2016 State Relations Session Summary
On March 8, 2016, the Minnesota Legislature convened for a historically short legislative session. In part due to the State Capitol renovations, the Republican-led House and DFL-led Senate had only 10 weeks to tackle their priorities. In even-numbered years of the biennium, the legislature typically focuses on crafting a bonding bill. This year, the legislature also considered whether to spend a projected state budget surplus of $900 million.
The legislature and Governor Dayton were unable to reach a compromise on a bonding bill before the constitutionally mandated end of session on May 23. However, lawmakers passed a $182 million supplemental budget bill that the governor signed into law. Legislative leadership and the governor continue to meet to discuss a potential special session.
This session, Minnesota legislators introduced 3,068 bills and passed 109 of these bills onto the governor. The governor signed all but two of these bills into law. The University of Minnesota's Office of Government and Community Relations tracked over 500 bills relevant to the University. This marks the end of the legislative biennium; all bills that did not pass are no longer active. The 2017 regular legislative session is set to begin on January 3, 2017; although, the governor can call a special session at any time.
Below are 2016 Minnesota legislative session highlights.
2016 Capital Request
The University of Minnesota's 2016 Capital Request included six projects:
- Higher Education Asset Preservation and Replacement ($100 million in state funding)
- Chemistry and Advanced Materials Sciences Building ($27.2 million in state funding)
- Health Sciences Education Facility ($66.7 million in state funding)
- Plant Growth Research Facility ($4.4 million in state funding)
- Academic and Student Experience Investments ($16 million in state funding)
- Pillsbury Hall Renovation ($22 million in state funding)
Tours and hearings
Well before the 2016 legislative session convened, legislators, as well as officials from Minnesota Management and Budget and the governor's office, spent months touring bonding project proposals throughout Minnesota. These tours included several stops at University of Minnesota campuses:
- On August 12, the House Capital Investment Committee members and staff toured projects on the Crookston campus.
- On September 15, the Senate Capital Investment Committee members and staff received a presentation on projects on the Duluth campus.
- On September 18, Minnesota Management and Budget Commissioner Myron Frans and agency staff members toured projects on the Duluth campus.
- On September 22, the House Capital Investment Committee members and staff toured projects on the Duluth campus.
- On September 29, Commissioner Frans, State Budget Director Margaret Kelly, and staff members toured projects on the Twin Cities campus.
- On September 30, the Senate Capital Investment Committee members and staff toured projects on the Crookston campus.
- On October 14, the House Capital Investment Committee members and staff toured capital projects on the Twin Cities campus.
- On December 15 and 17, the Senate Capital Investment Committee members and staff toured capital projects on the Twin Cities campus.
- On January 14, House and Senate higher education committee members and staff toured capital projects on the Twin Cities campus.
- On March 22, Lieutenant Governor Tina Smith visited the Duluth campus to highlight the proposed Chemistry and Advanced Materials Science Building.
The University of Minnesota was asked to present its 2016 Capital Request at four legislative hearings:
- On March 3, President Kaler and Vice President of University Services Pamela Wheelock presented the request to the House Capital Investment Committee.
- On March 22, President Eric Kaler, Vice President of University Services Pamela Wheelock, and Vice President and Chief Financial Officer Richard Pfutzenreuter presented the request to the Senate Higher Education and Workforce Development Committee. Nick Wilson, executive director of the Minnesota Student Legislative Coalition, and Linda Bearinger, faculty legislative liaison, provided testimony in support of the request.
- On March 23, President Eric Kaler, Vice President of University Services Pamela Wheelock, and Vice President and Chief Financial Officer Richard Pfutzenreuter presented the request to the House Higher Education Policy and Finance Committee. Nick Wilson, executive director of the Minnesota Student Legislative Coalition, and Linda Bearinger, faculty legislative liaison, provided testimony in support of the request.
- On April 5, the Senate Capital Investment Committee held a hearing on asset preservation. Vice President of University Services Pam Wheelock testified in support of the University's Higher Education Asset Preservation and Replacement (HEAPR) request. Nick Wilson, executive director of the Minnesota Student Legislative Coalition, testified in support of the request.
Recommendations from the governor, House, and Senate
On February 26, Governor Dayton proposed a $1.4 billion bonding bill, including $153.3 million for University of Minnesota capital investment projects. The proposal provided $55 million for HEAPR, $27.2 million for the Chemistry and Advanced Materials Science Building, $66.7 million for the Health Sciences Education Facility, and $4.4 million for the Plant Growth Research Facility. The governor's proposal did not include funding for the Academic and Student Experience Investments or the Pillsbury Hall Renovation.
