Dear Constituents and Friends,

As you may already know, the legislative session ended abruptly at midnight on Monday, May 18th and given the recent veto by Governor Dayton of the education bill, we are heading into a special session. Although divided government made it difficult for the Senate and the House to fulfill all of its respective priorities, the Senate was able to reach a bi-partisan compromise for a budget that invests in our schools, families, colleges and universities, and our health and human services.

I must admit, my first two years in the Senate were filled with accomplishments I was proud of. This year, I left the Capitol after adjournment with a bittersweet sentiment; while we ended on time, we missed many opportunities to continue the momentum and progress we had achieved in previous years. We passed all the needed budget bills, but we failed short to address the infrastructure reality of our state's underfunded transportation system. We also missed the opportunity to pass a bi-partisan proposal to grant drivers licenses for all to make our roads even safer. 

I am confident we will be able to bridge the differences that remain between the Governor's proposals and the legislature's priorities to close the 2015 legislative session and position Minnesota for future progress and economic growth. I will keep you updated with the latest developments as we work together to reach this goal.

I wish you a safe and happy Memorial Day Holiday!

Sincerely,

Melisa

E-12 Finance Bill — VETOED

The Senate prevailed in securing more money for our state's K-12 schools and early childhood programs–even more than the Senate originally proposed. With $400 million, we will put more funding on to the formula and invest in early childhood opportunities for all children with the greatest need. This bill would have invested nearly $1 billion into our state's education system since 2013.

Increasing the Per Pupil Funding Formula

The Education bill included a 1.5% and 2% increase to the per-pupil funding formula for FY16 and FY17, respectively. The new money would help schools minimize the need for painful cuts to the classroom. The new investments amount to $87 per pupil increased the first year, and $118 per pupil the second year. This is money that provides districts the flexibility to invest in areas that best suit their individual needs and ensures quality educational programs for all students, while minimizing the need for painful cuts.

Early Education

After increases to the formula, the bill placed a large priority on getting all of Minnesota's youngest learners ready for Kindergarten. The investments in pre-k are split; with $30.75 million dedicated to School Readiness and $30.75 million for Early Learning Scholarships. The Minnesota Reading Corps program, which focuses on helping struggling readers achieve grade-level reading standards, also received $3.5 million in this year's E-12 budget bill.

These programs directly lead to closing the achievement gap and ensuring more 4-year-olds are prepared for kindergarten.

Facilities Funding

Another major priority for the Senate this session was finding a solution to the underfunding of facilities at most school districts across the state. Most buildings range from 40-50 years old, with the oldest school buildings reaching 87 years of age. The Senate invested $31.96 million over the biennium in this budget bill, and a significant ramp up of investment in subsequent years.

This is an equity issue for school districts. This measure puts all school districts on equal footing with most large metro-area districts, giving them the ability to repair and renovate their schools buildings.

Equity to School Funding

The bill also included a focus on assisting school districts with attracting and retaining quality teachers. The Senate bill did this by increasing the cap on Q Comp and adding $9.5 million into the program which allows districts to offer teachers career advancement options, job-embedded professional development, performance pay, and more.

Earning College Credits – College in the Classroom    

To expand students' opportunities for concurrent enrollment, legislators adopted spending an additional $4 million to allow this successful program to double. This would allow many more juniors and seniors to earn college credit while still in high school, thereby saving money on student loans and allowing them to remain at their high school.

American Indian Aid

The Senate Bill also addressed the gross disparity between aid for American Indian students and the rest of Minnesota students. The bill would convert the American Indian grant program to an aid program. Currently, only 32 school districts and tribal contract schools receive state funding. This legislation would expand funding to include all 138 districts and tribal schools that enroll at least 20 American Indian students. This change in the law would provide a significant increase in funding for larger districts, and would enable all districts to create a consistent and sustainable Indian education program. This bill would increase American Indian Aid by $3.177 million.

