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Capitol Update 13 4/12/2013

Its hard to believe this April 12th Update is being sent on the heels of a snowstorm. Here in St. Paul, we have had our own storm of sorts. With the end in sight, pressure is bearing down on legislators to get their bills heard and final Omnibus bills to pass through committees. Tension is high as we understand our decisions have far reaching implications. Each day is wrought with tough choices, collaboration and conflict. Some of the highlights are included below.

(VIDEO) Weekly update from Senator Bonoff. Click here to watch

Higher Education Omnibus: Last week, I wrote in great length about the Higher Education/Workforce Development Omnibus bill. For this reason, I will not spend much time in this weeks Capitol Update repeating many of the main provisions (click here to find details). This is a bill that has been three months in the making and I must admit that it was my belief heading into committee this past Tuesday that the bill would go through with little debate. Of course, in politics nothing is ever easy. We did have many amendments offered and at times heated discussion among

members. The big issues that were held in contention were non-partisan in nature and were worked through with intelligent and respectful debate. This is a great example of how the Higher Education/Workforce Development has functioned throughout the session; we have dealt with issues not by party line, but instead by engaging in spirited and intellectual debate. In the end, our final bill passed with bi-partisan support and will now be sent on to full Finance committee for further review.

Senator Bonoff listening intently during a recent hearing at the Capitol.

E-12 Omnibus: On Thursday night, the E-12 Finance committee met to tackle the E-12 Omnibus bill. The debate went long into the night, with over 20 amendments being offered. Overall, I am pleased that we have finally taken a bold step in supporting targeted investments in early childhood scholarships for low-income families- a focus of mine since I first arrived at the Legislature. It is my belief that using our dollars in a targeted approach gives us the greatest return on investment.

Another key initiative of the proposed bill is the All Day Kindergarten provision. While I do support children and families having that option, in a limited resource environment, I think our districts should have the flexibility to use these dollars for 3 and 4 year-old programming. I was pleased to see this included in the final version of the bill. There were provisions with which I did not agree. Chief among these was the buy down of $150 million in school levies. In this approach, we spend $130m to buy out school district levies. For example you pay property taxes that go for safe schools money. We are proposing to lower your property taxes by changing the formula. The levy, or tax, is substituted for state aid. I do not support this because again, in a limited resource environment, I think our dollars should go, in a targeted fashion, to where our needs are the greatest. Many homeowners have had their property taxes go down due to value changes and the notion of lowering taxes and then paying for that by raising additional revenue does not seem right to me. In addition, we are proposing to enact a new levy of $20m. This would be done on an equal and uniform basis. This is called a Gen Ed levy. We used to fund schools through this mechanism before the Ventura era changed that. Some felt, in retrospect, that the Gen Ed levy was more stable and uniform. By re-enacting it the proponents believe we are moving towards a more predictable and fair approach. I have attempted to explain this in the simplest way possible. If you want more information please let us know and we will provide it. It is not clear if the Senate proposal will prevail as the House does not include this. At this point, with all due respect for my colleagues, I prefer the House approach. During the course of the eight-hour debate I voted for many amendments that I thought strengthened the bill and against those I didnt. Some prevailed and some did not. One of the biggest policy changes is in the testing arena. Our proposal changes our testing from the MCAs and the Grad to a standard ACT approach. I strongly prefer this as it better aligns our E-12 system with the post-secondary system. Our students get feedback early about where they are in comparison to what is required for the next phase. This is a major change and I think will eliminate unnecessary irrelevant testing. In the end, I voted for the bill not because I agree with all of its direction and contents, but because it was the bill of consensus, directing our resources and best intentions to our most treasured asset, our children. I will continue to work on this throughout the winding legislative process and will do what I can to shape it in ways that deliver the highest quality return.

Radiation Moratorium: I opposed a bill that was voted on this week regarding Radiation facilities. As it stands, Minnesota law states that we cannot open new radiation treatment centers. This law is set to expire shortly. It was created because proponents said adding additional facilities adds cost to health care and has free standing centers compete with Hospitals in a way that could harm our Hospitals. This new bill seeks to extend this moratorium on radiation treatment centers for 14 more years. I do not support this concept and did not support this bill on the floor. I spoke of two facilities in our community that may well want to include these services in the future; Plymouth West Health and the Abbott Northwestern General Medicine facility in Eden Prairie. It is my belief that we should let the marketplace determine the need for increased centers. We should not limit our cancer treatment centers arbitrarily. Our patient care is our top priority. Limiting providers is not Senator Bonoff speaking against a radiation moratorium that would impact radiation treatment centers in our community. in the best interest of providing quality accessible care to patients. If need exists and facilities are willing to invest, we should not impose legislative barriers. In the end, I was one of thirteen members to vote against this proposal, which ultimately passed. If our facilities do want to provide this service, amending this bill in subsequent years is something I would pursue.

Topic Rewind: In last weeks Update, I put out the below survey. Thank you to everyone who responded. Based on the results, it was apparent that the majority of you believe in performance funding for our Higher Education systems. This information was incredibly helpful to my colleagues and I in discussion with the Higher Ed institutions. In fact, I actually passed out these results to committee members and referred to them several times throughout the committee process. I look forward to your participation in future Capitol Update Surveys.

Is it fair to require the U of M and MnSCU to adhere to certain performance standards in order to receive a portion of their funding? If so, do you agree that 5% of their funding should be tied to outcomes?

Finally, for some local updates; a provision for Shavers Lake should be on the floor soon, the Immersion bill is now also included in the Education Omnibus bill so it follows the House track, the Parent Child Home program is in both the House and the Senate bills so it looks likely. I have spoken to Rep. Anderson, Rep. Selcer, Rep Benson and House leadership to nudge along the Hollydale bill. It seems as though the bill will get its hearing on the floor. Our Representatives are doing a great job. The Angel Investment Tax credit has been put in the tax reform bill and increased by $5m, the film snowbate bill is included in an omnibus bill, St. Davids is looking good, and the fate of my bonding request for the UEL project is unknown.

Stay tuned for further updates and, as always, let me know what you think. Best Regards,

Terri Bonoff