Public Policy

Policy in Focus

Bonding Bills Taking Shape

One thing lawmakers are supposed to accomplish during the second year of each biennial legislative session is to adopt a bonding bill; a plan for capital investment supported by state borrowing. So far the Governor and the DFL-controlled Senate have presented bonding plans. They come in just shy of $1.5 billion, well above the approximately $600 million target set forth by the GOP-controlled House. The House has yet to release its capital investment plan. MinnPost projects an obvious, pending clash. Reconciling the differences and passing a bonding bill are complex because bipartisan super majorities are needed and questions about transportation funding, tax policy and revenues, and what to do with the state' budget surplus need to be resolved in order for a bonding package to be tied up. But, if you want to see what projects might be happening in your community or which capital fundraising campaigns have the posibility of public dollars being in the mix, check out the Governor's and the Senate's capital investment plans.

Less and Three Weeks to Go; Will Anything Get Done?

The Minnesota House and Senate spent the past week completing action on their respective plans for using the State's budget surplus. The two legislative bodies are now focused on passing policy bills and waiting . . .  For most legislators, there is not much they can do right now until the Governor and House and Senate leaders have resolved big differences over a transportation plan, taxes, supplemental budget spending plans, capital investment budgets and hot button policy issues. This is not atypical. Waiting until close to the adjournment deadline, which this year is May 23, to pull together all of the legislative pieces is part of the process of choosing from competing priorities, fitting everything into a budget and compromising on differences. But, the typical did not happen in 2015. The legislature adjourned without adopting transporation or tax bills, which were both big priorities. The politics of finger-pointing worked well regardless of political party. Skepticism is expressed by the Star Tribune and MPR about anything getting resolved, though MinnPost suggests a few things might get done.

Dayton Backs Felon Enfranchisement Bill

Governor Dayton came out in support of efforts to restore voting rights for those felons who have been released from jail saying he can't act on his own, but that he is looking at options. As noted last week in Policy in Focus, the Senate supports this change, but the House has not taken up the issue, which was addressed in a panel discussion that included The Minneapolis Foundation's Luz Maria Frias on MPR's Counter Stories. MCF supports felon re-enfranchisement.

State Launches Equity Audit

MPR and Pioneer Press reported on Governor Dayton's plans for an equity audit to address hiring practices and develop a strategy for creating more equitable hiring opportunities, inclusive workforce and income opportunities for people of color.  The Pioneer Press also analyzed Census data to shed light on income gaps experienced by communities of color.

Employment Opportunity Bills Waiting for Legislative Action

Workforce development initiatives advanced by MNWin have been folded into the Equity Article of the Omnibus Supplemental Budget Bill passed last week by the Minnesota Senate. Only one part of the package is included in the House budget. The final outcome is pending budget negotiations. MCF supports workforce development and the MSPWin/MNWin legislative agenda. Other proposals for economic development targeting income inequities and providing funding for Minnesota Initiative Foundations are also on the table for legislative action.

Education Investments to Address Achievement Gaps

The House, Senate and Dayton Administration's supplemental funding plans for early childhood education, improving access to Parent Aware-certified services and other supports are pending legislative action to reconcile differences. MPR reported that the Senate and Governor made last minute changes to their education spending plans to increase funding for support services as a move to reduce H.S. graduation disparities. MPR has a comprehensive set of stories in its Graduation Gap Series. The Star Tribune shared its advice. The bills also include the "All Kids Count Act," a proposal for student data disaggregation which got a closer look by MinnPost

Questions about what's happening at the Minnesota State Capitol or at the Capitol in Washington, D.C.?  Contact MCF's director of public policy and communication, Bob Tracy.

Posted: April 26 2016
Minnesota House and Senate Passing Very Different Budget Plans

The Pioneer Press describes how the GOP House and DFL Senate in Minnesota are taking different approaches to craft adjustments to the State's biennial budget. The House is debating it's budget proposal piece-by-piece through the week, while the Senate is scheduled to act on a single, omnibus supplemental budget bill on Thursday. Considering the gulf between DFL-backed proposals on the legislative session's major business items -- supplemental budget, transportation, taxes and bonding --offered by Governor Dayton and the Senate and those proposed by the Minnesota House, there's unusual skepticism among Capitol insiders about the likelihood of a budget deal by the time the legislature is schedule to adjourn on May 23, if at all. 

