Public Policy

Policy in Focus

Legislature Goes Home with Key Work Left Unfinished; They'll Probably Be Back
The story is still evolving about what’s next now that the Minnesota Legislature has adjourned without addressing key transit needs or passing a bonding bill. The confusing and what MPR called a chaotic meltdown to the session was documented by MPR and MinnPost. The video is not pretty on The Uptake. The process has led some lawmakers to call for a different approach.
The legislative session started in January 2015 with everyone agreeing that long-term transportation investment needed to be a priority. As it turned out, this issue that has a broad base of support is the one thing that cannot get resolved. Read MinnPost's coverage about how a final deal fell apart.
Now Governor Dayton is in the position to call the shots as suggested by the Star Tribune. At first it seemed he was going to keep a special session focused on a do-over of the bonding bill, as reported by the Star Tribune in print and podcast. But, now he has stepped back from his self-imposed, 48-hour deadline for signing the tax and supplemental spending bills which raises speculation he may try to hold his leverage over legislators to renegotiate a grand bargain on taxes, supplemental spending, bonding and transportation. According to the Star Tribune Dayton doesn't like a $35 million tax break that turns back public health efforts to drive up the cost and easy access to tobacco products. Given the politics, he holds the cards to craft bills that are much more to his liking. We'll know more after the Memorial Day weekend. Listen to the Star Tribune's recap of the situation.
Bonding Bill Could Portend Capital Grant Requests
There's no bill. The Pioneer Press reports on all of those who are disappointed. But, it's worth looking at the summary of the three proposals that were left on the table to get a sense of what projects might be needing private, capital grant support in the next year, or so, to get finished.
Early Childhood Takes New Direction
The increased investment for early childhood education came in the form of a $25 million appropriation to launch a universal pre-K program as a pilot. The initiative was backed by the Dayton Administration. In the days before the final budget was penned United Way and Blandin Foundation leaders Sarah Caruso and Kathy Anette urged lawmakers in a MinnPost commentary to build upon investments in early childhood scholarships. 
Student Data Disaggregation Plan Put in Place
Community advocates who participated in the My Brother's Keeper community action planning process cited a need for disaggregated data to better understand the needs of boys and young men of color. The supplemental budget bill includes the All Kids Count Act which requires the Minnesota Department of Education to start providing student data in disaggregated formats to enable better planning and targeting of services. Good work by a coalition led by MinnCan of which MCF was a supporter.
Legislature Set Aside the Bold for a Modest Tax Bill
The legislature could not pass a tax bill in 2015, the first year of this legislative session. Talk about bold moves and a $900 million in tax reductions got redirected to drafting a more modest, $259 million bill. While still awaiting Dayton’s signature, the bill is noted for adjustments to offset rising college student loan debt, adjustments to the Working Family Tax Credit, and support for sports -- both the Super Bowl and the new soccer stadium. There were some adjustments to the domicile test and changes made to confirm with Federal extenders that were made permanent last December. While there were lots of conversations through the past two years about nonprofits and sales taxes, little was ultimately done. Read the summary. Glance at the spreadsheet. Look through the bill. Listen to the summary. Get a sense what the Minnesota Budget Project thinks was left undone. 
Supplemental Budget Bill Doled Out $182 Million with Lots of Policy, Too
Broadband investment got a $35 million boost. Not exactly the $100 million some were hoping for, but the grant program requires full match so the investment in continuing to build out access could be more like $70 million. The bill also included $2.3 million in one-time allocations to Minnesota Initiative Funds for business development grants. The Ag portion of the budget bill sets up the Good Food Access Program Advisory Council, a group that will require representation from philanthropy when it gets set up in the coming months. Scan the full, 600-page bill and find out how legislators feel when these bills get put in front of them during the waning ours of the session, glance at the spreadsheet that summarizes new appropriations or read the House Public Information Office's report.
Workforce Development Pathways Plans Advanced
MCF supports the MNWin policy agenda for improving workforce development opportunities with a keen eye on closing racial income gaps. The Pathways to Prosperity competitive grant program got a permanent, $1 million boost. The Adult Basic Education program got launched with a $400,000 investment. Language authorizing use of additional federal SNAP funding for education and training was approved, but no current SNAP dollars were allocated. In other efforts, funding was provided for a higher education equity opportunity and job placement grant program. Dollars were also allocated for workforce and affordable housing development grants. Check out the bill and the spreadsheet.
Down Payment on Racial Equity
The Governor and legislative leaders were startled when the U.S. Census reported a 14% drop in household income for Black Minnesotans last fall as covered in the Star Tribune. Governor Dayton wanted immediate action in a special session. That didn't happen, but then he proposed $100 million in one-time funding. That didn't happen, either. The supplemental budget bill includes $35 million for this equity agenda. The good news is it not one-time money -- it's a permanent investment. Check out the list of funded programs and groups.
Reduced Sentences A Significant Equity Initiative
This bill reducing drug sentences was not on the MCF policy agenda, but its impact on addressing racial income inequality is notable. There was strong, bipartisan support (a unanimous vote passing it through the Minnesota House as reported by the Star Tribune) for a measure to reduce drug crime sentences. Essentially, the changes were designed to distinguish between those addicted and those who are selling. Some liked it because it relieved pressure on escalating prison costs. Some like it because it was a preferred, less sweeping alternative to changes proposed by the Minnesota Sentencing Guidelines Commission that would have automatically gone into effect without legislative action. Some liked it as a move to start to break the prison-to-poverty pipeline.
Bipartisan Support for Felon Re-enfranchisement Denied
MCF supports felon re-enfranchisement and Minnesota's Restore the Vote campaign. This is an important voting rights measure intended to promote inclusion and equity, particularly in low income communities throughout the state and in communities of color. The idea has bipartisan support. It passed the Minnesota Senate. It came up for a vote in the Minnesota House as a floor amendment but was ruled out of order to avoid what was possibly going to be an embarrassing loss for the House GOP leadership. Recently, other states have moved to restore felon voting rights. This issue will continue to be on MCF's democracy-building radar screen and is certain to be back in the next legislative session.
Presidential Primary Changed
The Legislature passed and the Governor signed a bill establishing a presidential primary in Minnesota. The change was prompted by problems associated with high turnout at Minnesota's March 1, 2016 caucuses. The Pioneer Press summarizes the changes. Other election bills were enacted that clarify how to managed elections in emergency situations and how to deal with extending hours should there be long lines. While at the national level, CNN reports President Obama making the case for a National Voting Day holiday.
Making a “Right” Easier to Exercise
MCF attended the Brennan Center’s first national conference on automatic voter registration. MCF and other advocates are exploring the option of introducing automatic voter registration legislation in Minnesota next year. "AVR" has been recently adopted in five states as a strategy to make the right to vote more accessible to all citizens, increase voter participation and ensure access to all communities.
The Time is Now to Talk Census
MCF hosted the Funders Committee for Civic Engagement’s national conference this past week in Saint Paul. The link between the Census and American Community Survey and creating more inclusive and equitable communities and having good data for business and community planning was a top topic. Clearly, the time for grantmakers is now. Senator Al Franken makes the case and starts the count in this must-view video.  Contact MCF's director of public policy and communication, Bob Tracy for more information about how to get involved with the Census.  Take a look at the conference agenda to get a sense of other topics that were discussed at the event.

