2010 State Relations Session Summary
The 2010 legislative session began in February and ended in a one-day special session on May 17. The focus of the session was two-fold—solving the state's budget shortfall and passing capital investment legislation. The University of Minnesota was affected in both areas, receiving budget reductions as well as appropriations for capital investment projects.
More than 2,530 bills were introduced during this session. Government Relations tracked more than 369 pieces of legislation with potential impacts to the University as they made their way through the committee process, with many becoming state law. Below is a summary of the 2010 legislative session and the major legislation that affects the University.
Permanent state funding reductions were passed midsession, reducing the University of Minnesota budget by $36,120,000. This amount was applied on a proportional basis to operations and maintenance (O & M) funds and the state specials. The funds differ in that the University can move O & M funds into programs funded through state specials, but state special appropriated funds cannot be moved out of the specific state special. Additionally, state special appropriations can only be reduced by the legislature. The reductions were as follows:
- O & M: $32,223,000
- Agriculture State Special: $2,787,000
- Health Science State Special: $281,000
- Institute of Technology State Special: $74,000
- System State Special: $328,000
- U of M/Mayo Foundation State Special: $427,000
Additionally, the budget balancing bill passed during the one-day special session increased reductions to University O & M and state specials, and included the $50 million that the governor had originally unalloted from the University's budget. Those reductions were also proportional, as follows:
- O & M: $44,606,000
- Agriculture State Special: $3,858,000
- Health Science State Special: $389,000
- Institute of Technology State Special: $102,000
- System State Special: $454,000
- U of M/Mayo Foundation State Special: $591,000
The Capital Investment bill was completed relatively early in the legislative session as legislators had a goal of providing jobs in the construction industry as quickly as possible. All of the University of Minnesota's projects were funded by the legislature. The Physics and Nanotechnolgy building, however, was provided planning money rather than the full funding that was requested, and the HEAPR projects were funded at $56 million rather than the $100 million requested.
When the bill was sent to the governor, he vetoed over $300 million in projects. Included in those vetoes were $3.7 million for the Itasca Biological Station and Labs and $6.7 million for the UMD American Indian Learning Resource Center.
Tuition Benefit for Senior Citizens
Current law allows a senior citizen who is a legal resident of Minnesota to attend (or audit) courses offered for credit or to enroll in noncredit courses in any state-supported higher education institution in Minnesota when space is available after all tuitionpaying students have been accommodated. The definition of senior citizen was changed this year from 62 to 66 years of age.
Nanotechnology Research and Education
The University of Minnesota is asked to report on ethical issues and principles for nanotechnology research, development and education used by the institution. The report must also include the standards and guidelines that protect public health and the environment and provide for occupational health and safety.
Minnesota Food Products
Colleges and universities in the state must reasonably attempt to identify and purchase food products that are grown within the state. Current University practices support local agriculture: through a partnership with the Midwest Food Alliance, UDS purchased 190,868 pounds of local produce, 45,639 pounds of local meat, 104,469 gallons of local dairy and 28,101 pounds of local bakery products in 2009.
The Office of Higher Education may match individual student data from the student record enrollment database with individual student financial aid data collected and maintained by the office in order to audit or evaluate federal- or state-supported education programs.
The State of Minnesota had a shortfall in the higher education state grant program of more than $40 million. For the first time, in the coming academic year, the state will not fully fund the identified financial needs of the students eligible for the program.
The Achieve Scholarship was also changed, affecting awards in the 2010-2011 academic year. Eligibility was narrowed to students who have an assigned family responsibility of $0 and the award will be reduced to $1,200 per year. Awards will be made to those that complete an application by August 31, and if there is shortfall in funds, all awards will be reduced proportionally.
Economic Development Plan for the State
Many legislative committees held hearings during the session regarding the need for the State of Minnesota to have a comprehensive economic development plan. Vice President Tim Mulcahy testified numerous times about the future economic development needs of the state. The final legislation addressing this issue created a Minnesota Science and Technology Authority. The authority consists of the commissioners of employment and economic development, management and budget, revenue, commerce and agriculture. Additionally, an advisory commission is established, including two representatives of the University of Minnesota. The advisory commission will assist the authority in developing a comprehensive science and technology economic development plan to be presented to various legislative committees next session.