Major Policy Provisions

Licensing – Getting quality teachers in the classroom

Minnesota is experiencing a severe teacher shortage crisis, particularly in rural areas. In some districts that used to receive hundreds of applicants per position, the stream has turned into a trickle that makes hiring qualified teachers difficult or close to impossible. In response to this crisis, we streamlined the licensure process. We made it easier for teachers to get their licenses by removing unnecessary barriers, while still maintaining the high standards to which Minnesota teachers are held. This provision also helped streamline out-of-state teacher license requirements. The state's teacher licensure exam requirements were changed to help streamline the testing process so that more teachers would be eligible for a full license. Those with a documented disability will also be able to receive test accommodations.

Testing – More learning time for students

We reduced the amount of time students will have to spend on standardized testing. The point is to increase learning time and decrease testing time. Students in grades 1-6 will take no more than 10 hours of testing per school year, and students in grades 7-12 will spend no more than 11 hours of classroom time taking tests. This bill also repealed the Education Planning and Assessment system programs (Explore and Plan).

These measures also protect students and schools from the online MCA testing failures this spring, and puts NCS Pearson Inc. (who administers the tests) on notice that the legislature can and will respond to an inadequate product. The provision also gives the Minnesota Department of Education the tools to respond to future testing problems.

Flexible Learning Year

School district flexible learning year program approval change:

  • School districts that have an approved four-day school week are allowed to continue with their plans for five years.
  • Future approvals are contingent upon meeting district performance goals under World's Best Workforce.
  • The Commissioner must give one year's notice before revoking approval of a program.
  • The Commissioner will retain authority to approve flexible year plans.

Student Achievement

The Senate's Policy Bill gave students the tools they need to succeed. These tools include allowing 9th and 10th grade students to enroll in concurrent enrollment programs, making changes to the program, allowing high school students to receive credit for outstanding foreign language achievement, and adding more flexibility for students to fulfill their chemistry or physics requirements by allowing either agriculture or career and technical education credits to qualify. It also allows students to gain math credits by taking computer science courses.

Special Education

There are a number of provisions included in the policy bill aimed at making sure all Minnesota students receive a quality education. Measures included in the bill will ensure paraprofessionals will be better trained and also create a more seamless process for the transfer of special education student files, as well as the implementation of policies meant to reduce student suspensions.

Accountability

As part of preparing the World's Best Workforce, Minnesota high schools are working to ensure students are college and career ready. To that end, the policy bill included a requirement that schools have a posted policy on how teachers pass students on to the next grade level. Charter schools would also be required to give performance measurements for at-risk students.

American Indian Students

Allowed for American Indian students to be enrolled in all academic and targeted services.

STATUS: Vetoed (H.F. 844)

Health and Human Services Budget Division Omnibus Bill

Nursing Home Payment Reform

This legislation will improve the way the state funds our nursing homes. Major innovation in Minnesota's nursing facility payment system has not occurred since the 1990s. This proposal provides a new funding system that better reimburses the actual cost of care. As a result of these realigned payments, rural facilities may be able to retain employees, as they currently often move to metro and regional centers in search of higher wages. With roughly 60,000 people turning 65 this year, Minnesota's senior population is booming; this legislation is one of the proposals passed this year to help prepare our system for this growing population. Investment: $138.2 million.

Additional Child Protection Legislation

The funding provided to the child protection system will ensure that Minnesota follows through on its promise to keep all children safe. Along with implementation of the Task Force recommendations, the additional $52 million to counties and child services strengthens a system in which there are currently too many cracks for our vulnerable children to fall through. The bill ensures that each county gets funding for at least one additional child protection worker. By providing funding for additional workers, counties will be more responsive and efficient when handling maltreatment reports. Investment: $52.1 million.

Medical Assistance for Employed Persons with Disabilities (MA-EPD) Premium Increase

Medical Assistance for Employed Persons with Disabilities (MA-EPD) is a program that provides Medical Assistance (MA) coverage to persons with disabilities without the asset and income limitations of traditional MA.