Questions about what's happening at the Minnesota State Capitol or at the Capitol in Washington, D.C.?  Want to receive MCF's Public Policy Update e-newsletter? Contact MCF's director of public policy and communication, Bob Tracy.


Posted May 20 2016 -
Another Down-to-the-Wire Legislative Session

With only a few days to finish their work, the Minnesota Legislature’s 2016 session is either going to be know as the do-nothing, the do-little or yet another one dragging its work into special session. A deal on transportation funding and spending is the linchpin. The Pioneer Press explains the roadblocks. Governor Dayton tried to step up as a dealmaker according to MinnPost to get things moving by introducing a transportation plan as reported here by MPR. While lawmakers continue to develop new options as reported by the Star Tribune, there remains a distinct possibility that the session will end without a transportation bill, sparking considerable debate(i.e. political finger-pointing) through the upcoming election. Transit funding is a sticking point, and former Governor Arne Carlson provides some useful historic perspective in MinnPost on light rail transit investment in Minnesota.

As MPR reports, the Governor and legislative leaders continue their series of behind-the-scenes meetings to create a "grand bargain" out of competing tax, supplemental appropriation, bonding and transportation bills.

Finally, All Capital Funding Plans are on the Table

In an unusual move, GOP House leadership developed a capital investment bonding bill in private and did not release the details until the day before putting it before the full House for a vote. As MPR reported, the bill failed to pass. In an equally unusual move, the House and Senate set up a conference committee to come up with a bill to present to lawmakers before Monday's adjournment. Usually, a conference committee is assembled to work through difference in bills already pased by both legislative bodies. In this case, they are working on bills that were voted down in both legislative bodies. The key thing about bonding bills is they can give a boost to projects that may be coming to grantmakers for matching dollars. This is what's on the House'sSenate's  and Governor's lists. 

Spending Plan is Also in Flux

Governor Dayton has declared early childhood education, including an initial investment in universal pre-K, broadband expansion and equity funding among his priorities as reported by MinnPost. The House and Senate conference committee responsible for negotiating the differences between the supplemental budget bills have been meeting behind-the-scenes, but can't act until they get budget targets from leadership leaving advocates wondering and scrambling to make sure their funding proposals get included in the final bill crafted in the closing hours of the session.  MCF will be monitoring funding actions on early childhood education, data disaggregation for Minnesota public school students, workforce development and the MNWin agenda and investments in economic development initiatives targeting racial disparities.