Education Bills Reflect Gaps in House and Senate Spending Plans

The Duluth News Tribune and Star Tribune profile the education bill passed by the Minnesota House April 25 and point out differences with education funding plans advanced by the Governor and to be debated by the Minnesota Senate later in the week. No one is proposing more funding for early childhood scholarships this year, but the Senate and House propose investing in training to support Parent Aware certification, especially in Greater Minnesota. The Governor and the Senate want to make investments in voluntary Pre-K for four-year-olds, child care and targeted home visits to expand supports for early childhood learning success. MCF supports creation of a comprehensive early childhood education systems to help close education achievement gaps. Also advancing in both the House (HF2749) and Senate (SF1935) is the "All Kids Count Act," a bill proposing student data disaggregation to better provide better data about kids of color to support planning and to better target services.  MCF supports this effort as part of advancing the My Brothers Keeper Community Action Plan.

Workforce and Economic Development in Play to Address Disparities

The Minnesota Senate is advancing a jobs and economic development budget that includes funding for Pathways to Prosperities grants, expanded food stamp benefits to help people going back to work and innovation in new approaches to employment placement -- all initiatives supported by MCF and MNWin, a coalition of Minnesota grantmakers and workforce development advocates. The Senate plan also includes $3.5 for the Minnesota Initiative Foundations for business start-up financing and a special package of economic development initiatives addressing inclusion and equity. The House budget takes a more limited approach, supporting use of increased in federal food stamp assistance, if any, for employment support services and some targeted assistance for economic development in communities of color (House bill number 3931, starting on page 50).

Minnesota Urged to Catch Up on Voting Rights

Virgina's Governor acted last week to restore voting rights to felons who are no longer incarcerated. The Star Tribune thinks this is a good idea for Minnesota and urges lawmakers to act. The NAACP weighs in, as well. MCF supports felon re-enfranchisement, as well. While enacting legislation is moving in the Minnesota Senate, it has stalled in the Minnesota House. Sneaking in an end-of-session deal is a possibility, but similar efforts fell short in 2015. That's not keeping advocates from getting it into the Senate version of a bipartisan elections bill to face-off with the House elections bill in conference committee.

Lawmakers Pause for Prince

Joining with many  Minnesotans, state lawmakers came together to sing Purple Rain in honor of Prince.

Posted:  April 19 2016
The End-of-Session Game Takes Shape in St. Paul

House and Senate proposals for the supplemental budget bill, tax bill, transportation funding and a capital investment bonding bills are the big pieces of the puzzle that will determine how much – if anything – is agreed to during this legislative session. MinnPost suggests there’s more than the usual skepticism about the likelihood of the Governor and legislative leaders to come to agreement.

Touted Consensus on Disparities Funding Breaking Down

MPR reported on charges by House DFL leaders that their GOP counterparts are dragging their heels on proposed disparities funding. House GOP leaders point to $25 million in their jobs and education bills that support initiatives to address disparities, and call for expansion of tax credits for private schools to address education gaps. The Senate’s disparities subcommittee is soon to report its recommendations to be folding into that body’s omnibus supplemental budget bill, and the Governor still has a proposed $100 million in one-time funding proposals on the table.

Tight House Budget Slights MN Win Workforce Proposals

The Minnesota House is not proposing increased spending to support MN Win proposals for improving pathway training and services and expanded food stamp benefits. However, similar bills are still being considered by the Senate’s budget committee. The proposals are in the Governors budget. If they get put into the Senate’s budget bill this week, there will be room for negotiations.

New Developments on Felon Enfranchisement

Legislation to restore voting rights to felons who are no longer incarcerated was advanced by the Judiciary Committee with a recommendation for passaged by the full Senate. But, the bill continues to be held up in the House; having not even been scheduled for a hearing despite the fact the bill’s lead author leads the committee. A new version was recently introduced by a bipartisan group of House members. Restore the Vote is encouraging grassroots outreach to state legislators, though the path for the issues seems to be as more of an election campaign conversation than enactment by the current legislature.

