IFO Legislative Update

The 2019 Legislative session has progressed quickly as the Governor, House, and Senate work to develop a State budget for the next two years. Below, I have included a summary of the major issues impacting faculty, coaches, librarians, and counselors at the State universities. I will provide regular updates throughout the final 8 weeks of session as lawmakers begin to finalize their plans with the deadline of completing their work by Monday, May 20. If you have any questions please contact me at bohn@ifo.org
Higher Education Budget and Policy Issues
Governor Tim Walz and Lt. Governor Peggy Flanagan Budget Items
Gov. Walz has released a supplemental budget that includes an additional $64 million investment in MinnState State campus support and partially funds the NextGen student records system overhaul. The Governor’s original budget released in February included an increase for MinnState of only $51 million, 20% of the request made by the System office. After the original budget was released, the IFO ramped up our advocacy efforts with legislators and the Governor to highlight the negative impacts that an investment of only $51 million would mean to our students and our campuses.
The changes included in the Governor’s supplemental budget made it clear that he and the Lt. Governor heard our concerns. Also included in the Governor’s higher education budget was $50 million for the Univ of MN, $43 million for the State Grant Program, and $5 million for programs included in the Office of Higher Education operations. The Governor’s total proposed higher education investment was a $165 million increase.
The Governor’s budget proposal also included important operations funding for the Public Employment Relations Board (PERB). The Public Employment Relations Board (PERB) was created in 2014 to process and rule on unfair labor practices (ULPs) under the Public Employment Labor Relations Act (PELRA).
For more information about the Governor’s budget proposals please click here.
MN House Democratic Majority Caucus
The MN House DFL majority released their budget targets on Monday, March 25. The House DFL has proposed additional investments totaling $305 million for higher education. This is one of the few budget areas where the House DFL proposed spending far above the level proposed by the Governor. In the press conference held to announce their budget targets, the House DFL leadership announced they will use the funding to fully fund tuition freezes for MinnState campuses.
House Higher Education Chairwoman Rep. Connie Bernardy (DFL-New Brighton) said, “All Minnesotans deserve the education and job training needed to get a good-paying job. Our Minnesota Values Budget fully funds a tuition freeze at our public colleges and universities — a step to stop increases in college debt.”
The full detail of the House budget plan will be released in the next 7-10 days and the final House budget must be passed off the House floor by April 14.
MN Senate Republican Majority Caucus
The MN Senate GOP caucus will release their budget framework and committee targets on Thursday, March 28. The Senate budget must also pass off the Senate floor by April 14. 
Textbook Bills
Inclusive Access Pilot Program
SF2214, a bill being pushed by Pearson and other publishers is an attempt to involve the State in a profit-driven course material program aimed at Minnesota State institutions. The hope of the publishers is to have the State require the System to purchase these materials. Inclusive access is a required subscription program for all students who enroll in particular course sections and digitally distributes course materials instead of students purchasing traditional textbooks. This bill is authored by Sen. Rich Draheim (R-Madison Lake). The IFO opposes this bill.
MinnState Open Textbook Program 
The MinnState Open Textbook Program bill will develop three new programs that provide opportunities and incentives for faculty and academic departments to identify, review, adapt, author, and adopt open textbooks. It also creates a program and provides funding for faculty to jointly adapt or author open textbooks.

This bill will be introduced by Rep. Dan Wolgamott (DFL-St. Cloud) in the House once final drafting is completed. The IFO supports this bill.
Tuition Freezes or Restrictions
MinnState Tuition Reduction and Freeze
SF1583, authored by Sen. Paul Anderson (R-Plymouth) would freeze tuition for ’19-’20 and ’20-’21 at MinnState universities. The bill also reduces tuition by 1% in ’19-’20 at MinnState colleges and then freezes tuition in ’20-’21. The bill includes no appropriation to fund the cost of a tuition freeze and would lead to dramatic reductions in course offerings, programs, student support staff, and possibly even institutions unless the Legislature funds the tuition freeze. The IFO opposes any unfunded tuition freezes.
Online Course Tuition Rate Restriction
SF1473, authored by Sen. Rich Draheim (R-Madison Lake) restricts MinnState campuses from charging higher tuition for an online course must that it would for a comparable on-campus classroom course. Additional state funding to cover the costs of IT staff and other necessary components of online courses is not included in the bill. The IFO opposes this bill.
State Grant Program Changes
Dreamer State Grant Program Expansion
HF573 would use State Grant Program dollars to provide the benefit an undocumented student would have received through the federal Pell Grant if they were eligible to receive a federal Pell Grant. The funding necessary to implement this bill is included as part of the Governor’s budget recommendation. 
For a full list of Senate higher education related bills please click here. For a full list of House higher education bills please click here.
Public Employment and Labor Issues
Public Employment Relations Board
HF769 funds the full operation of the Public Employment Relations Board (PERB) which was created in 2014 to process and rule on unfair labor practices (ULPs) under the Public Employment Labor Relations Act (PELRA). Of the 35 states that have unfair labor practices, 32 of them use an administrative process similar to the one outlined in this legislation. Minnesota, Arkansas, and Texas are the only three states that use state courts to adjudicate ULPs.
HF769 is authored by Rep. Lyndon Carlson (DFL-Crystal) and includes $435,000 in annual funding for PERB to begin full operations, including hearing and ruling on ULP charges. The Governor proposed this funding as part of his budget recommendations. The IFO supports this bill.
Minnesota State Colleges and Universities Collective Bargaining Restrictions

Bargaining Restrictions

SF2666, authored by Sen. Rich Draheim, would not allow the Board of Trustees for Minnesota State Colleges and Universities negotiate contracts that pay more to faculty and staff in compensation and benefits in a biennium than is permitted under an agreement between the board and the Department of Management and Budget specifying how appropriated amounts will be spent.
This bill severely limits the control of the System to manage its own budget. In addition, it takes away the local control of our campuses to make decisions that impact their unique situations. The IFO opposes this bill.
Individual Retirement Account Plan (IRAP) Pension Changes
IRAP EmployEE Contribution Increases
The MN Legislative Pension Commission staff, in coordination with the System Office and the bargaining units, have determined that the IRAP plan has some IRS compliance issues. In order to become compliant under IRS regulations, the employEE contribution must be increased to 7.5% or we must repeal the opportunity for faculty to transition between plans (IRAP/TRA) within one year of earning tenure. It is the IFO’s position that we preserve the opportunity to transition between plans and we are working hard to protect that option. We have helped lead discussions among the impacted bargaining units, the System Office, and legislators to determine how to best solve this issue.
IRAP EmployER Contribution Increases
The IFO has worked with Sen. Nick Frentz (DFL-Mankato) on a bill that will increase the employER contribution increase for faculty in the IRAP plan that would match the employER contribution for faculty in TRA. Currently, the IRAP employer contribution is 6% and the TRA employer contribution is 7.92% and will slowly increase to 8.75% over the next five years. The IFO supports an increase in the IRAP employer contribution.

Please watch for additional action alerts throughout the last few weeks of the session. Your outreach to legislators makes all the difference.