Friday, April 29, 2011

Legislative Update 4/25-4/29

This week at the Legislature the members came back from their Easter/Passover break to a flurry of activity as the committees worked to meet the first policy deadline. All policy bills with no fiscal impact needed to be passed out of their applicable committees.

At the same time this was happening some of the Conference Committees were meeting as the Legislature tries to finalize it's budget. There are only 3 weeks before the Legislature is constitutionally required to adjourn.

The Higher Education Committees did not meet, nor did the Higher Education Conference Committee. However, there were still committees meeting that include issues we have been working on. The Taxes Conference Committee met a few times this week to discuss their differing proposals. These proposals both include reductions to the Property Tax Renters Credit that many students currently receive. The Senate has proposed reducing the percentage return from 19% to 15% and the house has proposed a further reduction of 12%. Governor Dayton's budget proposed no changes to this program. This program is relied upon by many students that are renters and depend on this money to pay for the rising costs of college and housing.

Also, the Voter ID fight ramped up this week with the introduction and first hearing of a constitutional amendment that requires photo identification to vote. As I'm typing this I'm listening to the debate in the House Government Operations and Elections Committee regarding this proposal. The Senate also passed SF509 which is the bill that has the same requirement. The reason the legislature is doing two different proposals is because Gov. Dayton is unlikely to sign the bill that requires a photo ID to vote, but if the legislature by a simple majority votes to place the constitutional amendment on the ballot the Governor plays no role in that process.

During the Senate floor discussion of SF509 MSUSA submitted a letter of opposition that talked about the problem that many students would face if this requirement were passed and if the current vouching system were repealed. SF509 was passed by a vote of 37-26. All GOP members voted yes and all DFL members voted no.

This week we had students from Metro State visit the Capitol and meet with their local legislators and some key staff members. They had great conversations about the difficulties they are facing as they advance their college careers.

The Higher Education Conference Committee will meet next Tuesday, May 3rd to take testimony on their budget proposals and hopefully begin to work out the differences in their bills. MSUSA Chair Andrew Spaeth will be testifying to the Conference Committee.

As always, please contact me with any questions at or (651) 815-1196. Good luck to all of you as you study and prepare for finals. I wish you all the best of luck.

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