Capitol Report: Reflecting on Session, Improving Education
Despite a lawsuit filed this week by the House and the Senate against Governor Mark Dayton due to his line-item veto to defund the legislature, Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka, R-Nisswa, underscores the extent of bipartisan work that was accomplished during the 2017 legislative session. He joins Capitol Report moderator Shannon Loehrke to highlight some of the achievements.
Chair of the E-12 Education Finance Committee, Senator Carla Nelson, R-Rochester, joins Shannon for part two of our discussion of the $19 billion dollar education finance bill, which includes funding for the Minnesota Reading Corps, statewide innovations zones, lead testing in public schools and other initiatives.
Senator Chuck Wiger, DFL-Maplewood, speaks about Governor Mark Dayton's universal pre-kindergarten initiative and offers his perspective on what more needs to be done in education.
Leaders File Lawsuit Over Legislative Funding Veto
Legislative caucus leaders met with Governor Mark Dayton in a private meeting at the Capitol Tuesday, June 13, in an attempt to resolve the recent dispute over the Governor's line-item veto of funding for the legislature. Dayton earlier said his veto is an attempt to bring Republican leaders back to negotiations to alter several issues, including the lowering of tobacco taxes.
After the hour-long meeting, Governor Dayton called the discussion "candid," but said the parties were not able to come to any resolution. Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka, R-Nisswa, and House Speaker Kurt Daudt, R-Crown, indicated they plan to file a lawsuit against the Governor on the grounds that withholding funding from the legislature violates the state's constitution.
"I think a lawsuit should be avoided whenever possible, which is why we took slow steps to get here...We're at a point where we just don't feel like we're going to be able to move forward, and so the lawsuit appears to be the only direction we have at this point," Gazelka said.
Capitol Report: Funding and Improving Education
Governor Mark Dayton recently signed into law the E-12 Education Finance Bill, which will spend $19 billion dollars over the next biennium. Chair of the E-12 Finance Committee, Senator Carla Nelson, R-Rochester, joins Capitol Report moderator Shannon Loehrke to describe a number of provisions in the bill, including the mixed delivery model to fund kindergarten readiness, the Rural Career and Technical Education Consortium, agricultural educator grants and a pilot program that will provide educational stability for children in foster care.
Education Minnesota, the state teachers' union, and other groups pressed Governor Dayton to veto the E-12 Education Bill, in part due to changes to the long-standing Last-In-First-Out (LIFO) provision, which has favored keeping veteran teachers over newer hires during times of teacher layoffs. Senator Chuck Wiger, DFL-Maplewood, voted against the omnibus education bill, and describes his concerns with the approved plan.
Finally, following a critical report by the Office of the Legislative Auditor and the subsequent efforts of a bipartisan legislative working group, the E-12 education bill includes significant reforms to Minnesota's teacher licensure system. Senator Eric Pratt, R-Prior Lake, explains the reasoning for the new four-tier licensing standards.
Capitol Report: Preparing for REAL ID, Budget Disagreements
A bill to bring Minnesota into compliance with the 2005 federal mandate that required all states to tighten security standards for state-issued driver's licenses and identification cards was signed into law with Governor Mark Dayton's signature on May 18, 2017. The bill's sponsor, Senator Eric Pratt, R-Prior Lake, joins Capitol Report moderator Shannon Loehrke to discuss the REAL ID bill's long and arduous journey. Dawn Olson, Director of Driver and Vehicle Services for the Minnesota Department of Public Safety, also joins Shannon to provide detailed information on the roll-out of the REAL ID law.
The 2017 legislative session ended with an immediate special session to allow lawmakers to complete their work on tax relief, budget and capital improvements bills. This week, while Republican leaders touted the successes of the session, DFL Governor Mark Dayton laid the groundwork for either another special session or court action to resolve remaining differences between the two sides.
Finally, producer Jon Brune explains the ways in which transportation projects are typically funded in Minnesota.
Budget, Tax Bills Become Law, Legislature Funding Vetoed
Late Tuesday, May 30, Governor Mark Dayton signed the tax bill, which provides $650 million dollars in tax relief (see article below). Earlier in the evening, he signed the remaining budget bills, while line-item vetoing the funding for the state legislature. In his letter to legislative leaders, he said he would call a special session to restore the legislature's funding upon agreement to rescind the lowering of tobacco-related taxes; eliminate the additional estate tax reductions; alter the teacher licensing provisions; and remove the codification of the prohibition on providing drivers' licenses to undocumented immigrants.
Earlier in the day, Republican leaders met with the media before leaving on a statewide media tour to tout the actions of the 2017 legislative session and to encourage Governor Dayton to sign the tax and budget bills (see video above).
Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka said, "It really was a historically productive session...We have the largest tax bill we've had in almost two decades, with relief to just about anyone you can think of. We have a transportation bill of $300 million plus money in the bonding bill, so it's over $500 million, or a half of a billion, that we're putting into roads and bridges, and that's really, really a good thing."
Other items noted by Republican leaders was the passage of Real ID, which will allow Minnesotans to board airplanes using their new drivers licenses. Also, Minnesotans will be able to purchase off-sale liquor on Sundays.
Dayton Uncommitted to Signing Tax and Budget Bills
Governor Mark Dayton spoke to the press Friday, May 26, about the final days of the legislative special session and the budget bills recently passed by the legislature. According to a signed agreement by the Governor, Lieutenant Governor and caucus leaders, Governor Dayton called a special session so that lawmakers could complete finance packages in E-12 education, health and human services, state government, transportation and taxes. Lawmakers also sought to pass a bonding proposal for capital improvements, in addition to the so-called pre-emption bill, which would prevent cities like Minneapolis and St. Paul from enacting their own labor and sick-leave standards.
The DFL Governor began by calling the session "protracted" and "very difficult" because of the Republican-controlled House and Senate, while expressing relief that lawmakers were able to get their work done without a government shut-down. "As is the nature of divided government, probably everybody who was involved in this session is going home unhappy about something," he said. Governor Dayton went on to provide his perspective on the various budget measures and said that he is "genuinely undecided" whether he will sign or veto the bills when they are presented to him.
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