MA-EPD allows employed persons with disabilities to keep MA coverage even though they can earn income and build more assets. Additionally, MA-EPD pays for the same services that standard MA covers, including doctor visits, hospital stays, home care services, medical equipment, and mental health services.

This session, legislation was drafted in response to a premium increase in MA-EPD that went into effect Oct. 1, 2014. The minimum monthly premium increased to $65 per month, with some people having to pay more of their monthly unearned income as an additional fee. This bill decreases the minimum premium from $65 to $35, and returns the additional fee on unearned income to one-half of 1%. Investment: $4.8 million.

Non-Emergency Medical Transportation (NEMT) Modifications and Rate Increases

Over the past five years, substantial work has been done to reform the payment and regulation of our non-emergency medical transportation (NEMT) providers. A few years ago, the Health and Human Services Budget bill established the Non-Emergency Medical Transportation Advisory Committee, which has been working diligently.

Last session, the Health and Human Services budget bill contained many policy recommendations made by the Advisory Committee that did not have a cost implication to DHS. This year's proposal is another product of the work of the Advisory Committee, and includes rate increases. This bill represents a compromise between the many stakeholders.

Within the realm of health and human services, the bill changes the description of services available for reimbursement by MA and the types of records that providers have to keep in order to receive payment.

The bill also makes substantial changes to the rates for NEMT providers under MA. The new language ties the rates paid to the type of transportation service provided, not the type of vehicle. The language also provides a rate add-on if the services are provided in certain rural areas. Finally, the bill eliminates the 4.5% rate decrease levied upon NEMT and ambulance services that started in 2012. Investment: $3.7 million.

Violence against Health Care Workers

The Violence against Health Care Workers Bill is designed to provide adequate training, staffing, and security to health care workers who are faced with workplace violence.

According to the Department of Justice, fewer than half of all non-fatal violent workplace crimes are reported to the police. This bill would protect some of the known causes for under-reporting workplace assaults, including "part of the job" syndrome, fear of blame or reprisal, lack of management/peer support, and feeling it's not worth the effort.

This legislation ensures hospitals have plans in place to deal with these types of incidents. Hospitals must develop violence prevention plans in coordination with healthcare workers and identify areas of need. Health care workers will also receive training on violence prevention and de-escalation, as well as emergency preparedness. Finally, the bill allows MDH to impose an administrative fine of up to $250 for not complying with these requirements. Investment: $50,000 (onetime).

Naloxone Distribution Expansion and Appropriation

The legislation requires the Commissioner of Health to expand the availability of Naloxone and engage in an education campaign to increase awareness of opiate overdoses and the availability of Naloxone. Specifically under the bill, MDH will make an effort to promote statewide distribution. The initiative also aims to raise awareness of opiate overdoses and the effects of Naloxone through partnerships and social media. Finally, the Commissioner will have to connect with stakeholders to develop a process to improve opiate addiction treatment. Investment: $290,000.

Homeless Youth Act Appropriation

On any given night, an estimated 4,080 Minnesota youth experience homelessness. To provide them with comfort and care, legislation was introduced to fund an additional $2 million a year for programs under the Homeless Youth Act. Additionally, the eligibility age for these programs was raised to 24 years old.

The need for support for homeless youth is abundant: the Department of Human Services received applications for over $20 million last year, more than five times the funds available. Furthermore, 25% of homeless adults first experience homelessness before the age of 17. The burdens of homelessness cost society a great deal of resources in health care, education, housing, and social services.

With more funding, homeless organizations could help and host more youth, expand emergency shelter beds, provide more transitional housing options, and increase street outreach and drop-in centers. By helping our homeless youth through transitional housing and other resources, we can help them find sustained and stable housing, allowing for a future that is more safe and dependable. Investment: $2 million.

