Voter ID, K-12 aid shift bills approved

/ 13 March 2012 / jennifer

Nick Busse, Session Daily, March 13, 2012 –

A proposed constitutional amendment to require photo ID for voters and a plan to partially pay back the K-12 school aid payment shift were among four bills approved by the House Ways and Means Committee.

Voter ID amendment

First on the agenda was a proposal to let Minnesotans vote on whether to require government-issued photo identification cards for voters. Sponsored by Rep. Mary Kiffmeyer (R-Big Lake), HF2738 proposes amending the state’s constitution to require photo ID for voting. It would pose the question to voters on this November’s ballot.

The committee approved the bill on an 18-12 party-line vote and sent it to the House Rules and Legislative Administration Committee. Sen. Scott Newman (R-Hutchinson) sponsors the companion,  SF1577, which awaits action by the Senate Rules and Administration Committee.

Kiffmeyer successfully offered two amendments, including one which changes the effective date so that the amendment would apply to all elections on or after Nov. 5, 2013. The other amendment was technical in nature.

(For more information, you can read this previous Session Daily article.)

K-12 aid payment payback

The committee also approved HF2083, an omnibus education finance bill sponsored by Rep. Pat Garofalo (R-Farmington). The most contentious portion of the bill involves the education funds withheld by the state government used to balance its budget. The bill would draw from the $1 billion the state is projected to have in reserve to partially pay back the schools.

DFLers agree that money must go back to the schools, but had different ideas on where it should come from. Rep. Lyndon Carlson (DFL-Crystal) unsuccessfully offered an amendment that would have closed a number of corporate tax loopholes to create a permanent stream of revenue that would pay off the entire shift. It failed 16-9.

Approved on a voice vote, the bill now goes to the House floor. It has no Senate companion.

(For more information, you can read this previous Session Daily article.)

School trust lands management

Committee approval was also given to HF2244, sponsored by Rep. Tim O’Driscoll (R-Sartell). This bill would remove the responsibility of overseeing school trust lands from the Department of Natural Resources, which critics say has mismanaged them. It would transfer that duty to a bipartisan Permanent School Fund Board made of state lawmakers.

Approved on a voice vote, it now goes to the House floor. Sen. Benjamin Kruse (R-Brooklyn Park) sponsors its companion,SF1889, which awaits action in the Senate Environment and Natural Resources Committee.

Bill proponents argue the DNR cannot manage the land because the department’s purpose is to facilitate land conservation, while the trust lands are solely intended to raise money for education. With the proper management, supporters of the bill say schools could receive millions of dollars without raising taxes. The DNR opposes the bill, expressing concern that it overextends legislative responsibility and violates the state constitution.

O’Driscoll successfully offered two amendments. One was technical, while the other would ask the Office of the Legislative Auditor to conduct a program and financial audit of the board in 2019.

(For more information, you can read this previous Session Daily article.)

Building codes and licensing changes

The committee also passed HF2087, sponsored by Rep. Mike LeMieur (R-Little Falls), and sent it to the House floor. The bill comprises a package of housekeeping changes for the Department of Labor and Industry. Sen. Jeremy Miller (R-Winona) sponsors the companion, SF1717, which awaits action by the full Senate.

— Erin Schmidtke contributed to this article.

– Nick Busse