2012 State Relations Session Summary

The 2012 legislative session began in January and ended on May 10th. The focus of this session was largely passing capital investment legislation, including the University's 2012 request. The University worked diligently to secure funds for several proposed projects through meetings with legislators, staff, and University stakeholders. In the end, the legislature and governor approved $64.1 million in state funding for the University.

Government Relations also worked to track pieces of legislation with potential impacts to the University as they made their way through the committee process, with several becoming state law. Below is a summary of the 2012 legislative session and the major legislation that will affect the University.

Capital Request

Meeting and publications
Leading up to and throughout session, meetings were scheduled with legislators regarding the University's 2012 capital request. Government Relations staff met with legislative leadership, Higher Education Committee members and Capital Investment Committee members to discuss the request and its benefits for Minnesota.

The Office of Government and Community Relations produced a number of informative publications for the legislative session, including one-page summaries of capital request projects with key messages regarding each project in the bonding request. Materials were posted on the new Government and Community Relations website and highlighted by media outlets throughout the session. News articles about the projects were linked to on the website.

In July 2011, staff from the governor's office visited the University to review the 2012 preliminary capital request and become familiar with the merits of each project.

In November 2011, Commissioner Jim Schowalter and Minnesota Management and Budget (MMB) staff visited the University to review the 2012 capital request. MMB is responsible for producing the governor's capital investment proposal and various state financial reports. In addition to hearing a presentation by Vice President Richard Pfutzenreuter and other University staff, the group toured Eddy Hall and viewed the Old Main steam plant.

In December, the Senate Capital Investment Committee participated in a statewide tour of proposed capital investment projects in northeastern Minnesota. The committee visited UMD, and Chancellor Black gave a presentation on the American Indian Learning Resource Center. The committee traveled to northwestern Minnesota and received a presentation from Professor Dave Biesboer on the Itasca research station facilities improvement project. The committee also stopped at UMC to tour the campus and review HEAPR requests.

In March 2012, members of the Senate Capital Investment Committee visited the University's Twin Cities campus to tour the Old Main steam plant at the request of Capital Investment Chair Dave Senjem. The committee requested the tour as it considered projects to be included in the committee's capital investment bill.

Recommendations from the governor, House, and Senate
Governor Dayton's capital bonding bill proposal included $775 million worth of projects: for the University of Minnesota $20 million was allocated for Higher Education Asset Preservation and Replacement (HEAPR), $54 million for the Combined Heat and Power Plant, and $4.06 million for Itasca Facilities Improvements. This proposal marked a significantly lower than requested HEAPR funding level of $90 million and entirely excluded two projects: Eddy Hall and Space Optimization, and the American Indian Learning Resource Center.

The House Capital Investment Committee's 2012 bonding bill recommendations totaled $280 million, $495 million less than the governor's proposal. The committee recommended $39.1 million for the University: $35 million for Higher Education Asset Preservation and Replacement (HEAPR) and $4.1 million for Itasca Facilities Improvements. The bill did not include funding for the Combined Heat and Power Plant, as included in the governor's proposal. The Senate Capital Investment Committee's bonding bill was larger than the House's recommendation, but well below the governor's proposal. The House and Senate had identical levels of support for the University. Press releases were issued in response to the three proposals, as well as letters to legislative leaders and committee chairs to provide increased funding for the University.

View a comparison of each proposal and the final dollar amounts.

The Minnesota Legislature passed the 2012 bonding bill (HF 1752) after increasing project funding for the University from previous bill versions and proposals in the House and Senate. Heeding the governor's threat to veto the bill if the proposed funding disparity between the University and MnSCU was not addressed, the House and Senate consequently increased the U's funding. The Government and Community Relations Office and University leadership worked with legislators to increase HEAPR funding by $10 million, as well as provide funding for the first phase of the Combined Heat and Power Plant. The University projects funded in the bill are as follows:
HEAPR - $50 million
Itasca Biological Station - $4.1 million
Combined Heat and Power Plant - $10 million
Total - $64.1 million in state funding

The bonding bill, totaling $496 million for statewide projects, passed the House on a 99-32 vote on May 7, and it later passed the Senate 45-22 after two amendments were adopted that were unrelated to the University. As a result, there were two versions of the bill. When the House convened on May 8, they accepted the Senate amendments and repassed the bill by a vote of 97-33. The bill was signed into law Governor Dayton on Friday, May 11.