Posted Apr 14 2016
Building Blocks for State Budget are Lining Up

Legislative deadlines for considering new policy ideas have passed. With that work behind them, lawmakers are now adding up the cost and have until April 21 to craft tax and spending plans to put these ideas into action. Not surprisingly, the GOP-led House has a plan with priorities that look very different from those identified by the DFL-led Senate. As usual, Capitol-watchers question whether the differences in these budgets can be reconciled and brought in line with those proposed by the Governor. Coming up with agreement on a tax and spending plan also depends upon resolving differences about borrowing for capital improvements. The legislature is working with a May 23 deadline for wrapping up the session, a date made more urgent as all 201 members of the Minnesota Legislature are anxious to hit the campaign trail for the 2016 election.

Racial Disparities Getting Priority Treatment 

The Minnesota Senate’s Finance Committee created a new subcommittee focused on addressing inclusion, equity and racial disparities in state appropriations. The committee is pouring through economic development and youth development funding proposals. Lawmakers were offered guidance this past week through the Black Leadership Agenda which in addition to ideas for economic development and education investments, endorsed the Restore the Vote push for felon enfranchisement. Looking ahead, the Met Council released its racial disparities report to guide future policies and development. The data-focused report was noted as much for its usefulness as its exclusions in fully explaining racial disparities in jobs, income and housing.

Education Reforms Addressed at State Capitol and Beyond

Issues raised in MPR's recent coverage about Minnesota's high school graduation gap got attention at the capitol as bills are considered to increase school counselors, and address disciplinary practices. MCF-support bills (H.F. 3042/S.F. 2597) to disaggregate student data assure "All Kids Count" and to improve planning and problem-solving advanced in both the House and Senate. The picture for increased early childhood education investments looks very different in the House from what is being considered by the Senate and the Governor. Outside of the Capitol, grantmakers announced the MN Comeback investments to create diversity in the classroom workforce, strengthen charter schools and increase parent engagement.

New Faces Take Lead Roles Promoting Economic Equity

Governor Dayton appointed James Burroughs to lead state efforts to increase minority contracting and employment opportunities. The Governor also announced a significant leadership change at MEEP, the agency responsible for jobs and economic development, as Katie Clark Sieben stepped down to be replaced by Dayton-staffer Shawntera Hardy

Census Could Reshape Minnesota Influence

Making sure everyone counts in the 2020 Census will have big meaning in Minnesota and the state's potential influence in Washington, D.C.  Learn more about the role of grantmakers in democracy-building and the census at the Funders Committee for Civic Participation’s national convening in St. Paul this May.

MCF Presses for Federal Action to Promote Philanthropy

MCF pushed for enactment of federal legislation to simplify the private foundation excise tax, expand the IRA rollover to donor advised funds and encourage maintenance of the full value of the charitable giving tax deduction as part of this week's Foundations on the Hill advocacy. Additionally, MCF called for full funding for the Census and American Community Survey (see letters calling for full funding by Rep. Keith Ellison (MN-5) and Sen. Al Franken) and raised awareness about Rep. Erik Paulsen's (MN-3) newly-introduced Interest for Others Act.

Posted - Apr 5 2016
Role of Census Affirmed in Drawing Political Boundaries

The New York Times reports and opines about the significant, unanimous decision in which the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the practice of counting everyone, instead of only registered voters, when drawing political boundaries. The decision has a significant impact on creating democratic systems and civic engagement policies that support inclusion and equity, a key MCF public policy position. Learn more about the role of grantmakers in democracy-building at the Funders Committee for Civic Participation’s national convening in St. Paul this May.

Minnesota Senate Forms Diversity Panel

The Minnesota Senate’s Finance Committee created a new subcommittee focused on addressing inclusion, equity and racial disparities in state appropriations. Check out the membership and MCF’s commitment to inclusion and equity policies. In a related development, New York State appropriated funds for an inclusion, equity and disparity initiative modeled on the My Brother’s Keeper initiative launched by the White House.