Safe Harbor Appropriation

The 2015 Safe Harbor for Sexually Exploited Youth bill makes critical state investments for safe shelter and supportive services, including additional shelter beds for sexually exploited youth, training for frontline personnel, and a statewide infrastructure to connect child sex trafficking victims to services. It also appropriates additional funding for youth outreach. Investment: $1.6 million (DHS) and $1.4 million (MDH).

MA Income, Asset Limits and Spenddown Increases

The ACA allowed states to increase the income standard for adults accessing Medical Assistance (MA) to 133% FPG (Federal Poverty Guideline) and eliminate the asset limits for this and most other groups eligible for MA under the expansion passed in 2013. However, these new limits did not apply to individuals over the age of 65 or to those with disabilities. Therefore, these populations are still subject to the lower, pre-ACA asset limits and income standards. If an individual with disabilities or an elderly individual has income over 100% FPG, they must spend-down to 75% FPG to access MA.

This bill invests $3.3 million to reduce the MA spenddown for seniors and persons with disabilities. It decreases the amount of income seniors and persons with disabilities has to spenddown in order to qualify for MA. In the HHS Omnibus bill, the spenddown is increased to 80% FPG. Investment: $3.3 million.

Beltrami County Mental Health Hub & Mental Health Hub Program Creation

An appropriation of $2 million will go toward a mental health hub in Beltrami County. Currently, public health advocates and law enforcement have been inundated by people suffering from mental illness and lack the resources to deal with them appropriately. The mental health hub will allow law enforcement to admit people suffering a mental illness event into the center, rather than jail, where patients can receive the treatment they need. Investment: $2 million (onetime).

MN Telemedicine Act

The MN Telemedicine Act was introduced to help rural communities maintain continued access to high-quality health care. The legislation allows healthcare providers to continue utilizing technology to deliver high-quality patient care in the most accessible and cost-effective ways available.

The Telemedicine Act clarifies the definition of telemedicine to include two-way video conferencing, electronically sending information in real time, and using information and communications technologies that rely on devices worn or used by the patient, among other emerging technologies. It also requires insurance plans to treat services using telemedicine technology the same as they treat face-to-face services, including paying the same rates. Furthermore, the bill ensures clinics or hospitals where the patient is located receive reimbursement for investments in the technology and infrastructure necessary to enable telemedicine consultations.

Telemedicine is one more way to make it easier for rural communities to offer high-quality health care that would otherwise be too expensive to operate. By using real-time communication devices, patients can cut down on the long commutes that are often required for face-to-face services. Additionally, telemedicine can reduce the need for transferring patients from smaller rural hospitals to larger ones, saving both the hospital and the patient time and money. In fact, according to some, telemedicine can save an average of $140 for each use. Minnesota now joins a list of 22 other states and the District of Columbia that have similar laws. Investment: $344,000.

Advance Care Planning

The Advance Care Planning Act will provide support in encouraging families and communities to talk early about end-of-life planning. The legislation incorporates elements of life stage planning, including spiritual accommodations and respite care and management.

The legislature will provide funds to an organization that provides training to people in faith, medical, and social services communities that help families engage in these often challenging conversations. Investment: $250,000 (one-time).

The ABLE Act

In 2014, the President signed the Achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE) Act, which allows a new type of savings account for persons with disabilities under the existing 529 plan structure. Without these accounts, many people with disabilities have very limited avenues to save while maintaining access to important services.

Before these accounts can be made available for Minnesotans, the state has to implement regulations governing the new accounts, just as they have for other 529 plans. In this session's Tax Conformity bill, the Legislature implemented the relevant tax provisions so that individuals could take advantage of these accounts in tax year 2015.

The bill implements the necessary regulations to govern ABLE accounts in Minnesota. The bill also takes advantage of the existing 529 plan and open that option for persons with disabilities. Currently, 529 plans are most commonly used to save for college expenses. Parents place after-tax money into the plans, and the growth of that money is not taxed as long as it is used for the allowed educational expenses.

