State Legislative Update
House higher education committee hears school closure bill
On Wednesday the House Higher Education Policy and Finance Division met remotely to take up a bill, introduced by Rep. Connie Bernardy, DFL-New Brighton, that modifies the Office of Higher Education’s school closure authority. The bill is intended to protect students attending a private, for-profit institution that closes while in the middle of an academic program. Chair Bernardy said the bill is in response to the closing of Argosy University last spring, and the product of the Minnesota Office of Higher Education’s (OHE) work to identify legislative gaps for student consumer protections. Bernardy said HF 4553 will help prevent situations similar to what happened with the Argosy University closure. Betsy Talbot, Manager of Private Institution Registration and Licensing at OHE, walked committee members through the provisions in the bill and explained that the bill monitors at-risk institutions.
Rep. Linda Runbeck, R-Circle Pines, asked if OHE could explain the violations by Argosy University last year. Ms. Talbot explained that Argosy University failed to maintain their bond, and that it was being revoked by the bond company. She said they misappropriated financial aid dollars, and that they were using them for payroll and other things instead of paying state bonds. Ms. Talbot also said that financial statements were required of Argosy University but they failed to provide documentation.
Chair Bernardy said the former Argosy students’ testimony last session was very moving. She said the students asked for the committee’s help, and she wants to make sure what happened to them, cannot happen again. Bernardy said looking out for Minnesota students is critical, and she said she appreciates the bipartisan support of the bill. Rep. Ginny Klevorn, R-Plymouth, thanked Chair Bernardy, the Office of Higher Education and everyone who worked on the bill. She said the bill is important and she hopes it will help eliminate any future pain or suffering in the future. The bill was laid over.
Chair Bernardy informed committee members that the committee will meet one more time before session adjourns.
Senate meets to pass legislation and confirm Office of Higher Education Commissioner
The Senate met in floor session yesterday, and among the bills they approved, they voted to confirm the Office of Higher Education Commissioner Dennis Olson. While commissioners and top officials of the state’s various departments are appointed by the governor, they are subject to confirmation by the Senate. Once appointed, a commissioner can serve without any action by the Senate, but he or she cannot serve any longer if the Senate has voted to refuse to consent to his or her appointment. If a cabinet official is confirmed, he or she can serve to the end of the governor’s term (at the pleasure of the governor).
Born and raised in Cloquet, Commissioner Olson served as the Executive Director of the Minnesota Indian Affairs Council prior to becoming Commissioner. In this role, Dennis worked closely with tribal elected leaders, the state legislature, state agencies, and the governor to highlight and address issues important to all Tribal Nations and American Indian communities in Minnesota. Prior to his appointment with the Indian Affairs Council, Dennis served as the Director of the Office of Indian Education for the Minnesota Department of Education, working closely with Tribal Nations, urban American Indian communities, and multiple partner agencies and organizations to address key issues impacting Indian Education in Minnesota. He holds a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities in American Indian Studies, Sociology and Communications. He also holds two master’s degrees in Liberal Studies and Education from the University of Minnesota, Duluth.
Congratulations to Commissioner Olson on his confirmation by the full Senate.
The three bills the Senate took up and approved includes SF 4489, a bill introduced by Rep. Karin Housely, R-St. Mary’s Point, that would allow for take-out beer and wine with restaurant take-out orders; SF 2184, a bill introduced by Senator Jeff Howe, R-Rockville, that allows telemedicine evaluations to be used to prescribe medications for men with physical dysfunction, and SF 3125, a bill introduced by Senator CarlaNelson, R-Rochester, that clarifies that medical assistance (MA) and the early periodic screening, diagnosis, and treatment (EPSDT) program do not cover the cost of treatment that is part of an approved clinical trial.
The Senate will be back in Session Monday, April 20 at 11:00 a.m.