Early Childhood Investment Strategies Evolving

The Pioneer Press describes how legislators and Governor Dayton are gearing up for end-of-session decisions about how to best advance the State’s investment in early childhood education. While the Governor has backed away from a call for universal pre-K, the Senate Education Committee is considering Dayton’s new plan to launch the effort with a demonstration program. MCF supports early childhood education investments.

Tax Policy and Charitable Giving

The conversation on the impact of a wealth drain in Minnesota due to state tax policy continued in the Twin Cities Business Journal. The article asks nonprofit leaders about the impact of state tax policy and the perception that charitable giving influences Minnesota Department of Revenue residency determination decisions. The findings are disputed by the Minnesota Budget Project and the Minnesota Revenue Commissioner. MCF supports the Endow Minnesota Tax Credit to promote legacy investments in community foundations as permanent community assets.  

Posted Mar 29 2016 -
Minnesota Legislature Crawling Toward Deadlines

Minnesota lawmakers returned today from a quick holiday break to continue work in a short legislative session. Process deadlines are looming this Friday, April 1, and next Friday, April 8, that will determine what new policy initiatives will be advanced for continued consideration. There are skeptical voices about the prospects of much getting through partisan differences that are only heighted by the fact all 201 legislators are up for re-election this fall. (Posted: Mar 29 2016)

Education Equity Could Be One Area of Action

While there are differences, there is bipartisan interest in improving education outcomes, especially for children of color, through early childhood education. For a full briefing, check the Start Early Funders Coalition’s video coverage of its recent Children and Youth Issues Briefing. MPR continues its deep coverage about removing barriers to high school graduation, while legislators consider proposals to increase funding for school counselors and support services. (Posted: Mar 29 2016)

Census Reports Minnesota Population Growth

The U.S. Census Bureau released new data about population growth in Minnesota prompting coverage in the Star Tribune about growth in the Twin Cities metro area and fast-paced growth in Fargo-Moorhead. MCF advocates for federal policies and funding to assure a robust census and American Community Survey, a topic that will be front-and-center at the Funders Committee for Civic Participation’s 2016 national convening, May 23-25, in St. Paul. (Posted: Mar 29 2016)

Posted Mar 22 2016 -
Racial Gaps Repeated in Civic Engagement Measures

Minnesota Compass’ key indicators for civic engagement show high outcomes but repeat the story of opportunity gaps experienced in communities of color. MCF’s public policy agenda sets strengthening democratic institutions and civic engagement as a priority. This will also be a priority when FCCP holds its national convening in Saint Paul in May. Take a look at Minnesota Compass’ full 2016 key indicators report.

Jobs and Economic Development to Close Household Income Gap

Governor Dayton released specifics about a $100 million, one-time investment in jobs and economic development to address racial income disparities. Listen to DEED Commissioner Sieben offer more details. Included in the Governor’s proposal are House and Senate bills advanced by MN Win promote workforce pathway training and services. Also advancing in the House and Senate are MN Win bills to expand use of food stamp resources to support job training are moving forward. MCF supports these MN Win initiatives. 

MN Legislators Looking at Education Equity from Many Angles

MPR’s series on high school graduation gaps cited the need for more school counselors and the Minnesota Senate DFL leadership included this on its list of education priorities for 2016. Bills to increase investments in early childhood education wind their way through House and Senate committees, while the Forum News Services provides perspective on the implications of universal pre-K and lawmakers and the Governor seek to find a consensus.

Point / Counterpoint on Minnesota Tax Flight

The American Experiment issued a report earlier this month suggesting state tax policies are causing wealthy Minnesotan’s to leave. The Minnesota Budget Project countered. The report author made the case in the Star Tribune with Minnesota Revenue Commissioner pushing back. 

Posted Mar 15 2016 -
Counting All Kids

MCF testified at a State Senate education committee hearing in support of the “All Kids Count Act” a bill calling for disaggregation of school data to better reflect racial and language diversity. The policy is included in the MCF-backed My Brother’s Keeper Community Challenge Action Plan.

Early Childhood Education has Broad Support

Legislation with bipartisan support is starting to wind its way through the legislative process. Pioneer Press weighs in on the question of continuing the scholarship model or expanding to universal pre-K. MCF’s policy agenda supports education equity and early childhood education. 