ABLE accounts will be available for individuals who are certified with a disability either through Social Security Income (SSI), Social Security Disability (SSDI), or through another certification process. These eligible individuals may save up to $100,000 in an ABLE account without risking eligibility for Social Security and other state and federal public programs. Funds accrued in the accounts may be used by eligible individuals to pay for education, health care, transportation, housing, and other expenses as long as they qualify as a disability expense.

Any person is able to contribute to an ABLE account, but an eligible individual is only allowed to have one account for his or her benefit. Earnings on the ABLE account and the distributions made for qualified expenses are not counted as taxable income for either the contributor or the beneficiary. Investment: $105,000 (onetime).

Alzheimer's Research and Dementia Grants

The Alzheimer's Research and Dementia Grants program establishes an Alzheimer's research program and further addresses the needs of people with Alzheimer's and the families that care for them.

According to the Alzheimer's Association, the disease affects one in nine Americans at age 65, and one-in-three by age 85. It is the sixth leading cause of death in America, and Alzheimer's consumes 20% of the Medicare budget.

The legislation creates two types of competitive grants: research grants will focus on prevention, treatments, causes and cures; dementia grants will help empower caregivers through tools to cope and better care for their loved ones.

A dementia grant program is established and the Board on Aging (Board) ill award funds to projects and initiatives that promote awareness of dementia-related diseases, increase the rate of testing among the at-risk population, promote early detection and connect those affected by these diseases with education and resources. The grants are awarded on a statewide and local/regional basis.  Investment: $1.6 million.

STATUS: The Dementia Grants were part of the Omnibus HHS bill awaiting the Governor's signature (S.F. 1458). The Alzheimer's Research portion was included in the Higher Education Omnibus Bill. (S.F. 247)

Higher Ed Omnibus Bill

The final higher education omnibus bill included approximately $166 million in new funding for the University of Minnesota, Minnesota State Colleges and Universities, and the Office of Higher Education. The bill is a compromise between the Senate and House, with policy provisions and priorities that work to keep Minnesota's students first. Provisions of the bill are included below.

The University of Minnesota (U of M)

Originally in the House bill, the U of M received just $2.9 million in funding for projects on two campuses and provided no new funding for students. Thanks to the strong position of the Senate the final bill included $53 million in new spending. Of this new spending, $22 million will go toward student tuition relief, $1 million for Alzheimer's and dementia research and $30 million for the U of M Medical School to hire additional faculty to conduct research.

To ensure student's outcomes are prioritized, the bill also included performance funding metrics that tie 5% of the 2017 appropriation to progress made toward certain goals.

The bill also allows the U of M to refinance TCF Bank Stadium Bonds, saving $42 million. Of this, $13 million will be used to improve health education and clinical research facilities to be built on the Twin Cities Campus. An additional $29 million will revert to the general fund.

Minnesota State Colleges and Universities (MnSCU)

Investments to MnSCU will freeze tuition rates at two-year colleges for the 2015-2016 academic year while reducing tuition by at least 1% for these same institutions in the 2016-2017 academic year. Universities in MnSCU will be able to raise tuition as much as needed in the 2015-2016 academic year, but must freeze that rate in 2016-2017. Overall, the bill appropriates $100 million to tuition relief for over 410,000 students at MnSCU.

Mirroring the U of M, 5% of the appropriation for 2017 is tied to performance metrics. In addition, the bill includes initiatives to make transferring between MnSCU institutions easier, a Veterans into Agriculture fields, year-long Student Teaching and allows students with a college ready ACT score to forgo taking remedial classes.

Office of Higher Education (OHE)

Several new provisions and policies will move forward thanks to the $19.83 million in new funding provided for OHE. This will include $5 million to expand available scholarships for qualifying students in technical fields at Minnesota's two-year schools and will invest $3.4 million into grants for the dual-education "Earn While You Learn" apprenticeship programs in high growth/strong demand sectors.

