ST. PAUL, Minn. (April 26, 2017) — The state Council on Asian Pacific Minnesotans released this weekly report on the Minnesota State Legislature.
Last week, it was conference committee city. Legislators returned from a well-earned week off, but are now faced with four weeks to finalize the state’s budget. A lot has gotten done over the session and thousands of bills have been heard and incorporated into the omnibus bills of each committee. However, the House version of an omnibus bill and the Senate version of an omnibus bill can vary widely.
To make sure legislators can agree on an omnibus bill, conference committees are assembled. These work very similarly to normal committees, but they contain representatives from both House and Senate. These conference committees have been meeting all week for many of the omnibus bills. Today, let’s take a look at some of the most divided bills facing the committees.
Legislative Summary 2017 Session: Week 16 in Review
HIGHLIGHTS OF THE OMNIBUS BILLS
K-12 EDUCATION OMNIBUS BILL
Teachers of Color Opportunities Act
What is this provision?
The Increasing Teachers of Color and American Indian Act of 2017 began as S.F. 1555/H.F. 2077. Now, the bill has been included as provisions of the Senate Education Omnibus bill (H.F. 890) The provisions are necessary because Minnesota’s current population of teachers who are of color or of American Indian descent is alarmingly low. Only 4.2% of teachers fall into this minority; they are outnumbered by the number of students from the same minority. The problem does not show signs of alleviating itself as there are only 250 teachers of color or American Indian descent in teacher preparation programs right now.
The provisions brought about by this bill would accomplish three things:
Fund the “Grow Your Own” teachers program with $1.375 million dollars
Fund grants that would help candidates take Intro to Teaching courses while in high school by supplying the Concurrent Enrollment Grant with $375,000 dollars
The provisions are included in the most recent version of the omnibus education bill (H.F. 890). The bill was heard three times on the House floor and passed on March 31st by a vote of 75-54.
It was then sent to the Senate and the omnibus bill, containing the Teachers of Colors Act language, was passed by a vote of 38-28.
The conference committee convened on Wednesday, April 19th and the full record can be found here.
What should I know about the omnibus bill in general?
The K-12 Education omnibus bill was somewhat contentious because, although it provided funding for numerous important programs such as mental health care in schools and increased access for disabled students, the bill does not fund schools at a baseline level as high as requested. Opponents of the bill say that the current funding will not provide enough to keep up with inflation and current demands.
One big change proposed is actually a policy provision. Schools will be permitted to have “E-Learning Days” rather than the traditional snow day. Schools are required to provide a certain number of hours of instruction per year. Snow days cut into this time and cause teachers and schools to lose out and have to reschedule. With this provision, schools would set-up an infrastructure to provide online lessons for those days with pre-prepared materials that would keep students learning. This provision is included in both the House and Senate versions of the omnibus bill.
JOBS AND ECONOMIC GROWTH
Skills Training and Workforce Development for People of Color
What is this provision?
The populations of color in our state are only growing. In fact, Minnesota’s very own state demographer has predicted that, by 2035, our state will look much different. The labor force will be more barren because of an aging population retiring. The state’s population growth will still be low with low immigration rates nationally and specifically into Minnesota. Therefore, much of the state’s missing labor will be from immigrants and people of color. Knowing this, the legislator is putting in place a few provisions to set-up a powerful and efficient infrastructure to support this workforce and ensure that all Minnesotans can achieve prosperous lives. The provisions are contained in the omnibus bills S.F.1937 which is being compared against its companion, H.F. 2209.
Provide competitive grants that will go towards organizations that support communities of color in workforce development through the FastTRAC-Minnesota Adult Careers Pathway Program. There will be a total of 1.5 million dollars to the grant, and half will be available for disparities in the Southeast Asian community.
Institute a Workforce Development Council Board that will optimize and monitor the federal act: Workplace Innovation and Development.
Provide a grant for the WomenVenture program. The program provides resources to women in child care businesses to sett-up operations and provides entrepreneurial supplies and advice. The program would be given $125,000.
What is the status of this provision?
Currently, the omnibus bill is in conference committee. The Jobs and Economic Growth Conference Committee last met on Monday, April 24th. They focused on the major differences between the two bills. Currently, the House version of the bill contains more funding and with more specific provisions than the Senate version.
PEOPLE OF COLOR CAREER FAIR
The People of Color Career Fair is a great opportunity featuring dozens of employers across the state seeking to fill their positions. The fair is a great opportunity because they will send your resumes in before-hand allowing you to focus on the interview. If you preregister you’ll also receive a free professional grade headshot!