Tuesday, May 23, 2017

The Dam Has Burst!  

Just when I thought it was going to be water torture all night long, documents outlining the budget agreements are hitting the web.  The E-12 working group is meeting in ten minutes, so I don't have time to analyze the bill right now, but here are the documents:


Tax Bill and Spreadsheet Posted.  Things are coming out in dribs and drabs up here at the Capitol.  The State Departments Working Group (remember this is the special session so there are no committees or conference committees--at least yet) will be going through the State Departments bill sometime within the next hour or so.

The big news is that the tax bill and spreadsheet that goes with the bill have been posted on the House Tax Committee website.  As I conjectured earlier today, the Ag Bond Credit is in the bill at a 40% reimbursement rate for the school debt service levy on agricultural property and the proposed increase in debt service equalization did not survive.

Here is a link to the tax bill language:  Language  Ag Bond Credit language is Article 4, Sections 1 and 2, on pages 136 and 137 of the bill.

The spreadsheet:  Spreadsheet  The appropriation for the Ag Bond Credit is on line 54 of page 7.  The zeroed amount for debt service is on 47.

The bill summary:  Section by Section Summary

For this installment's musical treat, I will leave you with the late Glenn Frey's The Allnighter.  Sorry, I couldn't find a live performance and--pardon the pun--I don't have all night.  Wait a minute.  I'm sitting at the Capitol all night, so I guess I would have all night.

This Is It.  The Legislature will be convening at 3 PM in a special session to take up a set of budget bills that were left hanging as the midnight deadline for adjournment of the regular session.  Included in the bills will be the tax bill, the transportation bill, the health and human services bill, the bonding bill the state departments bill, and--of course--the E-12 funding bill.  Agreement was reached on all of these measures late last night and rather than have a rapid fire free-for-all, legislative leadership decided to take a more measured approach and pass the bills in a special session today when members are more rested.  Obviously, there will still be a lot of fireworks and making the self-imposed deadline of 7 AM on Wednesday morning will be a challenge.

It is reported that the E-12 budget target is $477 million--$10 million more than what the Legislature had called for in its revised targets released last week--and folks are wondering how the money will be divided.  Clearly, the formula was a high priority in both the House and Senate bills with targets around $300 million, so it's probably a safe guess--but a guess nonetheless--that more money will go toward the formula.  A 2% increase in each year costs approximately $380 million, so that would leave $90 million to move around into other priorities unless, of course, the Legislature wants to take the formula increase above 2%.  

One complicating factor is how the TRA issue will be handled.  Rumors are flying around on this.  There is talk of increasing the formula amount beyond 2% to help accommodate the costs related to an increased employer contribution, but when revenue goes on the formula, it can go for anything.  The preferred method of dealing with the issue would be--as proposed by the Governor--to set aside revenue and distribute through the pension subtraction.  This is the cleanest way to approach the problem, but there are distributional differences between using the pension subtraction and putting the revenue on the formula and my guess is the data runs outlining those differences have been studied.  

The other item that will be interesting to see is how the early childhood issue will be handled.  The Governor continued to push his voluntary pre-kindergarten program throughout the negotiations and rumor has it that there will be $50 million distributed for early education in some form.  Hard to say what that is, but some are saying it's a more targeted form of school readiness.  There are so many rumors flying around that they are flying in formation.

It will also be interesting to see what is in the tax bill.  What I have gathered is that the Ag Bond Credit is in the bill, but that the increase in the debt service equalization did not survive the negotiations.  If debt service equalization is not part of the final bill I--and a lot of SEE members--will be disappointed, but we'll be back and hammering (and yammering) again if that is the case.  I have also heard that all of the private school tax credit/tax deduction/scholarship fell by the wayside and if that is the case, like our debt service and referendum equalization initiatives, proponents of those items will be back in force in 2018.

Here is the MinnPost article regarding the budget agreement and today's legislative process:  Dayton signs deal calling Legislature into special session. What happens now?