On April 7, the House proposed a $600 million target for a bonding bill; however, they did not provide any further details at that time.
On May 2, the Senate released its $1.5 billion bonding bill proposal, including $61.5 million for HEAPR, and full funding for the Chemistry and Advanced Materials Science Building, the Health Sciences Education Facility, and the Plant Growth Research Facility. This proposal also did not include funding for the Academic and Student Experience Investments or the Pillsbury Hall Renovation.
On May 18, the House announced the details of its bonding bill recommendations. The $800 million proposal contained $65.8 million for two University of Minnesota projects: $31.6 million for HEAPR and $27.2 million for the Chemistry and Advanced Materials Science Building.
On May 22, minutes before midnight, the House passed a $1.1 billion bonding bill, including $50 million for Higher Education Asset Prevention and Replacement (HEAPR), $27.2 million for the Chemistry and Advanced Materials Science Building, and $4.4 million for the Plant Growth Research Facility. This bill did not include funding for the Health Sciences Education Facility, the Academic and Student Experience Investments, or the Pillsbury Hall Renovation.
Instead of agreeing to the bill just passed off the House floor, the Senate amended it and returned it to the House. The House, however, adjourned sine die prior to acting on the amended bill received from the Senate, thereby ending the possibility of a bonding bill passing in the regular legislative session.
FY 2017 Supplemental Budget Request
The University of Minnesota Board of Regents requested $17.35 million in recurring state funding and $21.50 million in one-time state funding for its FY 17 Supplemental Budget Request.
The request included four initiatives:
- Cyber security ($19 million one-time)
- Health training restoration ($10.5 million recurring)
- Mining Innovation Minnesota ($3.6 million recurring)
- Healthy Minnesota ($3.25 million recurring; $2.5 million one-time)
On March 22, President Eric Kaler and Vice President and Chief Financial Officer Richard Pfutzenreuter presented the FY17 Supplemental Budget Request to the Senate Higher Education and Workforce Development committee. Nick Wilson, executive director of the Minnesota Student Legislative Coalition, and Linda Bearinger, faculty legislative liaison, also provided testimony in support of the request.
On March 23, President Eric Kaler and Vice President and Chief Financial Officer Richard Pfutzenreuter presented the FY17 Supplemental Budget Request to the House Higher Education Policy and Finance Committee. Nick Wilson, executive director of the Minnesota Student Legislative Coalition, and Linda Bearinger, faculty legislative liaison, also provided testimony in support of the request.
On April 13, President Kaler provided testimony in the House Higher Education Policy and Finance Committee on its higher education omnibus bill, including provisions related to the FY17 Supplemental Budget Request.
On May 6, President Kaler sent a letter to the supplemental budget conference committee, discussing the University's position on higher education provisions in the bill.
Recommendations from the governor, House, and Senate
On March 15, Governor Dayton released his FY17 supplemental budget recommendations. The proposed budget included full funding for three projects in the University's supplemental budget request: $19 million for Cyber Security, $10.5 million for Health Training Restoration, and $5.75 million for Healthy Minnesota.
On April 7, the House announced its targets for the FY17 supplemental budget. The House proposal did not contain any increases in spending for higher education for FY17.
On April 13, the Senate announced its FY17 supplemental budget targets. The targets included $47.7 million in increased spending for higher education. The Senate supplemental budget bill provided funding for two University initiatives: $5 million for Health Training Restoration and $3.1 million for Mining Innovation Minnesota.
On May 22, the House and Senate passed a supplemental budget bill that included funding for two University requested FY17 initiatives: $800,000 ongoing for Health Training Restoration and $2.6 million for Mining Innovation Minnesota. The governor signed the bill on June 1.
Other legislative topics
Fetal tissue research
President Eric Kaler, Vice President for Research Brian Herman, and Medical School Dean and Vice President for Health Sciences Brooks Jackson testified three times in the House Higher Education Committee on fetal tissue research. They expressed their concerns about three related bills that received a hearing. The committee passed a provision that redirected $14 million in funding from the U of M's medical discovery teams to establish a fetal tissue research center; however, this provision was amended in the House Ways and Means Committee. In the end, no fetal tissue research language passed the legislature this session.
