The Health and Human Services Finance Committee grinds away today on the work to create a Minnesota health insurance exchange on an otherwise quiet Friday at the Capitol ahead of the Presidents Day weekend.
Franken appears well-positioned for re-election campaign (MPR News)
Franken won his initial Senate election by just 312 votes in a close fight. "Given that result, political pundits predicted that Franken would be an easy target for Republicans in 2014. But so far, it's not playing out that way. "
Dayton wants to boost funding for English language learning (MPR News)
"The state currently funds programming for English learners for five years. Dayton's proposal, included in a $640 million increase he wants to see in the state's pre-school, K-12 and higher education budgets, would expand that to seven years."
Medicaid expansion passes Senate, goes to Dayton (Star Tribune)
"The federal government will cover the cost of moving 35,000 people out of state-based health care and into Medicaid, known in Minnesota as Medical Assistance. It's expected to save the state $129 million over the next two years."
Bill seeks to curb police use of drones (Star Tribune)
"Minnesota law enforcement would be prohibited from using drones for routine surveillance or to gather evidence against citizens. At least 10 states have introduced drone legislation, including North Dakota."
Minnesota lawmakers get education budget details (Star Tribune)
"The education bill is the first major piece of Gov. Dayton's budget directly before lawmakers. It would spend more on special education, all-day kindergarten and preschool but would not completely repay the state's debt to schools until 2017."
For some Minnesota businesses, sales tax debate is all about fairness (Star Tribune)
"They say there's no rationale behind state's current system. Even the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce, a staunch opponent of the budget as a whole, likes the part that would expand the sales tax to more consumer services."
Legislature OKs state employee raises (Associated Press)
"The House approved a new contract for about 35,000 state workers, which includes the first raise in more than 3 years. It now heads to Gov. Mark Dayton, who is expected to sign it.
Minn. Senate Backs Matching Some Tax Deductions (Associated Press)
"The bill will let some Minnesota taxpayers claim recently enacted federal tax deductions on their state taxes too, including teachers claiming deductions for education expense and college students using higher education tuition deductions."
Little applause for state poem effort (Associated Press)
A bill to designate Cordell Keith Haugen's "Minnesota Blue" as the official state poem could be a hard sell. "The poem itself is not a great marvel of poetry," say Rep. Phyllis Kahn.
Senate Republicans block Hagel nomination for defense secretary (Washington Post)
Conservatives skeptical of expanding preschool (New York Times)
Senate Democrats offer proposal to head off automatic cuts (New York Times)
Obama to talk gun control in violence-plagued Chicago (CBS News)
Obama open to getting rid of the penny (ABC News)
Kline to hold hearings on school shootings
House Republicans say the Education Committee, led by Minnesota U.S. Rep. John Kline, will hold hearings on school safety Feb. 27 and wiill focus on "how schools prepare and recover from threats of violence."
By making the hearings about school safety rather than gun control, House Republicans are signaling that they are not interested in pursuing the more ambitious agenda laid out in the Senate, which could include universal background checks for gun purchasers and limitations on large ammunition magazines. -- Brett Neely
Klobuchar promises hearings on the latest airline merger
The newly-announced merger of American Airlines and US Airways will get some scrutiny from a Senate subcommittee on antitrust policy chaired by DFL U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar.
Klobuchar recently took the gavel of the influential subcommittee. A hearing held by that committee in 2011 helped scuttle a planned merger between mobile phone companies AT&T and T-Mobile.
Klobuchar may come to the hearing with her views colored by Minnesota's experience after Delta Airlines merged with hometown Northwest Airlines. That union has led to job losses and service cutbacks in the Twin Cities. -- Brett Neely(0 Comments)
In a state that's long loved to brag about the money it spends on schools, it was a bit of a surprise to hear Gov. Mark Dayton say higher education funding had fallen to levels not seen since 1980-81.
He's right. And yet data claims always come with caveats. This one's no exception.
Here are Dayton's remarks from his 2013 State of the State:
...In real dollars, our state spends $569 million less on higher education in the current biennium, than we did 16 years ago.We asked the state budget office for the data. Here are the numbers they gave us, starting with the 1980-1981 biennium.
I asked the MMB [state budget office] staff to look back even further, into the paper records. They found that the last time we actually spent less to support higher education, in real dollars, than we are in FY12-13 ... was in FY80-81.
I'll say it again. In every biennium since FY80-81, real state spending for all of postsecondary education has been higher than it is today.
So the data show Dayton's correct.
And yet, a casual reader might conclude, incorrectly, that it's been a grim stretch for post secondary spending. The reality is the 80-81 biennium and the current biennium are outliers in an era that saw huge increases in higher education spending.
Here's the same chart as above, but with lines for the average and median spending during those years. The state in that period averaged nearly $3.2 billion a year in inflation adjusted spending -- significantly higher than '80-'81 and '12-'13, which turn out to be the two lowest spending cycles in that span.
The data also don't count the money the Legislature spends on capital bonding projects for buildings and other assets on the state's public college campuses. The budget office had data -- not inflation adjusted -- back to 1990 on capital spending projects at the University of Minnesota and Minnesota State Colleges and Universities systems. Here's a look.
To policy experts, these are separate buckets of money. Outside the Capitol, I'd guess that most Minnesotans would count higher ed bonding projects as higher ed spending.
Again, Dayton was correct in his speech. But a deeper look at the data show the past couple decades of higher ed spending is better than it sounds.
As always, if anyone has different or better data on the topic, please send it on and we'll talk through it in future posts.(0 Comments)
WASHINGTON - Congress is in the early stages of considering major changes to the nation's immigration laws, changes that would affect not just the status of the 11 million people who arrived in the country illegally but also hundreds of thousands of foreign students and high-skill workers who want to settle in the United States.
