Legislative Update for Tues., May 17, 2016 (Prepared by Jim Niland and Chris Stinson)
2016 STATE LEGISLATIVE SESSION APPROACHES GRIDLOCK…
Our member activism at Lobby Day and elsewhere helped push the DFL Senate caucus to set good, high funding targets for pre-K and K-12, and higher ed funding, that can help fund our Cradle-to-Career initiatives. After the DFL Senate caucus came in with its target higher than DFL Governor Mark Dayton’s original supplemental budget proposal ($100 million instead of $77 million) Dayton responded favorably by raising his supplemental budget proposal by an additional $50 million to $127 million. For higher ed the DFL Senate Caucus target was $48 million and the Governor’ supp budget proposal was $77 million.
Unfortunately the House Republican caucus has been a roadblock to additional Cradle-to-Career funding. Their higher ed target is $0. They moved some pre-K and K-12 money around–making cuts here and a few increases there-but their net increase in pre-K and higher ed funding is $0.
The Senate and House named state legislators to one big budget conference committee that is supposed to hammer out a deal on the entire supplemental budget-education, transportation, taxes, human services, etc. The conferees from the Senate are Sens. Cohen, Wiger, Lourey, Saxhaug and Fischbach (all but Fischbach are DFLers.) The House conferees are Knoblach, Loon, Garafalo, Dean and McNamara (all Republicans.)
For the last couple weeks there has been no progress on a budget deal because the Republicans have refused to budge on their demand that a transportation funding deal be reached first. With time running out before the session’s constitutional deadline of May 23 this gridlock is increasing the chance every passing day that there will be no progress this session on Cradle-to-Career and education funding. This is particularly disappointing as there is actually bipartisan agreement on some items in our Cradle-to-Career initiative-like the teacher shortage/”pathway/pipeline” for paras and other support staff/teachers of color legislation, and a state income tax credit to help Minnesotans with their college tuition debt. But any progress on Cradle-to-Career is being thwarted and held hostage because of Republican intransigence on an overall budget deal.
…BUT MEMBER ACTIVISM IS PUSHING FOR A CRADLE-TO-CAREER ED FUNDING DEAL
After our April 12 Lobby Day, Local 284 member activism continues to focus on pushing the legislature to pass funding for our Cradle-to-Career initiatives. A petition for fair funding for all of MN’s school district-so the quality of a child’s education is not dependent on their zip code-is being circulated by member activists and CO/IO’s in 23 school districts that have the largest numbers of our members working for them. These petitions are being delivered to legislators. We are also following up by phoning every signer to ask them to call their state house members (as the state house is the roadblock to progress) to push for ed funding to help ramp up the pressure. This list of signers will continue to be mobilized as we head toward the vitally important November presidential election where all 201 seats in the state legislature will also be on the ballot.
This petition was also included in our last weekly leg alert e-mail. That leg alert had the biggest response of all the ones we sent out this session. Over a quarter of our members who got the leg alert opened the e-mail-and over 120 signed the petition. The petition is also front and center on our web homepage-and over 150 members have signed the petition there.
We have used the state council’s dialer to patch our members through to their state legislators-targeting house Republicans in what will likely be the tightest races this year. On one night alone we dialed over 400 members, talked with 67 of them and patched through 28 to their state rep.
Local 284 Executive Director Carol Nieters has continued to work with legislative leadership including Dayton’s Lieutenant Governor Tina Smith, and Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk.
We will continue to push as hard we can to make progress on Cradle-to-Career this session!
SEIU Local 284 Weekly Legislative Update (Fri., Apr, 8, 2016)
HOUSE REPUBLICANS RELEASE BUDGET TARGETS-BAD NEWS FOR EDUCATION!:
The House Republican caucus released its budget targets this week:
$0 for pre-K
$0 net increase for K-12 education
$0 for higher ed
$0 for addressing racial disparities
SENATE DFLERS SET BUDGET TARGETS NEXT WEEK:
The Senate DFL caucus will set budget targets next week. We a pushing for as high a target as possible for Cradle-to-Career funding for pre-K, K-12, and higher education.
LOTS OF COMMITTEE HEARINGS ON OUR CRADLETO-CAREER BILLS:
L284 member and pre-K teacher Amanda Reineck did a fantastic job testifying in support of pre-K funding at the Senate Education committee. We expect significant pre-K funding to be included in the Senate ed finance bill.
Funding equity for school districts bills had a hearing in the DFL Senate. The Republican House has not heard these bills.
There were hearings in both the House and Senate for the Teacher Shortage Act (SF 2513 (Dahle)/HF 3132(Erickson))-which includes a “pipeline” of money and opportunity for paraprofessionals and other school district employees who want to become licensed teachers. (Our Governor Mark Dayton’s budget includes $12.5 million for this.)
Higher ed affordability bills had hearings in both houses (although the Republican House has put no money for higher ed in its budget targets.) Some bills take the approach of a tax credit to help relieve student debt, and others take the approach of increasing funding for the state grant program to students in school.
Funding for more guidance counselors and other school support staff (SF 1364(Kent)/HF 2045(Hausman)) was heard in the Senate but not in the House. This bill provides $18 million-no funding was specifically included in Governor Dayton’s budget but Dayton left $200 million unspent in his budget proposal than can be used for Cradle-to-Career initiatives like this.
Full Service Community Schools are funded by a bill heard in the Senate (but not in the House): SF 2813(Johnson)/HF 3046(Murphy). Their bill provides $5 million in funding (Governor Dayton’s budget proposal provides $2 million.)