In March, President Eric Kaler and other University leaders provided an update on athletics to both the House and Senate higher education committees. The presentations included updates on the athletic department's finances and the results of the 2015 audit of the department. In the Senate, Karen Schanfield from Fredrikson & Byron presented the results of their external review regarding sexual harassment and the athletics department.
Human subjects research
Also in March, President Eric Kaler, Vice President for Research Brian Herman, and Dean of the Medical School and Vice President for Health Sciences Brooks Jackson provided the House and Senate Higher Education Committees with an update on the progress of the University's human research participant protection program. President Kaler reemphasized the University's commitment to upholding the highest ethical standards in research practices involving human participants.
On May 19, the Office of the Legislative Auditor presented a review of restructuring under way at the University related to human participant research and clinical drug studies. Legislative Auditor James Nobles testified that the University had implemented many encouraging and ambitious changes and that more were under way. Vice President for Research Brian Herman and Medical School Dean and Vice President for Health Sciences Brooks Jackson testified that the implementation plan was on time and on target, and answered legislators' questions.
President Kaler and University leaders also presented on the following topics at the request of the House and Senate Higher Education Committees:
- Campus safety
- Administrative costs
- College Completion Report
- Collegiate Recovery Program
Legislative Action Network
The University's legislative advocacy membership soared to over 19,000 members. The group comprises alumni, faculty, staff, students, and community members who engage with their elected officials through the Legislative Action Network website or have attended events, shared their stories showcasing their U support, written letters to elected officials, or participated in other advocacy efforts.
Weekly updates were sent to this list to keep high level advocates engaged and updated on University efforts at the legislature.
Legislative Kickoff Breakfast
On February 24, over 300 University of Minnesota students, faculty, alumni, staff, and supporters attended the Legislative Kickoff Breakfast at McNamara Alumni Center. The purpose of the event was to demonstrate the importance of sharing your U of M story with legislators. Attendees wrote postcards to their elected officials, signed up for the Legislative Action Network, and shared their stories on social media.
Support the U Day
On March 29, over 200 students, alums, faculty, and staff visited the State Capitol for "Support the U Day." Collectively, University advocates held over 75 meetings with legislators and sent over 200 tweets with the hashtags #umnproud and #whystudentsmatter.
Bulldog Day at the Capitol
April 13 was Bulldog Day at the State Capitol. University of Minnesota Duluth students rallied for the University's requests and spoke with lawmakers about their experiences at UMD.
This year the University adopted a new advocacy software tool and sent eight calls-to-action over the legislative session to members of the Legislative Action Network. The response far exceeded last year's total of 1,000 electronic messages, with 3,500 individuals sending over 10,000 electronic messages to elected officials.
This year, students and faculty sent nearly 500 postcards to their state legislators to voice their support for the University. Of these, 198 postcards were sent on Support the U Day. Another 79 postcards were in support of the proposed Pillsbury Hall renovations, a project on the University's 2016 capital request list. Other cards stressed the important research being done at the U to benefit all of Minnesota, and the need for continued legislative support.
In December, the University hosted a media tour of its 2016 Capital Request projects. On March 14, President Kaler held a press conference at the capitol regarding the University's Capital Request and Supplemental Budget Request. President Kaler also appeared on Twin Cities Public Television's Almanac, WCCO, and MPR to advocate for the capital requests.
University leaders and advocates wrote 11 op-eds and two letters to the editor published in cities across Minnesota, including in Burnsville, Crookston, Duluth, Luverne, Minneapolis, St. Cloud, St. Paul, and Virginia, in support of the requests.
The Office of Government and Community Relations created two websites to highlight media coverage of the University's requests:
Four newsletters were created this session to highlight students, events, and University connections in communities around the state. Over 100 copies of these newsletters were sent to legislative leaders, including 19 legislators whose focus is higher education, 49 legislators who are U of M alumni, and 100 lawmakers in greater Minnesota and on the Iron Range.
The Office of Government and Community Relations continued to advocate for the University's requests and engage with legislators, students, employees, and alumni on Twitter using the handle @UMNGovRelations. This session, @UMNGovRelations sent 156 tweets that were retweeted 316 times and included 10 infographics and links to the 2016 Capital Request videos. Student videos endorsing and promoting bonding projects were tweeted as well.
State Relations Updates
The Office of Government and Community Relations sent 20 State Relations Updates via email this past year and posted the updates online. These updates were designed to engage University faculty and staff in the legislative process and provide details of the status of key legislation concerning the University.
