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Capitol Update 13 - 2013

Capitol Update 13 - 2013

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Published by Terri Bonoff

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Published by: Terri Bonoff on Apr 12, 2013
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Capitol Update 13
It’s hard to believe this April 12
Update is being sent on the heels of a snowstorm. Herein St. Paul, we have had our own storm of sorts. With the end in sight, pressure is bearing downon legislators to get their bills heard and final Omnibus bills to pass through committees.Tension is high as we understand our decisions have far reaching implications. Each day iswrought with tough choices, collaboration and conflict. Some of the highlights are includedbelow.
Higher Education Omnibus:
Last week, I wrote in great length about the Higher Education/Workforce DevelopmentOmnibus bill. For this reason, I will not spend much time in this week’s Capitol Updaterepeating many of the main provisions (click here to find details). This is a bill that has beenthree months in the making and I must admit that it was my belief heading into committee thispast Tuesday that the bill would go through with little debate. Of course, in politics nothing isever easy. We did have many amendments offered and at times heated discussion among
(VIDEO) Weekly update from SenatorBonoff.
members. The big issues that were held in contention were non-partisan in nature and wereworked through with intelligent and respectful debate. This is a great example of how theHigher Education/Workforce Development has functioned throughout the session; we havedealt with issues not by party line, but instead by engaging in spirited and intellectual debate. Inthe end, our final bill passed with bi-partisan support and will now be sent on to full Financecommittee for further review.
Senator Bonoff listening intently during a recent hearing at the Capitol.
E-12 Omnibus:
On Thursday night, the E-12 Finance committee met to tackle the E-12 Omnibus bill. Thedebate went long into the night, with over 20 amendments being offered. Overall, I am pleasedthat we have finally taken a bold step in supporting targeted investments in early childhoodscholarships for low-income families- a focus of mine since I first arrived at the Legislature. It ismy belief that using our dollars in a targeted approach gives us the greatest return oninvestment.
Another key initiative of the proposed bill is the All Day Kindergarten provision. While Ido support children and families having that option, in a limited resource environment, I thinkour districts should have the flexibility to use these dollars for 3 and 4 year-old programming. Iwas pleased to see this included in the final version of the bill.There were provisions with which I did not agree. Chief among these was the buy down of $150million in school levies. In this approach, we spend $130m to buy out school district levies. Forexample you pay property taxes that go for safe schools money. We are proposing to loweryour property taxes by changing the formula. The levy, or tax, is substituted for state aid. I donot support this because again, in a limited resource environment, I think our dollars should go,in a targeted fashion, to where our needs are the greatest. Many homeowners have had theirproperty taxes go down due to value changes and the notion of lowering taxes and then payingfor that by raising additional revenue does not seem right to me. In addition, we are proposingto enact a new levy of $20m. This would be done on an equal and uniform basis. This is called a“Gen Ed levy”. We used to fund schools through this mechanism before the Ventura erachanged that. Some felt, in retrospect, that the Gen Ed levy was more stable and uniform. Byre-enacting it the proponents believe we are moving towards a more predictable and fairapproach. I have attempted to explain this in the simplest way possible. If you want moreinformation please let us know and we will provide it. It is not clear if the Senate proposal willprevail as the House does not include this. At this point, with all due respect for my colleagues, Iprefer the House approach.During the course of the eight-hour debate I voted for many amendments that I thoughtstrengthened the bill and against those I didn’t. Some prevailed and some did not. One of thebiggest policy changes is in the testing arena. Our proposal changes our testing from the MCA’sand the Grad to a standard ACT approach. I strongly prefer this as it better aligns our E-12system with the post-secondary system. Our students get feedback early about where they arein comparison to what is required for the next phase. This is a major change and I think willeliminate unnecessary irrelevant testing. In the end, I voted for the bill not because I agree withall of its’ direction and contents, but because it was the bill of consensus, directing ourresources and best intentions to our most treasured asset, our children. I will continue to workon this throughout the winding legislative process and will do what I can to shape it in waysthat deliver the highest quality return.

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