionist could ask a “suspicious” resident where they were born and then report that person to immigration authorities if they thought the resident was undocumented.  This provision is similar to Arizona’s strict immigration enforcement law. (1)  

Concerns about racial/ethnic profiling are an obvious problem and were also raised.  Police could use the pretext of an arrest to determine the immigration status of a resident who looks or talks like a foreigner.

HF358 was placed on the House Register where it could advance to the House Calendar and then to the floor for debate.  There is no Senate companion, but if the House passes the bill, it can be sent directly to the Senate. Even if HF358 does not pass before the legislature’s adjournment on May 23, however, it could be taken up again next year which is the second year of the 87th Legislature.

(1) A federal judge blocked portions of the Arizona law, including the requirement that officers check a person's immigration status while enforcing other laws, from going into effect. The law is still tied up in the courts. “Arizona Immigration Law (SB 1070),” New York Times, April 11, 2011.


METROPOLITAN ISSUES

CMAL Position on the Met Council: Support the Metropolitan Council as the decision-making body for metropolitan needs…. Support provisions for coordinated metropolitan services focused through the Metropolitan Council. Support retention of an appointed Metropolitan Council with greater use of its existing powers. (1969, 1976, 1993)

CMAL Position on Transportation: Support the Metropolitan Council as the single metropolitan agency planning and coordinating a diverse transportation system….

CMAL Position on Land Use and Environmental Quality.  CMAL recognizes… the need for a strong public voice in land-use decisions.  CMAL supports metropolitan-level planning, programs and policies [in order to]:  (1) preserve and enhance the natural environment; (2) use public investment to the best advantage; and (3) provide area residents with diversity in choice of facilities and amenities


Lois Quam, LWV Minnesota volunteer lobbyist
 
Omnibus Transportation Finance Bill

The Star Tribune reported on May 13, 2011, that the Omnibus Transportation Finance Conference Committee reached an agreement to cut transit funding by $109 million for the 2012-13 biennium.  This amount is most closely aligned with the House version of the bill, HF1140, which would have cut $130 million from transit, eliminating all General Fund money.  The agreement allows earmarking some special metro transit sales tax revenue to operate existing bus routes, instead of the current designation for developing new transit, including light rail.
 
Rep. Frank Hornstein (DFL-Minneapolis) is quoted as stating that the steep cuts to metro transit could prompt the governor to veto the bill. (1)   Both versions of the bill would prohibit reducing Metro Mobility funds from their current level.

The conference committee report will go to the House and Senate floors the week of May 16th and then to the governor.

Met Council’s Transportation Planning

Sen. Claire Robling’s (R-Jordan) bill, SF1157, passed the Local Government and Elections Committee and was re-referred to the Transportation Committee.  It would replace a 33-person Transportation Advisory Board to the Metropolitan Council with a 24-person panel that would assume the council’s current authority over developing long-range transportation plans in the Twin Cities. A companion bill, HF1403 sponsored by Rep. Michael Beard (R-Shakopee), has not progressed.

The CMAL position supports the continuing role of the Met Council in the metropolitan area’s transportation planning.  The Robling/Beard bills would discontinue that role.

(1) “GOP leaders cut transit funding by $109 million.” Star Tribune, May 13, 2011.

Copyright 2014 League of Women Voters Minnesota (LWV Minnesota)