Legislation impacting the University

Bill tracking
Throughout the session, Government Relations staff identified and tracked specific legislation introduced that impacts the University. Through bill tracking, Government Relations staff informed University staff and faculty on key issues to be discussed at the Capitol, and updated staff and faculty on the status of bills as they moved through the legislative process. The House introduced 1,290 bills and the Senate introduced 1,147 bills for the 2012 session. The Government Relations staff tracked 293 bills that could potentially impact the University; 19 of those bills were signed into law.

Higher education omnibus bill (SF 1573)
The House and Senate both adopted and passed the conference committee report on SF 1573, the omnibus higher education bill. The Senate voted 50-13 in favor of the bill, with much of the opposition centered on the student health care provision (outlined below). The House voted 75-54 to pass the bill, with opposition about the provision on Minnesota Board of Teaching assessing fees to students for testing. Governor Dayton signed the bill into law on May 2. The following provisions pertain to the University:

  • Student health care
    This section states that a postsecondary institution must grant a waiver from its required student health insurance plan coverage if requested and if the student has health plan coverage from another source.
  • Student immunizations
    This section adds students that are enrolled only in online classes, or in evening or weekend adult accelerated programs, to the list of students not required to receive certain immunizations.
  • Course schedules, materials and notices to purchase textbooks
    These sections encourage the University to comply with new laws that request that course scheduling class material lists be available on the University's website, and with provisions that deal with textbooks, prices, and versions of previous editions that may be acceptable for student use.
  • Mining, metallurgical or related engineering degree program
    This section redirects a portion of the Permanent University Fund dollars to establish a mining, metallurgical, or related engineering program through the University of Minnesota at Mesabi Range Community and Technical College, and for scholarships for students to attend.
  • Appropriation transfer to HCMC
    This section states that the University of Minnesota must transfer $645,000 each year of the current biennium to the Hennepin County Medical Center for graduate family medicine education programs.
  • Teacher performance assessment student fee
    This section provides for a report from the Minnesota Board of Teaching, with recommendations for eliminating fees charged to students for the teacher performance assessment.
    Health and human services omnibus bill (HF 2294/SF 2093)
    Two provisions in the health and human services omnibus bill pertain to the University:
    Autism housing with supports study
    Directs the commissioner of human services, in consultation with the University of Minnesota and others, to complete a study to determine one or more models of housing with supports for children with an autism diagnosis.

University of Minnesota's biennial budget request
Requests that the University, as part of its biennial budget request, includes a request for funding for rural primary care training for family practice residents.

Alcohol in TCF Bank Stadium (HF 2784/SF 2392)
On April 27, Governor Dayton signed the omnibus liquor bill, which allows alcoholic beverages to be sold at the TCF Bank Stadium both in the premium suites and in a separate area convenient for general ticketholders. The Board of Regents is in control of how this new policy will be implemented. The policy will expire in two years, so the U will be required to obtain reauthorization from the legislature.

Invasive species research center (SF 2493)
The legislature approved $3.8 million in funding for an aquatic invasive species center at the University of Minnesota. The center will focus on controlling and eradicating nonnative species that threaten to disrupt the delicate natural balance in Minnesota's waterways. The funds will be used to hire faculty and improve the facilities on campus that will assist these researchers in finding ways to control these pests. This center will be the first of its kind in the United States and will put the University of Minnesota into a position be a world leader in this area of research.

Initiative for Renewable Energy and the Environment (IREE) funding (SF 2181)
New legislation redistributes Xcel Energy's Renewable Development Fund and eliminates current annual transfers to IREE, thereby eliminating research grants from this program. The legislation does allow higher education institutions to apply for grants around research and development of renewable energy, but offers no certainty around any level of funding.

University legislative committee presentations

In addition to the four committee hearings on the capital request, the University presented on additional topics before legislative committees.

Strategic vision
In a presentation to both the House and Senate higher education committees, President Kaler stressed his commitment to the excellence of academic programs and research, access to the University for all qualified Minnesota students, and the economic impact the University has on the state. Following his remarks, the president answered questions from legislators on issues from tuition to the need for research on how to control aquatic invasive species.

Also presenting on behalf of the University was Professor Chris Cramer from the Department of Chemistry and Katie Miron, an undergraduate in the College of Food, Agriculture and Natural Resource Sciences. Professor Cramer highlighted the role of a strong research university to prepare students to successfully enter the workforce. Ms. Miron told the committee how financial aid has allowed her to pursue her dream of becoming an agricultural educator.