House approves wine and beer takeout bill
The House met in session this afternoon and took up SF 4489, the bill that will allow restaurants to sell wine and beer with takeout food orders until the state’s mandatory shutdown ends. Rep. Laurie Halverson, DFL-Eagan, is the author of the bill in the House. The Senate passed the bill by a vote of 65-2 yesterday, and the House passed the bill today 129-1.
Governor Tim Walz indicated support for the legislation, which would allow businesses to sell up to one bottle of wine and a six-pack of beer, cider or hard seltzer in their original, unopened packaging. The beer and wine could only be picked up, not delivered.
Bars and restaurants have been ordered closed by the state until at least May 4 to help stop the spread of the coronavirus, but lawmakers are trying to help restaurants with liquor licenses by allowing them to sell some alcoholic beverages with takeout.
The House has adjourned until Tuesday, April 28 or until a time deemed necessary.
Governor’s form Midwest coalition
Mirroring similar regional multi-state coalitions on the East and West coasts, Governor Tim Walz has joined the governors of Michigan, Ohio, Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, and Kentucky in announcing that they will work in close coordination to reopen the economy in the Midwest. “Here in the Midwest, we are bound by our commitment to our people and the community. We recognize that our economies are all reliant on each other, and we must work together to safely reopen them so hardworking people can get back to work and businesses can get back on their feet,” the governors said.
The governors will examine at least the following four factors when determining when best to reopen the economy:
- Sustained control of the rate of new infections and hospitalizations
- Enhanced ability to test and trace
- Sufficient health care capacity to handle resurgence
- And best practices for social distancing in the workplace
The region will work together to phase in sectors of the economy so that over time, people will go back to work and restaurants will reopen. “We look forward to working together as one region to tackle this challenge together,” the governor’s said.
Governor Walz reopens golf courses
Gov. Tim Walz announced today that he will reopen Minnesota golf courses under socially distanced protocols, as well as other outdoor recreational activities. Executive Order 20-38 allows Minnesotans to engage in a range of activities, including golfing, boating, fishing, hunting, and hiking, as long as they follow new outdoor recreation guidelines. These guidelines include maintaining 6-foot social distancing, avoiding crowded areas, and staying close to home. “It’s important for us to stay active and enjoy the outdoors while preventing the spread of COVID-19,” said Governor Walz. “This measure will allow Minnesotans to take advantage of more opportunities to get outside, while still doing their part to keep their neighbors healthy.”
All hearings can be viewed remotely by clicking HERE.
Monday, April 20
Senate in Session
1:00 p.m. (or 15 minutes after session)
Senate Jobs and Economic Growth Finance and Policy
Chair: Sen. Eric R. Pratt
Agenda: S.F. 4480-Mathews: Safely reopen businesses during a peacetime emergency process establishment.
Tuesday, April 21
Chair: Sen. Julie A. Rosen
Agenda: May Budget Projection discussion
S.F. 4486-Rosen: COVID-19 coronavirus relief account establishment.
House Education Finance
Chair: Rep. Jim Davnie
HF 4415 (Davnie) Compensation for hourly employees required for school days cancelled due to COVID-19 (coronavirus) during the 2019-2020 school year.
HF 3192 (Fabian) Independent School District No. 441, Marshall County Central Schools; money transfer authorized from early childhood and family education reserve account to school readiness reserve account.
House Veterans and Military Affairs Finance & Policy Division
Chair: Rep. Rob Ecklund
Update from the Minnesota Department of Military Affairs
Update from the Minnesota Department of Veterans Affairs
HF 4221 (Ecklund) GI Bill technical changes made (see attached DE3 Amendment)
HF 4222 (Edelson) Dental Services provision for veteran home residents authorized
HF 4223 (Lippert) Veteran adult day care program establishment by commissioner of veteran’s affairs authorized
HF 4221 DE3 Amendment – 4/16/2020
4.22 Veterans Division Agenda – 4/16/2020
Wednesday, April 22
Chair: Sen. Julie A. Rosen Agenda: S.F. 4494-Westrom: COVID-19 telemedicine equipment grant program establishment; distance learning broadband access grant program establishment; appropriations.