January 29, 2010
2010 Legislative Session Fast Approaches
With the Minnesota Legislature scheduled to convene on Thursday, February 4, the pace of pre-session activity has picked up substantially in the last week. Although committees cannot officially take action until the Legislature convenes, several committees have been holding "informational" hearings on bills likely to come before the committees. The legislative agenda will be focused on dealing with the State's $1.2 billion deficit for the current biennium. The budget deficit has been complicated by a Ramsey County District Court ruling. The ruling by Judge Gearin states the Governor exercised his budget power of unallotment unconstitutionally in cutting the State budget at the end of the 2009 session.
Governor Pawlenty announced Tuesday that the state plans to defer payment of about $423 million in state aid to 231 school districts across Minnesota in order for the state to avoid short term borrowing. State law requires that the payments be made by May 30 and some districts may be looking for short-term loans in the meantime. School districts with higher reserve fund balances will have the most money postponed. This delay is the second of its kind in the last year. In July, Governor Pawlenty put off paying $1.2 billion to school districts for which there is no deadline for payment.
The Governor will give the 2010 State of the State Address on February 11, at 11:00 a.m. from the House Chamber at the Capitol. The Governor's office plans to release his supplemental budget prior to the address.
Much of the legislative activity this week has concerned the capital bonding bill. Committees in both houses heard from project proposers for bonding appropriations in the transportation, higher education, economic development and environment and natural resources areas. Governor Pawlenty has announced his bonding priorities but the legislative bills being developed will not necessarily match up. The Senate Capital Investment Committee will be hearing the Senate bonding bill on February 4, the first day of session. The House and Senate are tentatively scheduled to complete work in the conference committee on the bonding bill by February 15, a lightening-fast schedule. Governor Pawlenty can sign, veto, or sign and line-item veto the bonding bill when it reaches his desk.
The 2010 election season begins next Tuesday, February 2, with precinct caucuses, which are the first step in electing delegates to the April State political party endorsing conventions. There are now 24 candidates in the gubernatorial race, many of whom are state legislators, and there is still no clear front-runner. Twenty of the candidates turned out for a debate in Bloomington on Wednesday, January 27. The candidates, ten DFLers, six Republicans, and four members of the Independence Party, discussed issues important to Minnesotans such as taxes and the possibility of a new Vikings stadium.
Pawlenty's Reform Initiative Aims to Save Minnesotans $250 Million
Governor Pawlenty announced that the "Drive to Excellence" reform initiative launched in 2005, has a goal of saving the state $250 million by July of 2011. The program works to save state and local government tax dollars by avoiding unnecessary costs, and also aims to improve agency efficiency and customer service amongst various government departments. Pawlenty will use this initiative to help hold state government accountable for every tax dollar spent. Information can be found at http://www.excellence.state.mn.us.
For up-to-date information about the Minnesota Legislature, tune into Almanac: At the Capitol. This lively and informative program is aired Wednesdays during the legislative session on Twin Cities Public Television at 7:00 PM on Channel 17 and at 10:00 PM on Channel 2.
Almanac: At the Capitol is seen on all public television stations throughout Minnesota and in Fargo. Winthrop & Weinstine is the exclusive law-firm partner and a sponsor of the program.
For more information and to see previous broadcasts, check out the
Almanac: At the Capitol Web site at http://tpt.org/aatc/