Graduation Gap Gets Comprehensive Look

MPR featured a full look at why all kids in Minnesota, especially kids of color, are not graduating from high school. The series covered the facts, explored the challenges and cited policy reforms that could help reverse the curve. 

Dayton Shapes Focus for 2016 Session

Governor Dayton set out priorities for early childhood education and addressing racial inequities in his State of the State speech. The details were released on March 15 when Dayton released his plan for the state’s $900 million surplus. The administration starts work on racial inequities with Met Council’s new advisory council. Promoting inclusion and equity are a cornerstone of MCF’s policy agenda

Are Taxes Making Minnesotans Move their Wealth?

A report by the American Experiment says wealthy Minnesotan’s are on the move due to state tax policies but analysis by the Minnesota Budget Project suggests otherwise. 

Posted Mar 8 2016 -
Minnesota Legislature Starts Short Session with Election in the Air

The budget surplus is less than expected. Legislators are need to craft a bonding bill to borrow for capital construction projects, have transportation and tax bills that were left on the table at the end of the session last year and there's pressure to take notice of disparities experienced in communities of color. MPR and the Star Tribune each lay out the challenges for lawmakers in this short session.  MinnPost provides the keys for understanding this session. 

Restoring Community Connections through the Vote

Pioneer Press makes felon re-enfranchisement personal while Senate Judiciary Committee advances bill it passed last year back to the Senate floor for action on its first day of business of the 2016 session. Opposition from House leadership contiunues to block efforts to even provide the bill a hearing. MCF supports the bill and is a member of Restore the Vote.  

Closing Minnesota's Education Opportunity Gap

MPR is taking a deep look at barriers to high school graduation for Minnesota's kids of color in a weeklong series detailing drop out rates, addressing failures to pay attention to risk indicators, lack of support personnel and counselors in schools and more. MinnPost reports on how cultural emersion programs promote achievement. 

Paulsen Introduces Bill to Promote Charitable Giving

Minnesota 3rd District Congressman Erik Paulson (R) introduced the Interest for Others Act in the U.S. House this past week. The bill allows taxpayers to exclude contributions of up to $50 from taxable interest or dividends income. Paulsen is also the author of legislation to simplify the private foundation excise tax which is also proposed in the Obama administration's 2017 budget

Posted Mar 1 2016 -
State Budget Forecast Tempers Plans for Increased Spending

More tentative national economic growth projections and a slumping farm economy in Minnesota dropped Minnesota state budget surplus projections from $1.3 billion to $900,000. It’s got lawmakers thinking differently about tax cuts or funding for big new initiatives. 

Better Data to Improve Education for Kids of Color

MinnCan, MCF and other advocates for Minnesota’s My Brother’s Keeper initiative advocating for disaggregation of State student data to help target education. Achievement efforts for kids of color.

Posted Feb 17 2016 -
Rural Issues Front and Center in 2016 Legislative Session

Legislative leaders talk about what DFL and GOP lawmakers propose for Greater Minnesota in this MPR interview. The Center for Rural Policy and Development published its State of Rural Minnesota 2015 report. It packed with up-to-date demographics, courtesy of data produced by the U.S. Census Bureau’s annual American Community Survey. Yet another reason to support The Census Project and a strong, well-funded census.

Senate Committee Considers Early Childhood Education and Workforce Development

The Minnesota Legislature doesn’t convene until March 8 but committees are working now. Take a look at the Minnesota Department of Education report on early childhood education the Senate Education Committee received on February 2. The committee had a joint meeting with the Higher Education and Workforce Development Committee on February 9 to consider options for strengthening Minnesota’s workforce. Minnpost provides a breakdown of opportunities and barriers to earning a livable wage in Minnesota. The story is told with support from the MSPWin funders collaborative

Posted Feb 4 2016 -
Minnesota’s Legislative Leaders Discuss Plans and Challenges for the 2016 Session

Senate Majority Leader Bakk and House Speaker Daudt guess at the size of a bonding bill, and discuss investments in early childhood education, strategies for addressing Minnesota’s racial household income gap and head different directions on how to invest in roads and transit. Take a listen courtesy of The Uptake. While “working groups” are meeting now, the legislature officially convenes March 8. 

