Our Efforts To Make A Difference
2017 Legislative Session Updates
▲Met goal this session.
►Did not fully meet goal but maintained position.
▼Did not meet goal this session.
From September 2016 to December 2016, the Citizens League convened a 21-member study committee to study transit finance – a recommendation from the Citizens League-led effort on Met Council reform. Visit the Citizens League’s comprehensive project page for background, meeting minutes, the final report, and links to media mentions.
▲End of session update
Governor Dayton signed the transportation bill into law on Tuesday, May 30th. The Governor’s signed letter to legislative leaders can be found here. In the letter, Governor Dayton explained that he signed the bill despite the fact that it “falls short of funding the needed investments in metro area transit.” His comment aligns with the problem statements that our bi-partisan transit study committee identified:
- There is a structural funding shortfall for transit system maintenance and expansion.
- There is unpredictability in the state level of transit finance
The transit study committee also identified the growth and rising costs associated with Metro Mobility.
Although the Citizens League’s transit finance recommendations included financing options that were not included in the final transportation bill, we are pleased the following provisions were passed:
- Continues $89.82 million base General Fund appropriation for 2020/21.
- One-time appropriation of $70 million in the FY2018-2019 biennium, which will close the projected $67.5 million budget deficit. (This is an increase from the initial $30 million that was presented in the conference committee report. Despite the increase, the Citizens League remains concerned that this is a temporary, partial fix that does not address the structural problem of increasing costs, from inflation and Metro Mobility demand growth.)
- Creates a Metro Mobility Enhancement Task Force, including members from transportation network companies and taxi companies.
Metropolitan Council Reforms
From September 2015 to March 2016, the Citizens League convened a 19-member task force to study the Met Council in order to recommend governance changes. Visit the Citizens League’s comprehensive project page for background, meeting minutes, the final report, and links to media mentions.
►End of session update
The recommendations from the 2016 Met Council Task Force were included in bills this session: HF829/SF641. The House bill was authored by Rep. Frank Hornstein and the Senate bill was authored by Sen. Dibble. Unfortunately, these were not included in the final transportation bill.
In addition, there were other bills that recommended Met Council reforms that the Citizens League opposed: (HF828/SF892 and HF1866/SF1490. (The bills are identical except for additional language requiring legislature to approve any use of state funds for light rail projects including preliminary study in HF1866/SF1490.) These bills would change Met Council governance from 17 members to a 27-member board composed of local elected officials to be appointed by other local elected officials. We opposed these bills because of potential conflict of interest in serving dual roles. The proposal also gives each county equal weight in decision-making, rather than weight based on population. We believed it would also complicate regional planning.
Education and Workforce
To meet projected workforce demands in light of Minnesota’s changing demographic trends, the Citizens League has been leading and supporting efforts that removes barriers and contributes to a skilled workforce. In prior years, the Citizens League helped pass the first-ever higher education attainment goal to provide the state with a unified higher education target.
▲End of session update
As part of a coalition, the Citizens League supported HF1906/SF570. The bill authored by Rep. Jenifer Loon and Sen. Nelson eliminated the gag rule regarding college and university explaining value of dual credit, requires schools to provide equal access to school equipment for PSEO, allows charter schools to participate in middle college high school programs, allows an appeal to the Commissioner of Education regarding grade weighting issues, and lastly, allows Minnesota high schools to establish concurrent enrollment course agreements with colleges and universities in neighboring states (thus giving Minnesota state colleges/universities competition and expanding options for Minnesota high schools and students).
The final bill funding early childhood and K-12 education that the Governor signed contained several important provisions about PSEO and other dual credit programs:
- Requires high schools to make computers, software and wifi available to students who want to do PSEO online
- Requires high schools to provide space for student who want to do PSEO on-line.
- Require high schools to have a policy about weighting grades, and to publish a list of courses on its website. (While this is not what we asked for—we wanted equal weighting for all dual credit courses—this will require school boards to discuss this issue.)
The legislature also allocated $4 million for each of the next two years to help districts create college level courses in high school, and provided for funding to help more high school faculty earn the higher education credits they need to teach these courses such as the College in the Schools program.
Truck Weight Legislation
The Citizens League has actively opposed weight increases for large trucks on the State and Federal level since its 2005 report, Driving Blind. In its work, the Citizens League discovered that large trucks do not pay into the financing of Minnesota roads proportional to their impact. This has been true for decades and remains true today. A main conclusion of the work was the need for greater transparency in transportation finance so that the public can be assured big trucks are paying their share to finance Minnesota roads.
►End of session update
The Citizens League opposed HF1358/SF1063 which would increase the current weight limit from 80,000 to 90,000. In the final transportation bill, a narrowed exemption for road construction materials only was included, with the additional limitation that local permitting authorities have the final say on which roads these heavier trucks are allowed to use.
Minnesota Capitol Pathways Program
In its second year, the Capitol Pathways program placed 34 college students from eleven post-secondary institutions—both 2- and 4-year schools—on paid internships with 33 agencies and organizations that work at the Capitol. Over the course of the session, the interns will be exposed to various career paths, build relationships with established leaders, gain real-world experience in the field, and create a strong professional resume.
▲End of session update
The program increased from last year’s 26 interns to 34 interns for the 2017 session. The program also saw increase in the types of host sites from state agencies to law and lobbying firms. Lastly, the program was featured again on Twin Cities PBS’ Almanac at the Capitol during the legislative session.