Capitol Update 18 5/17/2013
End of session; it’s hard to believe that five months has already gone by. I am proud of the work our team has done this session. My staff and of course, you, your feedback is essential to the work we do at the Capitol – we are a team. The session may be coming to a close, but the action this week was at an all-time high. With history being made and an overnight debate, we have been working intensely in this final week.
(VIDEO) Weekly update from Senator Bonoff. Click here to watch
SF 778: PCA & Childcare Unionization: Next to gun-control and gay marriage, this has been the issue that has drawn the most e-mails and calls to the office. These correspondences flooded in from all across the state, the majority of which have been fiercely against this proposal. The bill, carried by Senator Sandy Pappas, would give Personal Care Attendants and Childcare workers the ability to vote as to whether or not to unionize. I oppose this because I don’t believe that these two groups of
workers are state workers, nor do I believe (based on my interactions with these groups) that the majority of them want to be part of a union. They do incredible work and should be recognized for this, but they do not want this to be the way they are recognized. I voted against this bill when it came to the floor. There was much controversy surrounding this bill, particularly its path to the Senate floor. When this bill first came before me in the Finance committee, I voted against it. The vote was split, 11-11, and thus did not pass with recommendation. Immediately after the vote, rumors began swirling around how the bill would move forward. One plan was to have it included in a conference committee report, behind doors and out of the public view. This would certainly not be the first time that something like this had happened. I believed that if the bill was going to move forward, it was best to have it move in front of the public eye and with every Senator being held accountable to their district for their vote. Thus, the conclusion was reached that we would pass the bill out of committee without recommendation and onto the Senate floor for a full vote. I voted to do that. As many of you may know, the bill was taken up on the floor this past Tuesday. The debate was well over 15 hours, with amendments and debate lasting throughout the night. I voted for almost every GOP amendment that was offered. Finally at 8:30 AM on Wednesday, the last vote was taken. I voted against the bill, as did several other members of my caucus. Ultimately, the bill passed off the floor. It is now up to the House as to whether or not to take it up. Given the controversy and the limited amount of time left in the session, there is much doubt about whether they will hear the bill. In retrospect, I believe having the 15 hour debate was important. It is my hope that this public discussion may ultimately change the direction of this effort.
Marriage Equality: We have reviewed this in previous updates, yet given the historic nature of this bill passage, its signing is important to note. As a coauthor, I proudly voted for it and basked in the overwhelming elation that captured the hearts of thousands. I also noted that not everyone is for this change and acknowledged that those opposed in my district would have their voices heard and respected through the red votes made by some of my colleagues. The Governor has now signed the bill and made same-sex marriage in Minnesota legal – beginning August 1.
(VIDEO) Senator Bonoff’s comments on Marriage Equality
Jobs Omnibus: One of the first Omnibus bills to come back from conference committee was the Jobs and Economic Development bill. I have already described this bill in great length in a past update, so I will not get into the weeds on the details, but I would like to highlight several of my bills that were added as provisions in the bill. The first of which seeks to address the projected shortage in skilled labor that many economists have identified. It instructs the Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED) to work with the Office of Higher Education and MnSCU to compile a labor market analysis that identifies high-growth employment sectors and top job vacancies. DEED and local workforce centers must work with post-secondary institution to develop programs that will facilitate student performance and preparation for high demand jobs. I am proud of this bill and was pleased to see it included in the final Jobs Omnibus. The second provision is an appropriation to attracting major film and T.V. productions to Minnesota. In the ‘90s Minnesota was fourth in this area behind Californ ia, New York and Illinois. Since other states began investing in this area, Minnesota has fallen significantly on this list. We now rank in the high 30’s. This investment has already generated interest from major film producers. The energy bill was placed within this conference report. As usual, there were things I didn’t support. Our solar mandate went from 1% to 1.25%, the House had proposed a 4% mandate. I am for solar, I just don’t like mandates.
Senator Bonoff with Representative Gene Pelowski, Chair of the House Higher Education and Workforce Development, during conference committee this past week.
SF 1236: Higher Education Omnibus: On Friday, the Senate passed the final version of the bill that I, along with my staff and Higher Education committee members, have been crafting for the past five months. I am extremely proud of the work we have accomplished and the final compromise we reached with the House and Chair Gene Pelowski. We have proposed an equitable split in investment between the University of Minnesota, MnSCU, and our State Grant program. We put together a bill that freezes tuition at all public post-secondary institutions for the next two years, while leaving room for programs aimed at preparing our students for the workforce of tomorrow. In addition, we changed the State Grant program to reflect actual cost to students. We opened up the formula to support the new kind of student we are seeing come out of the recession, the part-time student. This group is increasing in numbers as more and more kids find it necessary to work full-time in order to pay for school and cannot commit to a full 15 credit load. The changes we have made allow thousands of additional students to access grants to assist in paying for school. We raised the cap on how much money they can access, meaning that they will be able to attend schools that would have previously been too expensive to even consider applying for. In addition to these monumental provisions, we include language that gives preference to our veterans and allows them to receive credit for their experience while serving. Finally, in conference committee, we added the Prosperity Act to the bill, making a dream come true for Minnesotans who, of no fault of their own, have not had access to financial aid and have thus been all but shut out of attending post-secondary institutions.
Stay tuned for next week’s Capitol Wrap-Up and, as always, let me know what you think Email: email@example.com Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/tbonoff Twitter: https://twitter.com/terri_bonoff Phone: 651-296-4314