Bioscience/workforce development policy division
The committee heard testimony from DEED (their mission and goals) and the Commerce Department on the results of the Governor’s Economic Outlook Analysis Team’s work.
On Wednesday, January 21, the Civil Justice Committee passed out of Committee the Minnesota False Claims Act, which establishes that those who knowingly submit, or cause another person or entity to submit, false claims for payment of government funds are liable for three times the government’s damages, plus civil fines. The committee also passed a technical bill to address concerns raised by the Special Master Panel overseeing claims from victims of the I-35W bridge collapse.
The Committee heard education investment and reform recommendations from education organizations. The committee also heard from Education Commissioner Alice Seagren, and it heard from Charlie Kyte, on behalf of the MN Assoc of School Admins on an idea to increase investment in early childhood education and/or all-day kindergarten by granting school districts levy authority.
Higher Education and Workforce Development
The Committee heard from the Office of Higher Education on their budget and financial aid programs and testimony from the U of M on how they have dealt with recent budget reductions and how they plan to work with the Legislature in light of the upcoming deficit.
Housing and Public Health
The Committee heard testimony on housing affordability trends. Minnesota ranks 1st nationally in growth in the number of households spending half their income on housing – an increase of 89.5% households since 2000. Experts also testified that past foreclosures were sub prime loans, and a new wave of troubled no documentation loans will surface in 2009 and 2010.
Public Safety Policy
The Committee held a Joint Hearing with the Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday on the federal Adam Walsh Act, which creates national uniform registration requirements for sex offenders.
Public Safety Finance
The Public Safety Finance Committee held a hearing on Thursday on the Report of the Children’s Justice Initiative Parent Legal Representation Work Group. This workgroup developed during the interim after the Public Defenders decided that they could no longer represent parents in Children in need of Protective Services (Chips) due to budget constraints. Generally, the group recommended that parents be represented by qualified and culturally competent legal counsel in these cases, and the Legislature should identify a separate statewide funding source. Individual counties have been paying for this representation since July 2008.
This week, the Tax Committee heard a bill (HF95) that addressed two provisions from the 2008 Tax Bill: maintenance of effort and a health care credit. After adjournment of the 2008 Session, the Governor’s office raised objections to these two provisions, stating that the provisions were not identical to those laid out in the final budget agreement. On May 27, 2008, House and Senate Leadership signed a letter agreeing to repeal these provisions early in the 2009 Session. Without this letter from legislative leaders, the Governor indicated that he would veto both the Tax Bill and the Healthcare Reform Bill.
During testimony this past week, county groups testified in opposition to HF 95, preferring to preserve the repeal of the Maintenance of Effort (MOE) provisions. The Minnesota Library Association testified in support of HF 95, arguing that the changes made in the 2008 Tax Bill were sweeping and should be examined more carefully.
House Fiscal Analysis pointed out that the November 2008 Forecast did not include the liabilities incurred by the MOE and Healthcare Credit because legislative leadership and the Governor agreed they would be repealed early in 2009. If HF 95 does not pass, the budget shortfall in the February Forecast will be revised by approximately $200 million (downward) for FY09-11. In addition, counties would be expected to discontinue spending $300 million on a variety of programs including: employment and training programs; child care sliding fee program; regional library support grants; mental health services; chemical dependency funding; and child welfare targeted case management. HF 95 passed out of Taxes and Ways and Means this week and will be on the General Register next week.