Report Provides “Tea Leaves” for Possible Changes in Minnesota for Estate, Inheritance and Gift Taxes; Obama Budget Suggests Topics for Federal Consideration

The crack research team at the Minnesota House just published a review of estate, inheritance and gift taxes that compares Minnesota’s policies to other states. It’s a briefing document to help Minnesota lawmakers weigh options for future reforms. Read the report. The President’s 2017 budget released last week includes a simplified excise tax for private foundations and a cap on deductions including charitable contributions. Council on Foundations provides a snapshot

Series to Layout the Role of Philanthropy and Nonprofits in Voter Engagement

The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation and Stanford Social Innovation Review are launching a 15-part series of articles exploring how philanthropy and nonprofits can improve voter engagement and promote a robust democracy. We’ll keep an eye on the series. You can also engage in the conversation by attending MCF Public Policy Retreat on March 18 and the Funders Committee for Civic Participation national convening in Saint Paul in May.

Posted Dec 15 2015 -
Prepare Yourself for the Minnesota Legislature's 2016 Session

The Minnesota legislature doesn't convene until March 8, but leaders and committees will get to work in January to get a jump on the short, eight-week session. The Star Tribune is running a three-part series of editorials and commentaries, "Minnesota's Growing Divide," to provide context for the upcoming session. The challenges of addressing widening income gaps - by race and geography - loom great, as do questions about transportation, higher education, keeping talent in the state, and extending high quality broadband infrastructure throughout the state. Other publications will be offering legislative session previews and we will share that information with you as it becomes available. But, this Star Tribune series is a good place to start developing an understanding of how decisions made in St. Paul this spring are likely to effect you, your grantees and the communities you serve. 

MCF's Advocacy Agenda

MCF's public policy goals are (1) to expand philanthropy, charitable giving and Minnesota's community of grantmakers, and (2) to create a more prosperous, inclusive and equitable Minnesota by eliminating disparities. The Legislative Statement is MCF's compendium of public policy statements and positions. The Annual Advocacy Agenda includes initiatives that are the focus for proactive development during the current year.

Public Policy Programs

MCF's Public Policy Programs help you increase the impact of your grantmaking. Issue Briefings and other programs connect what's happening in public policy to the issues you are working on through your grantmaking. In the Policy Connections Institute you develop concrete strategies for sharing information about research and what you are learning through your grantmaking with elected officials, at the national and state levels. We connect you with elected officials through events such as Coffee with Congress and Foundations on the Hill. You can increase your advocacy and public policy knowledge and skills while also developing Minnesota grantmakers shared advocacy agenda as a member of MCF's Government Relations and Public Policy Committee

Resources for Action

We provide you with tools and connections with MCF partners to help you learn more about grantmaker engagement in public policy and to connect you with peers who share an interest in issues that affect your grantmaking interests. You take responsibility for knowing who represents you in Congress and the Minnesota Legislature, so we can be stronger partners in advocacting for policies that promote charitable giving and inclusion and equity for all Minnesotans.

Commitment to Advocacy

MCF sees Minnesota's stark and persistent racial, ethnic and economic disparities as a threat to future prosperity and the common good. We catalyze philanthropy's voices on key public policy issues that advance a more prosperous, inclusive and equitable Minnesota, along with those that grow and sustain philanthropy and charitable giving. We provide education, skill-building and convening support for Minnesota grantmakers to help increase the impact of their grantmaking through advocacy and public policy. We amplify the voices of Minnesota grantmakers through a robust public policy program that draws upon a full range of advocacy tools to advance a public policy agenda that corresponds to MCF members' top grantmaking interests and draws from the work of issue-based member networks and coalitions. MCF's advocacy and public policy services are guided by its Government Relations and Public Policy Policies and Procedures. (MCF Strategic Plan - Leadership for the Future - 2012 to 2014)

"Change-oriented mission statements - by necessity - require a foundation to pursue public policy efforts that attempt to fundamentally change how the system operates." 
Emmett D. Carson, Phd. CEO and president of Silicon Valley Community Foundation (formerly CEO and president of The Minneapolis Foundation and MCF board member)