Legislator and legislative staff events
The Office of Government and Community Relations hosted several campus visits for legislators and staff throughout the year. Below are some of the highlights:
Greater Minnesota legislator outreach
President Kaler and the state relations team visited over 20 cities across Minnesota prior to the start of session. During these trips, President Kaler and Government Relations staff met with 43 members of the Minnesota Legislature. President Kaler's visits included stops in Alexandria, Albert Lea, Austin, Clearbrook, Crookston, Duluth, Glencoe, Granite Falls, Hibbing, Maple Lake, Moorhead, Morris, Morton, Red Wing, Redwood Falls, Rochester, Starbuck, St. Cloud, Waseca, Willmar, Winona, and the Twin Cities. The Government Relations team visited 14 additional cities to meet with local legislators.
Legislative staff visits to Duluth and Twin Cities campuses
On August 12, legislative staff visited the Community University Health Care Clinic, the Stem Cell Institute, and the Clinical and Translational Science Institute Van. They also visited the School of Dentistry Simulation Lab, where they practiced drilling on artificial teeth. Finally, they toured the Visible Heart Lab, where they held a 3D-printed heart.
On September 9, legislative staff toured facilities on the St. Paul campus, including the Veterinary Medical Center, the Vet Diagnostic Lab, the Vet Isolation Labs, the Aquaponics Research Space, and and The Raptor Center.
On October 6, legislative staff visited the Duluth campus. They toured the campus, participated in a virtual reality classroom experiment, and visited the NRRI facility. Participants learned more about the work of the University and interacted with University faculty, leaders, and students.
Project Medical Education
On September 29, state legislators from the committees on higher education and health and human services visited the Medical School for an event titled "Project Medical Education." Legislators were invited to step into the shoes of a medical student by learning about the admissions process, participating in a mock white coat ceremony, and learning about the curriculum and training in the first four years. They then continued into the residency program, where they shadowed a medical school student and resident on hospital rounds.
Minnesota Aquatic Invasive Species Research Center ribbon cutting
On Wednesday, March 2, the University celebrated the renovation of the Minnesota Aquatic Invasive Species Research Center (MAISRC) on the St. Paul campus. Attendees included CFANS dean Brian Buhr, MAISRC director Susan Galatowitsch, Minnesota Department of Natural Resources commissioner Tom Landwehr, Representative Cindy Pugh, Representative Alice Hausman, and Representative Rick Hansen, along with University researchers and students. The newly renovated 10,000 square-foot state-of-the-art lab received funding from the 2014 Minnesota Legislature, the Environment and Natural Resources Trust Fund, the Clean Water Fund, and the University of Minnesota.
State of the State address and reception at McNamara
On March 9, due to the State Capitol renovation currently under way, Governor Dayton delivered his State of the State address at McNamara Alumni Center on the University of Minnesota's Twin Cities campus. President Eric Kaler spoke at the event, welcoming the legislature and the governor's cabinet to campus. Before the governor's address, the University of Minnesota Alumni Association hosted a reception for members of the legislature and their guests. Over 300 people attended the reception.
On March 10, President Kaler and Mrs. Kaler hosted a reception at Eastcliff, inviting legislative leadership, as well as members of the higher education and capital investment committees. Over 20 legislators attended.
Board of Regents' Legislative Breakfast
On March 30, the Board of Regents invited all legislators to join them for breakfast at the Minnesota History Center. Over 20 legislators attended, including the chairs of the House higher education and capital investment committees.
UMAA breakfast with legislative staff and interns
On April 12, legislators and legislative staff who are U of M alumni attended a networking breakfast with current students who are serving as interns at the State Capitol. President Kaler addressed the crowd of nearly 50 alumni, highlighting the critical role the University plays in the state and the importance of alumni networking with current students. Alumni Association CEO Lisa Lewis also addressed the group, discussing how a robust alumni network can benefit everyone. This inaugural breakfast will become an annual event, with the goal of developing a strong University community at the State Capitol.
Fiscal notes are requested by legislators to help them understand the fiscal implications of legislation. A fiscal note estimates the costs, savings, revenue gain, or loss resulting from the implementation of proposed legislation. During the 2016 legislative session, the University of Minnesota received 11 fiscal note requests from the state.
Each year, the Legislature mandates reports and studies from different government and public agencies, oftentimes tied to state appropriations. To date, the University has submitted 13 mandated reports this year. View the 2016 mandated reports.
