Thursday, April 26, 2012

MnSCU Legislative Update -- Higher Ed Conference Committee Sent to House and Senate for Final Approval

The higher education omnibus conference committee came to an agreement last night on the higher education bill, SF 1573. Conferees accepted the House’s offer, a delete-all amendment that included the majority of the provisions in both bills with the exception of the House language that added an additional University of Minnesota student to the Student Advisory Council, and the House language regarding selling liquor at the University of Minnesota TCF Stadium. That language is traveling elsewhere.

Conferees accepted the continuing operations language that was in the Senate bill but not the House bill. This language will allow colleges and universities access to their cash in order to continue serving students if a government shutdown were to happen again. Also included in the final bill is the increase in the revenue fund authority from $300 million to $405 million. This language will allow campuses the opportunity to evaluate and plan, in consultation with students, for the future of revenue generating facilities including, but not limited to: dorms, student unions, dining facilities, and parking.

The final textbook language is a hybrid of the House and Senate bills and can be found in sections 3, 4, 5 and 14 on the attached. Textbook language includes the establishment of a work group to study methods that result in lower textbook costs for students. 

Also adopted was the Senate language (however both bills carried a similar provision) regarding the Permanent University Fund that provides for up to $25 million to be credited to an endowment for the costs of operating a mining, metallurgical, or related engineering degree program offered through the University of Minnesota at Mesabi Range Community and Technical College and for scholarships for students to attend the mining, metallurgical or related engineering program. The maximum scholarship cannot exceed $6,500 per academic year for a maximum of four academic years.

The language regarding the Teacher Performance Assessment (TPA) student fee, a classroom-based, content-specific assessment that captures teacher candidates’ performance in planning and delivering instruction primarily taken during the student teaching phase of a student’s education, was amended so that the Minnesota Board of Teaching must now report to the K-12 and higher education legislative committees by January 5, 2013 with recommendations for eliminating lower priority tests or assessments required of teacher education students to offset the additional fees charged to students for the TPA. Currently the student is not bearing any cost for completing the TPA because the assessment is in its pilot phase.

The bill now heads back to both bodies for final approval. As a reminder, a conference committee report cannot be amended, it can only be voted up or down. If it is approved, it will head to Gov. Dayton for consideration. If it is not approved, it will head back to conference committee for further work.

Last Friday, the House Ways and Means Committee took up the bonding bill that originally included $280 million of statewide infrastructure projects, of which $56 million was slated for the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities (MnSCU) system. Committee Chair Larry Howes, R-Walker, introduced a delete-all amendment totaling $443.9 million, including $221 million for the State Capitol restoration.  On Thursday, the House failed to pass the stand-alone State Capitol restoration bill by one vote, so Ways and Means amended the bonding bill to include the Capitol repairs project, and scaled down other projects.

For higher education, the amended bill includes $30 million in repair and restoration (HEAPR) for the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities. The projects originally included in the House bonding bill for MnSCU were removed; $13.851 million for the Ridgewater College technical instruction lab; $4.606 million for the Minnesota West, Worthington renovation and addition; $1.5 million for the Saint Paul College health and science center design; $3.146 million for the Rochester Community and Technical College workforce center; $5.2 million for the system wide STEM renovation; $3.303 million for the Bemidji State University business building addition and renovation; $4.549 million for the Itasca Community College renovation and addition; and $300,000 for the Northland Community and Technical College aviation maintenance facility expansion.

Committee members approved the bill and sent it to the House floor. In the Senate, the $496 million bonding bill, which includes $127 million for MnSCU is awaiting action on the floor. We will continue to keep you posted when either body takes up their bill.

As a reminder the Senate bonding bill is a $496 million bonding bill, which includes $127.028 million for the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities. Included in the bill is $32 million for higher education asset preservation and replacement (HEAPR). The college and university projects include:

$13.389 million for the Minneapolis Community and Technical College workforce program renovation;
$13.851 million for Ridgewater College, Willmar technical instruction lab renovation;
$4.606 million for Minnesota West Community and Technical College, Worthington renovation and addition;
$13.315 million for South Central College, Faribault classroom renovation and addition;
$0.980 million for Anoka Ramsey Community College, Coon Rapids bioscience and allied health addition;
$26.292 million for North Hennepin Community College bioscience and health careers center addition;
$0.500 million for Southwest Minnesota State University science lab renovation;
$1.5 million for Saint Paul College health and science center design;
$5 million for Century College academic partners classroom design and construction;
$7.230 million for Dakota County Technical College transportation and emerging technical lab renovation;
$2 million for the system wide STEM renovation;
$2.065 million for Minnesota State University, Mankato clinical science building design;
$4 million for St. Cloud Technical and Community College medium heavy truck and auto body addition and renovation; and
$0.300 million for Northland Community and Technical College aviation maintenance facility expansion

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