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Legislative Wrap-Up:

Overall, Liberty Stands

May 19, 2010

 
The 2010 Minnesota legislative session will be known for what children, parents, and taxpayers were spared.  Thanks to you making your voices heard and the work of freedom-minded legislators, along with a big deficit and complex politics, Minnesota has been spared Race to the Top involvement, adoption of a dumbed down indoctrinating federal curriculum, mental health education, loss of the right to vote on levy extensions, and expansion of nanny state programs for our youngest children.  Here are some details:
 
Race to the Top and Common Core Standards:  As described in our last alert, the Minnesota House explicitly rejected the Common Core Standards.  While only 25 House members were willing to go on record to expressly reject the entire Race to the Top program, most likely due to desire for federal funds or the mistaken idea that teacher reforms would somehow be worth the federal control, the ultimate result was that the Minnesota House rejected Race to the Top.
 
This was due to a rare convergence of factors from several points on the political spectrum.  There seemed to be fairly bipartisan concern, though stronger on the right, about federal encroachment into education via the national standards and the unfunded mandates in both No Child Left Behind and RTTT that are making state legislators and local school boards increasingly irrelevant.  There was also a lot of opposition to the reforms involving teacher accountability from Democrats that are heavily supported by the teachers' union, including Democratic gubernatorial endorsee and retiring speaker of the House Margaret Anderson Kelliher.  Fortunately for sovereignty, local control and academic excellence, these factors were enough to overcome the also bipartisan great thirst for more funds and belief that teacher reforms or charter schools would be worthy reasons for our state to roll over for RTTT.
 
The same dynamics were at play in the Senate.  The bill passed by the Senate Education Committee that contained all of the RTTT reforms, including the Common Core Standards, fortunately never reached the Senate Floor.  Senator David Hann (R-Eden Prairie) was prepared to fight both the Common Core and RTTT in general. Given the eloquent speeches from both Senators Kevin Dahle (D-Northfield) and Senator Gen Olson (R-Minnetrista) on the dangers of federal control during debate on the education conference report without RTTT language that did reach the floor, got sent back to conference committee, and ultimately passed only the Senate in the brief special session, Senator Hann would have had bipartisan support.
 
Early Childhood:  Sadly, the House early childhood omnibus bill with all of its problems described in our April 3rd alert passed the House and Senate separately from the K-12 bills and was signed by Governor Pawlenty on May 15th. Although it is still good news that no new state money was spent, no new programs were implemented and that there were only studies in this bill, it is very disheartening that so many Republicans and our putatively conservative governor slapped down a golden opportunity to stand up for parents' rights, to limit government expansion, to protect young children from more indoctrination and screening, and to protect private and religious childcare from burdensome regulation.
 
House members to be thanked for voting against this nanny state bill (All Republicans):
Bruce Anderson, Sarah Anderson, Beard, Brod, Buesgens, Davids, Dean, Dettmer, Downey, Drazkowski, Eastlund, Emmer (gubernatorial endorsee), Garofalo, Gottwalt, Hackbarth  Holberg, Hoppe, Howes,  Kelly, Kiffmeyer, Kohls, Lanning, Mack, Peppin, Sanders, Scott, Seifert, Severson, Shimanski,  Zellers
House members that voted for the studies to expand government were all the Democrats and the following Republicans:
 Abeler, Paul Anderson, Cornish, Demmer (1st District congressional endorsee), Doepke, Gunther, Hamilton, Loon, Magnus, McFarlane, McNamara, Murdock, Nornes, Smith, Torkelson, Urdahl, Westrom
The following senators voted against expansion of government control for our youngest children (all Republican):
Gerlach, Hann, Ingebrigtsen, Johnson, Jungbauer, Koering, Limmer, Ortman, Parry, Vandeveer
The following Republican senators joined all the Democrats to seek progression down the road of nanny state expansion:
Dille, Fischbach, Frederickson, Gimse, Koch, Michel, Gen Olson, Pariseau, Robling, Rosen, Senjem
K-12 Omnibus Bill: The RTTT discussion, the Democrats' insatiable desire to increase taxes, and other political complexities all combined to ultimately sink a K-12 policy and finance bill this session.  On the whole, that is a very good thing.
 
Despite the fact that the full Senate never discussed, amended, or voted on a large education policy or funding bill, a conference committee report was put together sometime between midnight and 5 AM on May 16th, the very last day of session where bills could be passed.  Public email notice of the conference committee meeting had a time stamp of 5:18 AM and only stated that the meeting would be convened at the "call of the chair," meaning that there was no public meeting at all. That email contained a link to the conference report that was already posted and reviewed by Dr. Effrem at 6:30 AM.  Republican Senate "conferee" Gen Olson never saw the bill and was given no chance to vote on it before adoption.  She never signed the report.
 
The conference bill did not contain any RTTT language, including the Common Core Standards adoption
It also thankfully did not adopt language that would have made it easier for social workers and other non-physician school personnel to diagnose children with attention deficit disorder. It did contain several very concerning provisions. Among these were the power for school boards to continue local school levies without voter approval and the mental health curriculum language about which we have warned you. Good language in the bill that was ultimately sacrificed was mandate reduction on homeschoolers.
 
The House passed the conference report 77-53 at about 5 PM on May 16th.  All the Republicans present and 10 Democrats opposed the measure. In a surprise move with a strongly bipartisan vote, the Senate supported a motion by Senator Claire Robling (R-Jordan) to send the bill back to conference committee for further work. They seemed to understand that Governor Pawlenty who opposed the levy provision would have likely vetoed it.  No education bill could be reprocessed by the midnight deadline.  An attempt to pass the bill without the levy language during the morning special session was blocked by Republican House members who rightly said that the bill was a breach of the deal reached between House, Senate, and the governor to only vote on the budget compromise in the special session.  After it was meaningless, the Senate then unanimously passed the pared down education bill.
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