What impacted students this legislative session?
written by | Director of System & Government Relations Sarah Berns
The 2018 state legislative session wrapped up last week. While it was a shorter than usual session, it was still busy. Prior to the session starting, Students United Board of Directors, with the recommendations from the Delegates Assembly, approved their 2018 State Legislative Agenda. The agenda outlined the issue priorities the organization focused on for the legislative session.
Those agenda items were:
Students United supports the Minnesota State 2018 Capital Request
Students United supports efforts to make textbooks more affordable
Students United supports a supplemental budget request by the system office that provides funding for ISRS but also support for our campuses.
Students United supports affirmative consent policy.
Students United at the Capitol
Students United had a successful Advocacy Day students from all seven universities descended on St. Paul to make student voices heard. They participated in a training on Tuesday, March 27th and worked with alumni to practice their advocacy skills. On Wednesday, March 28th, students met with over 30 legislators.
During the session, our State Chair Faical Rayani testified to the House Higher Education and Career Readiness Policy and Finance Committee on the importance of adequate funding for the Minnesota State system. Our Board Member from Winona State University Ben Reimler, testified in front of the House Higher Education and Career Readiness Policy and Finance Committee and the Senate Higher Education Finance and Policy Committee on our textbook affordability bill.
Omnibus Supplemental Budget Bill
The omnibus supplemental budget bill passed by the legislature included several pieces that students advocated for. The bill contained $3 million in campus support and negotiated language that required the system to develop a plan to increase the use of affordable textbooks.
This was the final language about textbooks agreed to in the supplemental omnibus budget bill:
The Board of Trustees of the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities shall develop a plan to increase the use of affordable textbooks and instructional materials. The board must explore and study registration software or other systems and methods to disclose or display the cost of all textbooks and instructional materials required for a course at or prior to course registration. The plan must describe the systems or methods examined and the results of the study. The plan must establish a goal for the percentage of all courses offered at state colleges and universities that will use affordable textbooks and instructional materials. The plan must identify and describe key terms, including "affordable textbook," "instructional material," and "course." The board must submit the plan to the chairs and ranking minority members of the legislative committees with jurisdiction over higher education by January 15, 2020.
Governor Dayton Veto and Signing of Bills
Governor Dayton vetoed the omnibus supplemental budget bill. With the veto of the supplemental budget bill, Minnesota will not receive $3 million in campus support or $500,000 additional funds for workforce development scholarships, and the textbook affordability language we worked on. In Dayton’s veto letter of the omnibus supplemental budget bill, he said, “I made my objections to this bill very clear throughout the session. My administration sent you over 100 detailed letters throughout the session, carefully explaining my concerns with each of the proposals.” The State will now have a surplus of $287 million.
The governor did sign the state bonding bill, which included $129 million for Minnesota State, of which $45 million is for asset preservation, or HEAPR.
The individual university projects funded in the bill for Minnesota State are:
Bemidji State University: Academic Learning Center
Minnesota State University, Mankato: Clinical Sciences Phase II
Minnesota State University Moorhead: Weld Hall
Although the supplemental budget bill was vetoed, we are still proud of the hard work student put in this legislative session to ensure Minnesota State university students' voices were being heard at the state level. As funding for campus support and language around textbooks made it into the omnibus supplemental budget bill, it shows that Minnesota State student concerns were being heard by MN legislators this session. We are also excited to have three university projects and funding for asset preservation passed.