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House repasses early education finance bill

It took two tries, but a major increase in state aid for child care and early education programs is now likely as the House repassed the early childhood finance bill Monday.

After adopting the conference committee report on HF2292, members voted 71-61 to repass the bill as amended. It now moves to the Senate.

Sponsored by Rep. Dave Pinto (DFL-St. Paul) and Sen. Mary Kunesh (DFL-New Brighton), it would appropriate $300 million in new spending during the upcoming biennium with the bulk of that funding devoted to Early Learning Scholarships.

“We’re going to get every kid in Minnesota off to the great start that they deserve,” Pinto said.

[MORE: View the change item spreadsheet]

The full House began debate on the report Friday evening but adjourned just before midnight after three hours of discussion without taking action.

When debate resumed Saturday morning, Republicans again objected to the process the conference committee had followed, saying the final agreement had been arrived at without the two Republican conferees being given the chance to fully participate.

After a compromise was reached, the House overwhelmingly voted to send the report back to the conference committee.

Monday’s committee meeting lasted less than an hour with several amendments offered by Rep. Brian Daniels (R-Faribault). None were successful and the report was once again adopted.

“I wish I would have got one of my six amendments passed, but I understand,” Daniels said, adding that he appreciates the opportunity to have them considered.

The conference committee had to reconcile provisions in one House bill (HF2292) with two Senate files — SF1311 and portions of the Senate’s education finance bill.

Pinto said Friday that the committee’s work had been complicated because some provisions in its bill are linked to other bills, such as the K-12 education finance bill that is still being finalized.

The House had proposed an increase of $265.8 million for the learning scholarships during the upcoming biennium and the Senate proposal was $270.5 million, the final bill would appropriate $252.06 million.  That money would be transferred from the General Fund to the Special Revenue Fund because appropriations in the latter fund aren’t cancelled at the end of the biennium.

Conferees agreed to the Senate position on funding for the Head Start program with a $20 million appropriation rather than House proposal for a $10 million increase to be used for infrastructure but not operations.

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