On February 23, the Senate Energy, Utilities, and Telecommunications Committee met for a second hearing regarding the distribution of the Renewable Development Fund (RDF). The committee discussed Senator Julie Rosen's draft legislation, which would eliminate the funding that IREE receives from the RDF.

Steve Kelley, senior fellow and director of the Center for Science, Technology, and Public Policy, testified on the importance of the IREE funding to support competitive University grants. Kelley emphasized the high quality of the peer review process that IREE has established for selecting grant proposals. Jon Foley, director of the Institute on the Environment, testified about the critical role that RDF funding plays in renewable energy research at the University.

Invasive species research
President Eric Kaler, Dean Al Levine, and Professor Peter Sorenson participated in a press conference on Thursday, March 8, to promote a bill introduced by Senator John Carlson. The bill would establish a center for research on aquatic invasive species at the University.

Later that afternoon, the Senate Environment and Natural Resources Committee held a hearing on the bill, which directs $2.8 million from various sources to create this new interdisciplinary center. Professor Sorensen testified about the need for a scientific approach to address invasive species. His hope is that a dedicated center will allow the University to develop tools for the state to control these issues.

Decade of Discovery
The Decade of Discovery initiative, a partnership between the University and Mayo Clinic, was given an informational hearing in the House Health and Human Services Finance Committee. Decade of Discovery's goal is preventing, treating, and ultimately curing diabetes. David Etzwiler, executive director of Decade of Discovery, provided testimony about the work of this collaboration and its impact on Minnesota. Vice president and Medical School dean Aaron Friedman and Dr. Jeanette Ziegenfuss of the Mayo Clinic joined him.

Paid leave and severance
On March 6, President Kaler was asked by the House Higher Education Committee to discuss recent separation and compensation agreements for senior administrators leaving the University that were highlighted in stories appearing in the Star Tribune in January 2012. President Kaler assured legislators that he would rarely grant waivers to existing policies and pledged to consult the Board of Regents about any substantial deviations. Individual meetings were held with numerous legislators concerning this issue.

Legislative communications & events

Capitol meetings
The University continued a strong program of one-on-one meetings between legislators and U representatives. The president, vice presidents, deans, and regents spent considerable time meeting with legislators to push for favorable legislation for the University. Meeting topics included invasive species; IREE; paid leave and severance; Center for Integrative Leadership; textbook bill; capital request; veterans credit benefits; Decade of Discovery; liquor legislation for TCF Bank Stadium; Hennepin County Medical Center payment; and more. The Government and Community Relations team held over 100 meetings with legislators throughout the session.

Legislative receptions at Eastcliff
Five receptions were hosted at Eastcliff by President and Mrs. Kaler to build relationships with key legislative leaders. Legislators were invited according to committees, such as agriculture, health care, and higher education, as well as by congressional district. About 60 legislators attended the receptions. At each reception, President Kaler delivered remarks outlining the University's mission and legislative goals.

Electronic communications
Prior to and throughout session, Government Relations used electronic communication to inform legislators about the University and its position as an asset to Minnesota. In addition to sharing prominent and informative articles from the Star Tribune, Minnesota Public Radio and the Minnesota Daily, Government Relations frequently forwarded University news releases about recent innovations and programs at the University of particular interest to individual legislators.


Legislative Briefing
Each year, the U's Legislative Briefing offers supporters from around the state a chance to hear about the University's priorities at the Capitol just as the legislative session is ramping up. A record crowd of some 409 attendees packed the McNamara Alumni Center on February 1 to hear about the U's request for this session. Another 61 tuned in to a live webcast of the event.

The audience was encouraged to share their own stories about why the U matters and to "aggressively communicate with our legislators and our governor about the importance of our capital request this session." The focus was on the critical importance of each person sharing their stories of how the University of Minnesota has shaped their lives. Postcards were collected and sent out to Minnesota elected officials, each giving a detailed account of why the U is important to an audience member. The last portion of the Legislative Briefing offered a social media tutorial on advocating for the University. By introducing #umnproud, attendees were given the chance to create a Twitter account and "tweet" why they support the U. The hash tag continues to be used daily by students and administration alike.

