By Sam Walseth, MREA Legislative Affairs Director
The Minnesota Legislature at noon on Tuesday will convene their first meeting of the 2015-16 biennial session. Tuesday’s session is a ceremonial day and includes a swearing in of the House members as they accept their election certificates after winning in the November election. The Senate will also convene the new session, but their gathering is less ceremonial as they are in the middle of their four-year term.
New 2-Year Cycle Begins
Tuesday’s kick off the start of a new, 2-year legislative cycle. The first portion of this legislative cycle is considered the “long session” as it begins early in January and will likely go until May 18 when the state’s constitution says the legislature must adjourn. The primary goal of this legislative session is establish a 2-year state budget plan that will run July 1, 2015 – June 30, 2017.
New House Committees Appointed
January is typically a slow month for the state House as their committees learn who the new members are and conduct agency overviews. With the election changes in the House, there are also new education committee players this session — both familiar and new faces.
A committee on Education Innovation Policy will be chaired by Rep. Sondra Erickson (GOP Princeton). Former DFL chair of the Education Policy committee, Carlos Mariani, remains on Rep. Erickson’s committee. The House K-12 Finance committee, which will divvy up the House’s education budget target, is chaired by Rep. Jennifer Loon (GOP Eden Prairie). Former DFL K-12 Finance chair Paul Marquart remains on the committee. View the rosters for the House committees, and please note if your House member is on either of the education committees.
The mid-term Senate has consolidated their E-12 Budget and Education Policy committees into one E-12 committee. Sen. Chuck Wiger (DFL North St. Paul, Maplewood, Oakdale) remains the chair of this committee. The membership of this committee has mostly been worked out and we will see a formal list soon.
Governor’s Budget Plan Due Late January
The real action this session begins later in January after Governor Dayton, who will also be sworn in for his second term, delivers a 2-year budget plan for the legislature’s consideration, due no later than Tuesday, January 27. Mark your calendars for 3:30pm on Thursday, Jan. 29 as MREA will host a webinar to highlight the Governor’s budget plan and focus on his education proposals; registration information for this webinar will be shared next week.
Governor Dayton clearly signaled in a recent interview with the StarTribune that he will focus on education in his budget plan, specifically in early childhood education. Dollars on the formula, funds for facility maintenance, school counselors, breakfast, after-school programming and much more are all under consideration. Just when you thought the holidays were over, be sure to check your stocking for E-12 budget initiatives later this month.
Groups Lobby for E-12 Investment
Many groups, including a federation of the traditional school lobby known as the Minnesota Alliance for Student Achievement (ASA), are pushing the Governor to consider a major investment in E-12 programs, especially with the forecasted growth of over $1.5 billion in Health & Human Services spending outlined in the November budget forecast. MREA is a member of ASA and assisted with the development of a letter that was delivered to the Governor before the holidays. View the letter to the Governor.
The state will receive an update to the November budget forecast at the end of February. The pace of this budget-setting session will escalate at that point as winter starts to melt away and we head toward the spring adjournment deadline of May 18.