What the House higher-ed chairman says about upcoming session


I’ve been hoping to get a little preview of what’s coming up for higher education this legislative session, which is scheduled to convene on the 24th and run through the end of April.

I’ll be trying to get the voices of a number higher-ed players, so for now will start with Bud Nornes (R-Fergus Falls), the chairman of the House higher-education committee.

He said he’s not expecting much to come out of this session, since “there really wasn’t much left on the table to deal with” last year.

This session will probably start out with visits by Minnesota State Colleges and Universities (MnSCU) system Chancellor Steven Rosenstone and University of Minnesota President Eric Kaler, who began their jobs after last year’s session was already over.

Nornes said he’s heard of a potential bill that would provide free tuition to veterans, and said Rep. Joe Atkins (DFKL-Inver Grove Heights) has requested that the committee deal with the issue of unused sick leave and compensation by state higher-ed officials and employees, including those at the the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities (MnSCU) system.

On the latter, Nornes told me:

“We haven’t committed to anything yet, because my committee has no real authority. But we may do an informational hearing.”

The bulk of the session may deal with a bonding bill for campus improvements, and legislators have already been out visiting campus requesting money for major projects.

Nornes said the bill should be “in the $400 million range. I think we could go higher than that, but there’s a push to limit our borrowing … to just critical projects.”

Nornes also said — even though he hadn’t been asked — that the anti-cloning bill that failed last session could always be revived this time around.

He told me:

“Someone could bring that back, though no one has said that was their plan.”