This week, the Legislature passed their first bill to reduce the budget deficit, but it fell victim to the Governor's veto pen. Some early legislative initiatives, such as alternative teacher licensure and environmental permitting reforms, were debated and passed this week on the floor. On Wednesday, Gov. Dayton outlined his vision for Minnesota in his first State of the State address.
- The conference committee on HF130 (Holberg) reached an agreement on the bill to reduce the deficit by $900 million on Monday. The conference committee report passed both bodies and was quickly vetoed by Governor Dayton Thursday night. In the veto letter, Dayton said the bill would have increased property taxes due to the cuts to local government aid and he also raised concerns on the legality of having the executive branch make cuts to state agencies. Lastly, in the veto letter to legislative leaders Gov. Dayton points out that the proposal does not address the full $6.2 billion budget shortfall and that he will not accept a partial approach.
- Alternative teacher licensure bills passed both the House and Senate this week. Rep. Pat Garafalo (R-Farmington) carried the House version – HF63 – which passed the House on a vote of 72-59. In the Senate, the alternative licensure bill, SF40, was authored by Sen. Gen Olson (R-Minnetrista). The bill passed on a 40-23 vote. Both proposals seek to make it easier for school districts to offer teacher candidates a non-traditional pathway to get licensed. The House and Senate versions will likely head to a conference committee next week.
- The bill to streamline the environmental permit process – HF1 (Fabian) - was approved 82-42 by the House on Thursday night. There was some bi-partisan support for the bill that seeks to improve permitting done by the Department of Natural Resources and the Pollution Control Agency. Some members of the DFL opposed the bill provision because of a provision that would allow the proposer of a project to prepare the environmental impact statement (EIS), which typically would be the local unit of government's responsibility. The other controversial provision says the EIS must be challenged in the Court of Appeals, rather than a district court. Both of these provisions were excluded from Governor Dayton's executive order announced last week. On the Senate side, Sen. Bill Ingebrigtsen (R-Alexandria) is carrying SF42, which is still working its way through the Senate committees.
- From the House Chamber on Wednesday, Gov. Mark Dayton gave his first State of the State address. Dayton asked for bipartisan and private sector help to resolve the "horrendous fiscal mess" that both he and the Legislature inherited. The Governor laid out his five-point plan for the state's future prosperity, which included more jobs, better education, improved transportation infrastructure, healthy citizens, communities, and the environment, and transforming how government delivers services. For the full text of Governor Dayton's speech, click here.
- Last Friday, Governor Dayton and Education Commissioner Brenda Casselius held a press conference to outline their plan for education. Gov. Dayton announced there will be an increase in K-12 funding in his budget proposal set to be released next Wednesday. One specific initiative announced at the press conference would create a "Better School Funding" commission, chaired by Commissioner Casselius, to recommend education reform ideas.
- Another top priority for the administration is closing the achievement gap. Expanding all day kindergarten programs, investing in early childhood education, and ensuring reading proficiency for every child by third grade are three areas of emphasis for the administration. Dayton called for the reauthorization of the Governor's Council on Early Education as one tool to vet effective programs and reforms. Internal reorganization of the Department of Education to better support these initiatives will be part of these reform efforts. To read Governor Dayton and Commissioner Casselius' press release, click here.
- The Governor's budget will be released next Tuesday, February 15, and as he said during his campaign and reaffirmed in his State of the State, he plans to call on Minnesota's wealthiest citizens help fill part of the $6.2 billion budget deficit. His proposal will most likely include the creation of a fourth income tax tier, which many in the Legislature are opposed to.
Governor Dayton appointed three commissioners this week: Kevin Lindsey as the Human Rights Commissioner, John Tilsen as Commissioner of the Bureau of Mediation Services, and Spencer Cronk as Commissioner of the Department of Administration. For a short biography on these new commissioners, click here.