Medical Education and Research Costs (MERC)
Governor Pawlenty had proposed an 83 percent cut to the Medical Education and Research Costs (MERC) program in his budget. This represents a $55 million reduction and would have been devastating to the hands-on education and training of University students in area hospitals, health and dental clinics, pharmacies and other health care sites. If allowed to become law, the University's own clinical training programs faced a 33 percent cut of more than $1.7 million. The University's community partners, such as HCMC, Regions, Fairview, St. Mary's and St. Luke's of Duluth, faced even larger reductions of nearly $53 million. Fortunately, these reductions were not enacted by the legislature, and there were no major changes to the MERC program or funding for FY 11.
There was a carve out of funds, $150,000, from the Academic Health Center's direct MERC appropriation to support the training of foreign-trained physicians. This was an outgrowth of extensive discussions prior to session with the Somali Health Professional Association, and discussions continue with the Medical School on how to implement these changes.
Critical Access Dental Payments
The Critical Access Dental program was one of the line items that had been unallotted by Governor Pawlenty in July 2009, at the time eliminating the program for FY 11. The legislature took this opportunity to continue the program, although they made substantial changes and scaled down the scope of those providers that would qualify for this enhanced reimbursement system. The University of Minnesota School of Dentistry and any clinics associated with it are deemed to be critical access dental providers.
Services provided in a licensed birth center, by a licensed health professional, will now be eligible for reimbursement from public health care programs. Nurse midwives practicing in birth centers will receive the same reimbursement as physicians performing the same services in a hospital setting.
Despite a flurry of activity in the Senate, there was no legislation passed this year that made any changes to the dental therapy programs enacted last session.
The Area Health Education Centers (AHECs) are requested to conduct public education related to the provisions of federal health care reform legislation, as enacted under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act and the Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act, and the potential impacts of federal health care reform to Minnesota citizens, employers and health care providers.
A bill was introduced by Senator Kathy Saltzman and Representative Julie Bunn that would have created numerous alternative funding sources for 4-H, other than the traditional county-based approach. This bill sought to give 4-H alternative sources of funding because of the actions taken by Washington County to eliminate their funding commitment to the 4-H program. The bill received numerous hearings in both bodies and eventually was paired down to allowing municipalities to contribute to local 4-H programs. The bill was included in the omnibus agriculture finance bill and was signed into law by the governor.
TCF Bank Stadium Alcohol
During the 2009 session, the legislature modified University liquor licenses for Williams Arena, Mariucci Arena and TCF Bank Stadium. The 2009 legislation stated alcohol could not be served in premium seating areas unless it was also available in general seating areas. Following last session, the Board of Regents adopted the position to cease alcohol service in all venues, as opposed to providing it to everyone. This session, the legislature changed the restriction so that alcohol could be available to the premium seating and suites if alcohol was also made available to at least 1/3 of the general seating areas. The Board of Regents did not seek this change or any other change to the current statue.
Central Corridor Light Rail Transit
Several bills were introduced that would have given the Metropolitan Council the power to use eminent domain to acquire University property for the Central Corridor line. A hearing on these bills was scheduled but never held because of the tentative agreement reached with the Metropolitan Council and the University and because the University granted the Metropolitan Council temporary easements for advance traffic improvements being constructed this summer.
Legislative-Citizens Commision on Minnesota Resources (LCCMR)
LCCMR is a group designated to make recommendation to the legislature on the use of lottery funds dedicated to the environment. This commission has a competitive RFP process to which individuals may apply for funding of various projects that impact the environment. This year, the LCCMR bill appropriated approximately $26 million, including $2.2 million in appropriations to University researchers for projects in the areas of water quality, conservation and energy.
Outdoor Heritage Fund
The Outdoor Heritage Fund is the portion of the recently passed sales tax dedicated to the environment. This fund is to "restore, protect, and enhance Minnesota's wetlands, prairies, forests, and habitat for fish, game, and wildlife." The Lessard-Sams commission is the citizen-based group that makes recommendation to the legislature on the use of money. It makes its decisions on what projects to recommend through an RFP process. This year the legislature appropriated approximately $26 million out of this fund. The appropriation to the University researchers was $7.9 million of that total for various environmental research projects.
2011 Session Preview
The 2011 legislative session will convene on January 4, 2011. The governor and all 201 legislators are up for reelection this fall. There will be a new governor, but control of the House and Senate will not be known until after the election in November. Likewise, we will not know who chairs the various committees until close to the beginning of session. Budget issues are likely to dominate the 2011 agenda.