And so, as I finish this missive, let's sign off with the Kenny Loggins' song that inspired this headline.  I've taken the YouTube version from Loggins' episode on Live from Daryl's House.  For those of you music aficionados, Live from Daryl's House is an absolute hoot, as he brings in artists and works up new versions of their hits.  With no further ado, here's Kenny and Daryl:

Monday, May 22, 2017

Regular Session Ends Quietly.  Special Session Commences Immediately.  Rather than frantically attempt--and fail given the time constraints--to pass a bevy of bills with the clock winding down, the Legislature decided to adjourn slightly before midnight.  The Governor has called a special session beginning tomorrow and the Legislature will start its work bright and early and try to work through the budget bills remaining from the regular session by Wednesday morning.  Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka informed the Senate that there is agreement on all of the bills and that work will go on during the night to have them ready to go when the House of Representatives and Senate convene tomorrow.  For those of you wondering what to look for, in a special session, everything is set back to zero.  Each of the conference committee reports from the regular session will be drafted as a bill and be numbered from HF 1/SF 1 upward.  I do not know what is in the education bill, but will likely find out when I get to the Capitol tomorrow morning and will post details when I get them.  I would guess that there will be a 2% increase on the basic formula in each of the next two years and some money for early childhood education in a yet-to-be-determined form.  Rumor has it the Governor was using all of his persuasive power to try to expand his voluntary pre-kindergarten program, but the legislative leaders were not receptive to his entreaties.

So tomorrow is shaping up to be a long day, so how about a little Marshall Tucker's "24 Hours at a Time" with special guest Charlie Daniels from 1975.  Could be a whole 24-hour shift tomorrow!

T Minus 10 Hours.  It's creeping up on 2 PM and it looks like it will be difficult for the Legislature and the Governor to come to an agreement in time for bills to be processed and passed before the midnight deadline.  A number of conference committee reports were passed yesterday, but they all pertained to smaller parts of the budget.  The top tier--Taxes, E-12, Health and Human Services, Transportation, and Bonding--all remain unsettled.  What most of us hear through the grapevine that winds through the Capitol hallways is that things are close.  Policy items that the Legislature would like to see enacted are clearly a stumbling block as the Governor pretty much wants to stick to numbers and not language.

So with that, I post this musical treat (probably your first in a series) to sum up what a lot of folks are feeling.  We return to Kris Kristofferson's oeuvre from which I plucked a song earlier this session for "Help Me Make It Through the Night."

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Slow Ride.  But no one is subscribing to Foghat's advice and taking it easy, but things are moving slowly on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard (street on which the Capitol is located) tonight.  Both the House and Senate have returned to the floor and they may take up several budget bills (but not E-12 which is still being worked on).   It appears that a number of policy initiatives seem to be gumming up the works and the Governor is laying most of the blame at the feet of the House of Representatives, saying that he believed the Senate wanted to finish on time, but the House wants to push some policies he simply won't accept.  As per usual, we'll see how this all plays out.  In the meantime, enjoy a video of the still-touring Foghat's biggest hit in footage from 30 years after the song was released.

Here's a link to a MinnPost article on the Governor's veto of the teacher licensure bill:  Teacher licensing overhaul sent back for negotiations after veto. But for teachers in limbo, changes can’t come soon enough 

Speaking of the teacher licensure bill, I inaccurately reported that the bill passed the House on a straight party-line vote and it did not.  3 DFLers--Representatives Mariani, Marquart, and Poppe--voted for the bill and one Republican--Representative Franke--voted against the bill.  At this point, it appears that the contents of HF 140 with some changes may be incorporated into the omnibus E-12 funding and policy bill.

