While the prospects of a special session have become less likely, focus now turns to the November elections. While there is no statewide office on the ballot, the focus is high on the presidential race. However, it’s important to remember the entire Minnesota House and Senate is also up for re-election this year. The last several elections have shown that anything is up for grabs, with control of the House and Senate changing each election cycle. This election has us again pondering what the makeup of the legislature will look like.
Currently, Republicans have a 73-61 majority over their DFL counterparts in the House. The Republicans have six retiring members while the Democrats have four retiring, and five members running for the State Senate. For the House Democrats to retake the majority, they will need to retain the nine vacated seats and win elections in seven seats currently held by Republicans.
In the Senate, Democrats currently have a 39-28 majority over their Republicans counterparts. Senate Democrats have eight retiring members, one member running for Congress, and the Senate Republicans have four retiring members. For Senate Republicans to flip the majority, they would need to retain the four vacated seats while picking up six seats that are currently represented by a Democrat.
Even though a lot of focus is spent on re-election bids, legislators are also spending time looking at issues for the next legislative session. First, working groups are meeting to look at student discipline and teacher licensure and we expect recommendations to be brought forward next session. The Legislative Auditor is doing an evaluation on standardized student testing and most likely will have recommendations for legislative changes.
Looking to the 2017 session, the legislature and the governor must pass a new two-year state budget. Because of the veto of the tax bill a number of issues remain on the table – most notably a proposal to address agricultural land, bond referendums and property taxes. Other issues that will hold our focus continue to be the per-pupil formula and an unresolved fix to address the instability in the Teacher Retirement Association fund.
While you focus on the start of the school year, this time of year also provides you a good opportunity to connect with elected officials and new candidates running for office. They seek every opportunity to talk to voters and love to hear from you (particularly during an election year) – it’s an opportunity to educate candidates about your issues as they relate to your school district and the students you serve. •