Support the U Day
The annual student-organized Support the U Rally Day was held at the State Capitol on March 30. Around 400 students registered for the event and approximately 300 attended. Students were briefed on the University's capital request and then they met with key legislators from the Higher Education Committees and Finance Committees to explain the significant student benefits of the capital request. The legislators included: Leaders Senjem, Bakk, Thissen and Dean; Senators Langseth, Fischbach, Dziedzic; and Representatives Kahn, Hausman, Howes, Rukavina, and Nornes among others. Students were also encouraged to meet with their own state legislators; of these students, many met with their legislators for the first time. Support the U Day not only fostered strong civic engagement from the students, but increased legislators' awareness of the University's local impact.

Support the U Day featured 'Discover the U' in the Capitol rotunda. Exhibits showcased the American Indian Learning Resource Center, Professor Barry Kudrowitz and Toy and Product Design students, the Dairy Lab, the Center for Distributed Robotics, Engineers without Borders, the Immigration History Research Center, the Institute on the Environment, the Raptor Center, and the Center for Transportation Studies. Members of the legislature, legislative staff members, and representatives from the Minnesota Historical Society checked out the exhibits and learned more about the U.

Legislative Network
The University's group of legislative advocates reached 21,000 people this session. That group comprises active alumni, faculty, staff, students, and community members that engage with their elected through the Support the U website or have attended events, shared their stories showcasing their U support, written letters to elected officials, or participated in other advocacy efforts.

Calls to action
From January to May, 1,021,050 communications were sent to our audiences seeking support. Those emails generated thousands of emails, handwritten letters, and phone calls from our advocates to elected officials. Fifteen separate calls-to-action were issued to the University's group of legislative advocates throughout the session. From broad calls for support to issue-specific action alerts, communications were sent to network members, faculty and staff, students, alumni, community members, donors, parents of students, and audiences outside of the University asking for their support and for them to engage with their elected officials. Between 30 and 1,200 activists responded to each action alert, depending on the issue and the target audience for the issue. Overall, the calls to action were well received and activists generated anywhere from 60 to 3,600 messages to their elected officials, again depending on the issue and the audience.

Legislator retirements

Several legislators have announced their retirement – some who have been strong supporters for the University. With both the House and Senate up for election in November, these retirements will lead to a large freshman class of legislators for the 2013 session.

House members retiring:
· Mark Buesgens (R - Savage)
· Denise Dittrich (DFL - Champlin)
· John Kriesel (R - Cottage Grove)
· Kurt Bills (R - Rosemount)
· Nora Slawik (DFL - Maplewood)
· Ron Shimanski (R - Silver Lake)
· Marion Greene (DFL - Minneapolis)
· Larry Hosch (DFL - St. Joseph)
· Kate Knuth (DFL - New Brighton)
· Bill Hilty (DFL - Finlayson)
· Mark Murdock (R - Perham)
· Pat Mazorol (R - Bloomington)
· Mindy Greiling (DFL - Roseville)
· Mike LeMieur (R - Little Falls)
· Tom Rukavina (DFL - Virginia)
· Kory Kath (DFL – Owatonna)
· Carol McFarlane (R - White Bear Lake)
· Sandra Peterson (DFL - New Hope)

Senate members retiring:
· Keith Langseth (DFL - Glyndon)
· MaryJo McGuire (DFL - Falcon Heights)
· Gretchen Hoffman (R- Vergas)
· Doug Magnus(R - Slayton)
· Mike Parry (R - Waseca)
· Ken Kelash (DFL-Minneapolis)
· Amy Koch (R-Buffalo)
· Chris Gerlach (R- Apple Valley)
· Mike Jungbauer (R- East Bethel)
· Geoff Michel (R-Edina)
· Linda Higgins (DFL-Minneapolis)
· Claire Robling (R-Shakpoee)
· Gen Olson (R-Minnetrista)
· Al DeKruif (R – Madison Lake)

House members retiring to run for the Senate:
· Connie Doepke (R-Orono)
· Keith Downey (R-Edina)
· Torrey Westrom (R-Elbow Lake)
· Bobby Joe Champion (DFL-Minneapolis)
· Branden Peterson (R-Andover)
· Bev Scalze (DFL-Little Canada)
· Mary Kiffmeyer (R-Big Lake)
· Bruce Anderson (R-Buffalo Township)
· Kent Eken (DFL-Twin Valley)

View all of the State Relations Updates from the 2012 Minnesota Legislative Session.