Paulsen Pushing Bills on Individual Giving and Private Foundation Excise Tax

Minnesota 3rd District Congressman Erik Paulsen recently introduce the Interest for Others Act which he developed in partnership with a group of Minnesota advocates known as Interest for Others.  The proposal allows for a tax credit for diversion of interest income from certain financial accounts.  Paulsen is also co-author of  HF4907 which includes a bill he introduced and has championed since 2011 to simplify the excise tax for private foundations.  As a member of the House Ways & Means Committee, Paulsen is directly involved with crafting tax bills, including provisions that affect philanthropy and charitable giving.  MCF is working with Minnesota Council of Nonprofits and the Greater Twin Cities United Ways to set up a Coffee with Congress roundtable meeting with Rep. Paulsen later this summer to talk about what can be done to promote philanthrophy and charitable giving; exploring challenge, new ideas and how to get results on proposals that are currently on the table. Contact Bob Tracy if you want information about how to participate.

Walz Takes Hot Dish Award Home to First District

Minnesota 1st District Congressman Tim Walz cleaned up with his "Turkey Taco To Hotdish" to re-claim the first place award in annual competition among the ten members of Minnesota's Congressional delegation. MinnPost reports. Photo of Rep. Keith Ellison's "Most Beautiful Hotdish in the World" by MinnPost Sam Brodey. 

Curate Your Twitter Feed

MinnPost provides an insiders guide to following Minnesota's Congressional delegation. Add them to your Twitter feed. It's a great way to keep track of what they are focusing on in Washington, D.C. and to get a sense of their values.

Posted May 11 2016 -
Minnesota Legislature Facing Down May 23 Deadline

The Legislature and Governor Dayton have a lot to sort through before they can wrap up work in Saint Paull. Transportation funding, the scope of a tax bill, supplemental spending plans for the current budget and bonding. The Star Tribune explains how these are inter-connected. It's not uncommon for these all of these big issues to remain unresolved at the end of the session as leaders try to reconcile competing priorities and their policy and political implications. MPR and the Pioneer Press provide insider views about this process that are very different from the civic text book version of lawmaking. In a bit of peculiar timing, MinnPost reports that the conference committee responsible for hammering out the differences in the supplemental spending plans took time from the process to hear testimony about how to improve the process. Of course, until the big differences are negotiated none of the conference committees can do any real work because they do not have targets to guide their spending and policy choices. The Star Tribune hopes gridlock does not prevail.   (Photo courtesy of MinnPost.)

Decisions About State Funding in Limbo

Additional state funding for education equity, including early childhood education, workforce and economic development, and a capital investment package are all waiting action in the legislature.  Review the side-by-side comparisons of House and Senate spening plans, or just look at education or early childhood educationworkforce and economic development or proposals to address racial income inequality.  The Senate released a list of bonding proposals but as MPR reported, the bill died by one vote on the Senate floor leaving some wondering about whether the Legislature will adjourn its "bonding" session without even passing a bonding bill (Pioneer Press).  The House GOP leadership have yet to release its capital investment plan, which has inspired some consternation as described by the Star Tribune and  Forum News Service and expressed by the Duluth News Tribune.

Voting Promote Inclusion and Equity

The Star Tribune reports that the felon enfranchisment bill pending in the Minnesota legislature faces tough odds of passing, dispite bipartisan support, approval by the Minnesota Senate and backing by Governor Dayton. Voices for Racial Justice and Restore the Vote make the case for preserving and expanding voting rights as a strategy to promote inclusion and equity.

Dayton Says Wealth is Not Fleeing Minnesota

The Star Tribune reports on the brewing debate over whether or not higher bracket tax rates enacted in 2013 are causing a "wealth flight" in Minnesota. The issue came up earlier this Spring with the release of reports suggesting that wealthy Minnesotan's were leaving the state along with countering views by the Minnesota Budget Project and others. (See previous Policy in Focus coverage.) The divergent analysis is now central to some of the conversations at the Captiol as lawmakers consider competing proposals for a tax bill.

TAKE ACTION - Klobuchar Backs Charitable Giving Bill

Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuch has signed on as supported for S 2750 - The Charity Act. The bill establishes a single, flat rate for the private foundation excise tax (introduced as HF640 in the House by Minnesota Congressman Erik Paulsen), makes Donor Advised Funds eligible for IRA Rollover contributions among other provisions.  Similar provisions are in HF4907 in the House which is supported by Minnesota Congressman Erik Paulsen as a co-author.  MCF is in communication with the state's Congressional delegation to urge their support for these bills.  You can also contact Minnesota's Congressional delegation using the Council on Foundation's Action Center. (Private foundations can advocate in support of the provisions in each of these bills that relate to the private foundation excise tax.)

Agencies Analyze Minnesota Housing and Health Disparities

The Metropolitan Council released a report on home ownership gaps. The Star Tribune and  MPR provide summary analysis, while The Spokeman-Reporter goes deeper with Met Council member and former MCF member Gary Cunningham to explain that the disparities are not just a result of demographic factors, but reflect systems shaped by racist policies and practices.  Looking at health disparities, Minnesota Community Measurement released a report that was also covered by MinnPost citing Minnesota as having some of the largest racial, ethnic and geographic disparities in health status and incidence of chronic diseases.

Posted: May 5 2016

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

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)