Legislative Update – March 23, 2018

Higher education bills moving through the committee process

It was a busy week at the State Capitol with committees scrambling to meet the session’s first committee deadline yesterday. The second committee deadline has been set for next Thursday, March 29, so we can expect another busy week in committee.

One of the bills the Senate Higher Education Finance and Policy Committee heard this week was SF 3098, a bill authored by Senator Rich Draheim, R-Madison Lake, that requires Minnesota State to create a plan focused on continuing efforts to make textbooks more affordable for students.

The bill was amended to require Minnesota State to develop a plan to increase the use of affordable textbooks. The language requires Minnesota State to explore and study registration software or other systems and methods to disclose or display the cost of all textbooks and instructional materials required for a course at or prior to course registration. Also through the plan, a goal is to be established for the percentage of all courses offered at state colleges and universities that will use affordable textbooks and materials. Draheim said the goal of the bill is to lower the cost of textbooks for students. The bill, as amended, was adopted and sent to the Senate floor. In the House, the companion bill, HF3985, has not yet received a hearing.

Senate Finance approves contract ratification bill

The Senate Finance Committee took up SF 3154 Thursday morning. The bill ratifies labor contracts and compensation plans for state employees, including AFSCME, MAPE, Middle Management Association (MMA), Inter Faculty Organization (IFO), Commissioner’s Plan and the Managerial Plan. The bill was amended to include the Minnesota Nurses Association contract and the Minnesota State personnel plan for administrators. The bill, as amended, was approved and sent to the Senate floor. A companion bill, HF 4067, was introduced this week in the House by Rep. Marion O’Neill, R-Maple Lake.

Governor Dayton signs MNLARS bill

Gov. Mark Dayton signed the MNLARS bill, which provides emergency funding for the state’s vehicle license and registration computer system. After five weeks of legislative debate surrounding the funding request to continue fixing the malfunctioned MNLARS system, a conference committee reconciled the Senate and House position yesterday, the bill passed both bodies and was sent to the Governor.

The bill appropriates $9.65 million to the Department of Public Safety in FY2018 to continue improvements to the statewide computer system, and $350,000 to put in place strict legislative oversight on how the money is spent and the progress being made.

The legislation creates a new legislative steering committee made up of House and Senate members to review progress on fixing MNLARS and quarterly appropriations for work on the project. It also directs $350,000 in funding to the Office of the Legislative Auditor for the appointment of an information technology auditor to closely monitor and report on the development and implementation of MNLARS.

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