[The following weekly update was sent out by Sen. Ron Latz (DFL-District 44).]
Senate floor sessions were busy this week as more bills are starting to be heard. On Monday we had a lengthy discussion on a bill that has the State mandating to the local school districts how they can let go of staff when they are facing budget shortfalls. With the budget shortfalls that schools have been facing over the last decade, this is pretty much a chronic condition. I voted against the bill because I believe that local school districts should be able to negotiate their own contracts with their teachers to best address their student’s needs. While there are reforms necessary to address our schools’ achievement gaps, I believe that this bill is premature and that we should let the Teacher Evaluation Working group finish its research and deliberations. Senate floor session on Thursday also had a variety of bills that were discussed and passed.
Tuesday brought news of the State’s budget situation with the February forecast. While the forecast showed a $323 million surplus for the remainder of the 2012-2013 budget, a $1.1 billion budget shortfall is projected for the next budget cycle. Neither of these numbers take into account paying back the $2.4 billion that we owe our schools or the nearly $1 billion in inflation that is projected. Tuesday’s numbers DO NOT change the fact that Minnesota is facing a long-term structural budget deficit. Calling the forecast a budget “surplus” is like saying you are not in debt because you have cash in your wallet after making the minimum payment on your credit card.
In Judiciary, I had one of my bills heard (S.F. 1895) that helps stream-line the process for business owners filing their business paperwork at the Secretary of State Office. It passed and is on its way to the floor. Committees will begin to meet more frequently as the first deadline (March 16) for bills to pass out of policy committees is approaching.
We are now a month into session and I have been meeting with many constituent groups at the Capitol. This week I met with a group of students from Metro State University as well as these groups here for their day on the hill: Minnesota Schools Social Workers, Minnesota Nurses, Librarians, Chiropractors and ARRM (providers for those with disabilities). Constituents also left information with me regarding Epilepsy and homelessness issues. Please continue to e-mail, write or phone me regarding your issues and concerns. As session becomes hectic, please be patient with me on response time.