Friday, May 19, 2017

Logjam Breaking?  When I was pondering what to photo to post as a description of today's legislative activity, I thought of this:

But then the afternoon came and indications are that there will be movement on the part of the Legislature and it will be coming soon.  At a 4:15 press conference, legislative leadership outlined the framework of their proposal to the Governor and provided a rough vision of how they will be proceeding from this point forward.  Legislative leadership made it clear that negotiations with the Governor are on-going in hopes that agreements can be reached in the next day that will be agreed to by all parties.  The biggest concession made by the Legislature is in their decision to shave their tax cut proposal by nearly half a billion dollars down to $660 million.  The E-12 target mentioned at the press conference was $467 million, $164 million more than what was in the bill vetoed by the Governor earlier in the session.  A target of $467 million would accommodate a 2% increase on the basic formula in each of the next two years with approximately $90 million left for other initiatives.  Hopefully, the Legislature and the Governor will come to an agreement on helping correct the projected problems with the Teacher Retirement Association outside of the education budget, but the Governor did include $69 million in his budget for that purpose.  There wouldn't be room for much more and it would probably mean a stalemate on early education initiatives.  Too early to tell however.

A point of contention--and it's a pretty big point--is how policy will be handled in the coming negotiations.  The Governor has made it clear he is not particularly interested in policy changes and wants to basically stick to numbers.  The Legislature has a number of initiatives--both inside and outside the education realm--they would like to pass before the session ends.  The biggest education policy initiative pushed by the Legislature has been the teacher licensing changes in HF 140, which was vetoed by the Governor on Thursday.  It will be interesting to see how that issue is handled.  It is doubtful that there would be enough votes to override a gubernatorial veto (takes 91 votes in the House and 45 in the Senate), which would mean the language would have to be incorporated into whatever omnibus education bill that the Legislature would fashion.  Word on the street is the Governor would agree to the teacher licensure changes with a couple changes to the bill, but the mechanics could of getting this all to fit in the next three days could be tricky.

For your musical enjoyment, here's an oldie but goody that will describe the next three days because it's going to be a long train runnin'.  Lots of cars and lots of miles to be covered in 72 hours.

Be prepared for updates!

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Governor Vetoes Teacher Licensure Bill.  It's hard to say whether it was a surprise or not.  The debate on HF 140--the bill that would create the Professional Educators Licensing and Standards Board and a new tiered-licensure framework for Minnesota teachers--seemed to indicate that there were concerns with the bill from the DFL side and it was never clear if the Commissioner of Education had endorsed the bill.  There will be charges and counter-charges about that, but the bottom line is the Governor vetoed the bill.  Needless to say, the bill's chief authors--Representative Sondra Erickson and Senator Eric Prattt--are not pleased with this outcome and see it as a needless injection of partisan flavor into a non-partisan bill.  The votes in the House have always been pretty much along party lines, but the bill passed the Senate with a number of DFL votes on its original passage prior to the conference committee proceedings.  That number was cut by 5 as the number of DFLers supporting the bill dropped from 7 to 2 on the vote that approved the conference committee report.

Here's the WCCO story on the veto:  Dayton Vetoes Teacher Licensing Overhaul Bill

StarTribune Story:    Education veto, spending disputes mark Legislature's fifth-to-last day

I was trying to a story with quotes from the bill's authors responding to the veto, but the video from the press conference on the House of Representatives media page won't download, so here is a piece from the Senate Republican Caucus homepage that contains quotes from Representative Erickson and Senator Pratt.

Link:  Governor vetoes bipartisan teacher licensure reform bill

Budget Negotiations on a Glacial Pace.  The last few days are looking pretty much like what everyone would have liked to avoid coming into the 2017 session.  With just under 100 hours left before the regular session is required to end, things seem to be at a standstill and it's difficult to know if anyone will blink and if someone blinks, who will blink first.  As in the case of most budget negotiations, the parameters of the discussion are taking up a lot of the discussion.  The Governor contends he is meeting folks halfway; the Legislature disagrees.  The Governor wants bills with little or no policy included; the Legislature disagrees.  One would think there would be a happy (or even an unhappy) medium, but it has yet to be found.  There has been some movement on the second-tier budget bills, but agreement on the big five--taxes, E-12, state departments, transportation, and bonding--likely won't take place until the weekend.

I always like to post a song that describes what's happening in an off-hand (but hopefully respectful) way and the only thing I would come up with today is the Stylistics "Make Up to Break Up," which portrays the yo-yo we are on.  In the morning, there's optimism, but as the day wears on, negotiations seem to break down.  So let's go old school tonight and relax to one of the great Slow Jams of the 1970s (and forget that the special session in 1971--two years before this song was released--last until October).