One bill, introduced by DFL U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar and Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) would expand the H-1B visa program for high-skilled workers and make it easier for foreign students studying at U.S. universities in the science, technology, engineering or mathematics (STEM) disciplines to apply for work visas in the U.S.
"We make changes to student visas to encourage students who get degrees here to stay in this country so that we don't just say 'hey, go back to India or China or some other country and start the next Google over there.' We want you to start it here," said Klobuchar in a speech on the Senate floor introducing the legislation on Jan. 29.
But Klobuchar's assertion is based primarily on anecdotal accounts. The data that exists on foreign STEM students suggests a considerable proportion of PhD graduates, especially those from China and India, do stay in the United States after graduation under the existing immigration system. Comparable information on graduates with bachelors and masters degrees is unavailable.
A 2012 study funded by the National Science Foundation by Michael Finn of the Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education appears to be the best source for finding out how many foreign STEM PhD graduates remain in the U.S. following graduation.
The study found that two thirds of the foreign STEM PhD graduates in 1999 were still in the U.S. a decade later, a figure that includes graduates on both permanent and temporary visas. Breaking out the numbers for temporary visas, which would be affected by Klobuchar's legislation, the study found that 62 percent of the 2004 PhD graduates remained in the United States as of 2009, a number that Finn said had gradually risen over time.
Contrary to Klobuchar's implication that Chinese and Indian graduates were particularly burdened by visa requirements and forced to head home after their studies were complete, Finn's study shows that 89 percent of Chinese and 79 percent of Indian PhD holders remained in the U.S. five years after their graduation in 2004. Chinese and Indian graduates made up nearly 40 percent of the study's sample.
"I don't see much evidence that the current visa situation is holding back the stay rate," said Finn in an interview with MPR News.
To back up her statement, Klobuchar's office cited conversations the senator has had with Minnesota business and educational leaders. Klobuchar's office contested the validity of the NSF-funded research, saying a study of 2004 graduates was out of date with the current job market and pointing to a 2012 letter to President Obama and congressional leaders signed by many of the nation's university presidents that said, "Every year, arbitrary immigration caps force approximately one-third of the 50,000 foreign-born STEM graduates from our universities to leave the country."
According to her office, Klobuchar believes the 62 percent stay rate for 2004 graduates is too low and that a higher percentage of PhD graduates should be able to remain in the U.S. The senator's office also said that because the study only covers PhD holders, the most coveted graduates, rather than the broader population of foreign STEM graduates with bachelors and masters degrees, it is not representative.
Klobuchar's office said the senator learned about the issue from speaking with university presidents in Minnesota, including Earl Potter, the president of St. Cloud State University.
Potter agreed in broad terms that foreign bachelors and masters STEM students had a difficult time getting work visas in the U.S. even when employers were eager to sponsor them. Some of St. Cloud State's foreign graduates who did not get jobs in the U.S., Potter said, have returned to their home countries where they have launched successful businesses. But Potter said the university did not have data on the issue.
"I don't have statistics, I have anecdotal information. It's one of those things that's hard to track and we have not put those systems into place," said Potter in an interview.
Ultimately, this issue appears to come down to assertions and anecdotes made by Klobuchar and other advocates of easing visas for foreign workers versus solid but incomplete and aging data that focuses solely on the most elite group of foreign STEM graduates, those with PhDs.
The researcher responsible for that data, Michael Finn of the Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education agreed no good source of information on bachelor and masters students exists, making it difficult to determine how alike the different groups of graduates are when it comes to staying in the U.S. He plans to update the study of PhD students next year.
While careful to avoid policy-specific discussions, Finn expressed frustration with comments from politicians and pundits on the topic, such as Klobuchar's.
"Whenever I see these things, I try to look to see if they have some data to back that up that I didn't know about and I haven't yet found any," said Finn.
That lack of data results in an inconclusive rating for this PoliGraph test.
Sen. Amy Klobuchar, "Klobuchar Introduces Immigration Bill to Boost High-Tech Innovation," Jan. 29, 2013, accessed Feb. 12, 2013
Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education, "Stay Rates of Foreign Doctorate Recipients from U.S. Universities, 2009", by Michael G. Finn, January 2012, accessed Feb. 11, 2013
Interview, Michael G. Finn, economist Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education, Feb. 14, 2013
Interview, Earl Potter, President, St. Cloud State University, Feb. 15, 2013
Email correspondence and phone calls with Brigit Helgen, Communications Director for U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar, Feb. 14-15, 2013
Letter from university presidents to President Obama and congressional leaders, Partnership for a New American Economy, accessed Feb. 15, 2013
The Minnesota Senate has another legal bill to pay from last year's scandal involving a staffer.
The latest invoice from the Larkin Hoffman Daly & Lindgren law firm details $5,956.50 of work during November, December and January. That puts the total amount spent on outside legal work related to the firing of former Republican staffer Michael Brodkorb at more than $200,000. Brodkorb filed a discrimination lawsuit against the Senate following his firing in 2011. It was later revealed that he was having an affair with then-Majority Leader Amy Koch.
Earlier this week, a federal judge dismissed three counts in the suit, including defamation allegations. Two remain. The Senate Rules Committee, which is now run by Democrats, is scheduled to meet Monday to approve payment of the latest legal bill.
Senate leaders have said the termination was proper because Brodkorb was an "at-will" employee. Majority Leader Tom Bakk, DFL-Cook, said this week that he hopes to bring the remainder of the lawsuit to a prompt and satisfactory conclusion.(0 Comments)