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March 30, 2007

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Planned Chaos at the St. Paul Capitol
What You Can Do
Julie Quist
 The new DFL leadership in the House and the Senate is thumbing its nose at taxpayers and the public who try to participate.

         Omnibus bills are flying through the Minnesota House and Senate at break-neck speed. The intentional chaos shuts out any meaningful public participation. With a single party controlling both the House and Senate, DFL leaders can insert just about any measure they choose at any time. It's an ugly scene right now.

Senate Education Omnibus: Part I
        Case in point: the Senate rolled out a 126 page, omnibus E-12 Education Finance Bill at 8:00 a.m on Wednesday morning (March 21st). It had no bill number. It wasn't on-line. This was the first time anyone set eyes on which of the massive number of bills that have rolled through the various other committees were included in the E-12 omnibus bill.

        The committee reconvened at 6:00 p.m. that night to take amendments and pass it out of the E -12 Education Budget Committee. In a few short hours the bill was passed out of committee. This included a preschool allowance for which "eligible providers" would be  state-certified  The certification is based on the controversial Early Childhood Indicators of Progress -- the Profile of Learning, diversity-type outcomes. The Senate was expected to later fund that allowance for every family in the state with preschoolers, to coincide with a huge tax increase. The end result is that the Early Childhood Indicators of Progress -- with its gender identity, diversity training, social activism, and environmentalism indoctrination -- will be effectively mandated outcomes for every child care provider in the state -- public and private.

        By moving the bill through the committee in about 12 hours total, from introduction to final vote, the Senate majority intentionally made it impossible for EdWatch or any other group or individual at the legislature to notify you, equip you with names and phone numbers, and put pressure on the committee to vote this terrible system down. You are being thoroughly shut out.

        The Senate committee leaders made it clear that they deliberately "under-funded" early childhood programs in this bill. They also put zero dollars into the K-12 education formula. Why? Committee Democrats were explicit: the public must accept tax increases if they want the majority in the legislature to fund K-12. All of the money went into special ed or a few other programs like International Baccalaureate.

        This devious and under-handed strategy reflects the new Senate Majority Leader, Sen. Larry Pogemiller (DFL-Mpls). EdWatch has butted heads with Pogemiller many times in the past as we battled to repeal the Profile of Learning. As then-Chair of the Senate Education Committee, Pogemiller was its tireless defender.

        The E-12 Education Committee passed the E-12 omnibus bill Wednesday night. Sen. Betsy Wergin (R-Princeton) was quick to add an amendment to require the state to inform parents that preschool screening is NOT required. (See "MN House Democrats Spurn Parental Rights") 

        The E-12 omnibus bill then showed up at 8:00 a.m. on Friday, March 23rd in the Senate Education Finance Committee, now with a number -- SF 2095.

         Sen. Pat Pariseau (R-Farmington) noticed that public accountability for the Minnesota Early Learning Foundation (MELF), put into law in 2005, was being removed. In spite of MELF being given state agency-like authority over policy making that will affect which providers are eligible to receive scholarships, tax credits, grants, allowances or vouchers for early childhood programs, its open meeting requirements are being removed. Pariseau tried to reinsert that accountability, but her amendment was defeated, 4 to 5. (That same amendment was introduced in the House Early Childhood Committee on Monday, March 26th, by Rep. Steve Gottwalt (R-St. Cloud), and it was defeated on a party-line vote, all DFL members opposing making MELF publicly accountable!) MELF is an entirely unaccountable and unelected, private special interest group that is defining outcomes for Minnesota children.

        The next stop for SF 2095 was Saturday in the Finance Committee, and then it showed up on the floor of the Senate on Monday, March 26th. The entire process of this major policy and finance education bill was completed in five working days.

        Why the rush? Majority leaders in both the House and the Senate do not want their members to have to vote on amendments. They don't want their newly elected members, who were elected as "moderates," to be subject to public pressure. The new leadership in St. Paul is thumbing its nose at taxpayers and the public who try to participate.

Senate Education Omnibus: Part II
        If this picture looks smarmy, it pales in comparison to the 2nd (yes, 2nd) education spending bill that zapped in from outer space Thursday, March 29th. The Education Finance Committee, where spending bills originate, wasn't meeting, but the full Finance Committee was. So a nondescript appropriation bill (SF 406) suddenly morphed without notice into the new Senate education omnibus spending bill.

        Think about this. Without notice, normal procedure was abandoned, and a massive new education funding bill was created on the spot out of a nothing bill. $54 million was suddenly added to the preschool allowances that passed in the 1st education spending bill:         SF 406  states: "The commissioners of education and human services, in conjunction with the Minnesota Early Learning Foundation [MELF] and early childhood stakeholders, shall work together to recommend necessary modifications for full implementation of the prekindergarten education allowance finance system." Keep in mind, all the public accountability for MELF is removed from the law in the earlier bill.

        SF 406 also funded basic education funding, higher education, and the Departments of Education and Human Services. It's another omnibus spending bill. After materializing out of the Finance Committee yesterday, SF 406 became part of the Tax Committee hearing today, March 30th. All of this spending comes at an enormous personal cost to our families and our freedom. How much public input is the Senate interested in? Zero.

        Multiply the chaos of the Senate Education spending bills by all the other omnibus bills: House Early Childhood, House K-12 Finance, House Health and Human Services, and so on, and you get a sense of the insanity governing the legislature this year. Bills are being yanked around so that even the most seasoned staffers have glazed eyes and frantic stares. Frequently committees have been bringing up 14 and more bills in a single hearing, each of them serious policy and spending issues on a very fast track.

What can you do?
         Many newly elected legislators sold themselves to voters last November as "moderates." However, the agenda at the Capitol is closely run by the very radical left who are now in leadership. Senator Pogemiller and Rep. Kelliher are steering a runaway train down steep, dangerous terrain. They are like wild teenagers, giddy with their new-found freedom to mandate any and everything upon the peons of the land. One blog calls it the Liquor Cabinet Syndrome.

1.) Show up at the Tax Cut Rally on April 14th, Noon on the Capitol Steps.
The massive assault on our families in this legislature is coming at a huge financial cost.
COMMITTEE LEADERS ARE SAYING THAT TAX INCREASES MUST PASS TO FUND THE NEW PROGRAMS -- EXPANSION OF STATE CONTROL OVER CHILDREN & FAMILIES THROUGH MENTAL SCREENING, HOME VISITING, INTERNATIONAL BACCALAUREATE, AND STATE DEFINED OUTCOMES FOR OUR KIDS!

2.) Show up at the Freedom & Family Coalition Lobby Day, April 26th, sponsored by Citizens' Coalition for Health Care (CCHC), EdWatch, Minnesota Family Council, and Minnesota Majority. More information coming!


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952-361-4931 www.edwatch.org - edwatch@lakes.com

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