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Professional Educator Licensing and Standards Board Conference Committee Report Passes Legislature; On Way to the Governor.  Both the House and Senate passed HF 140 today on almost straight party-line votes.  I haven't seen the actual roll calls, but it appears that no DFLers voted for the conference committee report in the House and only 2 DFLers voted for the bill in the Senate.  The primary complaint of the DFLers centers around the Tier 1 License category in the proposed tiered licensure framework.  While someone with that license needs a bachelor's degree to teach an academic subject and an associate's degree or industry certification (and five years experience) to teach a career and technical education course, the concern expressed by those who oppose the bill believe that this waters down standards.  There is also some concern about the Tier 3 License as it relates to teachers coming from other states.  The final vote in the House was 76-54 and the vote in the Senate was 36-31.  It will now head to the Governor and it is unclear what he will do with the bill.  The administration has voiced concerns at several junctures in the negotiations, but most were under the impression that those concerns had been assuaged with changes made to the bill during the conference committee proceedings.  That assumption may be in error, however, as a number of DFLers pointed out in their comments today that the administration had not signed off on the bill.  I guess we will wait and see.  It could certainly be a bargaining chip of sorts as the big ticket items are discussed in the coming days.

Here is a link to the conference committee language that was passed today:  HF 140

Negotiations are On!  The Agriculture bill has been agreed to by all parties and that will probably be cleared off the floor tomorrow or Thursday, but that was the smallest of the budget bills and is not controversial.  We'll see how things go from here because until the big furniture comes out of the truck, it's anyone guess as to the timeline for finishing.

In the musical vein, let's hope that the negotiations go like this:

And not like this:

Until tomorrow's update, I'll be watching things unfold.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Professional Educator Licensing and Standards Board Conference Committee Completed.  The conference committee on HF 140--the bill that would create the Professional Educator Licensing and Standards Board and implement a tiered-licensure framework for Minnesota teacher licenses--completed its work this morning and will now head to the House floor tomorrow.  There weren't a lot of changes made to the bill.  The House's recommendation of an 11-member board prevailed instead of the Senate's nine-member board, but the board's majority will be composed of teachers.  In addition to the six teachers, there will be one superintendent, one principal, one human resources director, one intermediate district or cooperative director, and one member of the general public.  There was late agreement reached on the definition of the Tier 1 license; the new license category that caused the most consternation.  That amendment was added today, so it is not reflected in the document that I have linked below.

One item that hasn't received a lot of attention but is absolutely crucial is the decision by the conference committee to include language that would eliminate the requirement that teachers holding the Academic and Behavioral Specialist (ABS) special education license return to school to receive an "anchor" license in a specific disability category in order to retain their ABS license.  This unnecessary requirement threatened to chase a lot of young teachers out of the profession as the cost of obtaining an additional license could prove to be prohibitive.  The conference committee report also calls for a study of Minnesota's special education licensure framework in hopes of finding ways to provide districts with greater flexibility while maintaining high quality services to children with disabilities.

Here is a link to the bill's language before four amendments were added today.  The amendment that was most substantive pertains to the Tier 1 license.  I will post the final report when it becomes available.

In the meantime, here is the language for the remainder of the legislation:  HF 140 Base Language

The Big Picture.  The Governor stated today that he wants little, if any, policy in the final budget agreement.  There is not a lot of policy in the E-12 bill, but several other omnibus funding bills have a number of policy changes that the Governor opposes.  Negotiations will be resuming tomorrow as Tim Pugmire has reported on the MPR website.  Here is a link to that article:  Dayton, GOP set to resume budget talks

Here's a story from Brian Bakst on what to look for in the last week of the session:  Big bills, little time: what to watch for in the session's last week

More '80's Music!  There is the dancing of politics, and then there's "The Politics of Dancing" by the band Re-Flex (not to be confused with the song "The Reflex" by Duran Duran) from 1984.  Classic dance groove by a band with some big-time mullets.