Elections and retirements
All 201 Minnesota legislators are up for election on November 8, 2016. Twelve senators and ten representatives are retiring. Additionally, Senator Terri Bonoff, chair of the Senate Higher Education and Workforce Development Committee, is running for U.S. Congress, and five House members are running for open Senate seats. In sum, 11% of the House and 19% of the Senate will be open seat elections. View a list of legislative retirements.
Supplemental budget - H.F. 2749
The supplemental budget bill includes funding for two University requested FY17 initiatives:
- Health Training Restoration - $800,000 ongoing
- Mining Innovation Minnesota - $2.6 million
The bill also contains policy and funding for these University programs:
- Rochester campus collegiate recovery program - $100,000
- Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory equipment - $283,000
- Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory software tool - $600,000 in FY17; $1.2 million in FY18-19
- Forever Green Agriculture Initiative - $1 million
- Cultivated wild rice research - $450,000 ongoing
- Potato breeding research - $350,000 ongoing
- State ombudsman monitoring of Department of Psychiatry clinical drug trials
- Extension of the Farmer Lender Mediation program
Legislative-Citizens Commission on Minnesota Resources - S.F. 2963
On May 22, the legislature passed the Legislative-Citizens Commission on Minnesota Resources (LCCMR) bill. It contained $15.76 million for 33 University of Minnesota projects. However, on May 31, Governor Dayton line-item vetoed seven projects in the bill, including $1.1 million for the University's Mining Innovation Minnesota initiative. In his letter to the legislature, the governor stated he did not oppose these seven projects, but that he vetoed them because they did not go through the LCCMR annual approval process. Here is the list of projects that did receive funding:
- Data-Driven Pollinator Conservation Strategies - $520,000
- Assessment Tool for Understanding Vegetation Growth Impacts on Groundwater Recharge - $212,000
- Restoration of Elk to Northeastern Minnesota - $300,000
- Game and Nongame Bird Pesticide Exposure - $349,000
- Evaluation of Tree Retention Guidelines Pertaining to Wildlife - $232,000
- Determine Impacts on Wildlife from Emerald Ash Borer Infection of Black Ash Forests - $334,000
- Assessing the Increasing Harmful Algal Blooms in Minnesota Lakes - $270,000
- Assessing Neonicotinoid Insecticide Effects on Aquatic and Soil Communities - $400,000
- Bacterial Assessment of Groundwater Supplies Used for Drinking Water - $299,000
- Understanding Bedrock Fracture Flow to Improve Groundwater Quality - $183,000
- Assessment of Surface Water Quality with Satellite Sensors - $345,000
- Development of Innovative Sensor Technologies for Water Monitoring - $509,000
- Wastewater Treatment Process Improvements - $398,000
- Membrane-based Process for Decentralized Drinking Water Production - $191,000
- Understanding Impacts of Salt Usage on Minnesota Lakes, Rivers, and Groundwater - $497,000
- Microbes for Salt and Metal Removal - $596,000
- Engineered Biofilter for Sulfate and Metal Removal from Mine Waters - $440,000
- Developing Biosponge Technology for Removal of Nitrates from Minnesota Waters - $198,000
- Assessing Effectiveness of Wetland Restorations for Improved Water Quality - $420,000
- Minnesota Invasive Terrestrial Plants and Pests Center - Phase III - $3,750,000
- Developing Membrane Filtration System to Treat Lake Superior Ballast Water - $151,000
- Advancing Microbial Invasive Species Monitoring from Ballast Discharge - $368,000
- Biological Control of White Nose Syndrome in Bats - Phase II - $452,000
- Elimination of Target Invasive Plant Species - Phase II - $239,000
- Dutch Elm Disease Resistance - Phase II - $200,000
- Waste Heat Recovery with Efficient Thermoelectric Energy Generators - $400,000
- Hydrogen Fuel from Wind-Produced Renewable Ammonia - $250,000
- Utilization of Dairy Farm Wastewater for Sustainable Production - $475,000
- Solar Energy Utilization for Minnesota Swine Farms - Phase II - $475,000
- Bee Pollinator Habitat Enhancement - Phase II - $387,000
- Measuring Pollen and Seed Dispersal for Prairie Fragment Connectivity - $556,000
- Evaluate Prescribed Burning Techniques to Improve Habitat Management for Brushland Species - $267,000
This session, 33 bills passed hat may impact the University of Minnesota. View these bills.