One major initiative from the Senate was to use an existing surplus of $74 million in the State Grant Program to increase its cap and expand its reach, allowing more students to use this resource to help pay for college. This was in stark contrast to the original House plan to take this surplus and use it to fund MnSCU. Thanks to the Senate, the State Grant Program was protected and was given an additional $7 million to ensure it can continue to deliver access to higher education for Minnesota's students.

The Senate was also able to include $1 million for the Spinal Cord Injury and Traumatic Brain Injury Research Grant Program, allowing much needed research to continue. Other provisions include loan forgiveness programs for large animal veterinarians, increased American Indian scholarships, summer academic enrichment programs, and concurrent enrollment (College in the Schools).

Surplus State Grant Money

The Office of Higher Education (OHE) released projections earlier this year showing a surplus of about $74 million dollars in the State Grant fund during FY 2016-2017. This money, which generally helps low and moderate income families, can be reinvested into the state grant formula and allow lawmakers to get more dollars directly in the hands of Minnesota students and families. Additionally, the Senate was able to invest $7 million more into the State Grant Program.

In the original House plan much of the funding for MnSCU would have come from money in the State Grant Program. The Senate worked hard to ensure any new funding would not come at the expense of expanded access for higher education for more students.

MnSCU College Occupational Scholarship Pilot Program

One of the first pieces of legislation introduced in 2015 was tuition relief at two-year technical colleges for students who are learning skills and trades. Minnesota is facing a shortage in high-demand, technical fields, making it difficult for businesses and industries to grow and expand.

The provision grants scholarships for qualifying students who enroll in qualifying high demand programs. Students qualify for the program if their families make $90,000 per year or less and they enroll immediately following high school graduation. While in the program, students must maintain a college GPA of 2.5 and take at least 30 credits per year. Degrees must be in high demand programs that qualify under the Perkins Program that are offered at MnSCU state colleges. The program areas include: agriculture, food, and natural resources; business management and administration; human services; engineering, manufacturing and technology; arts, communications, and information systems; and health science technology.

When companies are able to find the labor they need, businesses can grow, which in turn helps our economy thrive. The MnSCU College Occupational Scholarship Pilot Program is meant to serve as another avenue for young degree-seeking Minnesotans, particularly those interested in a 2-year degree in a field that's currently lacking a large pool of qualified applicants.

STATUS: In the final bill, the Senate was able to secure $5 million to expand available scholarships for qualifying students in technical fields at Minnesota's two-year schools. (S.F. 2)

MnSCU Credit Transfer Plan

Legislation was included to require MnSCU to develop new transfer pathways between associate of arts, associate of science, and associate of fine arts degrees and baccalaureate degrees. Any plan put forth by MnSCU must take into account last year's legislation that create agreements for how students can get a degree if they studied on multiple campuses within 60 credits of transferring.

Some students within MnSCU have seen their credits go uncounted when transferring between schools. Although the schools are in the same system, sometimes credits are not counted and students are required to retake the same or very similar classes. Last year, the Legislature required MnSCU to develop a plan with agreements between campuses which lead to a BA degree being completed in about two years of transferring within MnSCU after receiving an associate of arts degree.

The bill also implements the creation of a baccalaureate plan for applied science degrees to respond to areas of high employability in the state. Approximately $115,000 was included for this initiative.

Earn While You Learn

Currently, many employers in highly skilled fields are finding students are unprepared for the positions they need. Likewise, many students who graduate are unable to find jobs or are underemployed. The Legislature is working to address these issues. In that pursuit, last year the Legislature established the MN PIPELINE Project, now called "Earn While You Learn". The project builds on the "apprentice style" learning system of Germany, and other initiatives that exist in parts of the United States.

The first step of the MN PIPELINE Project required the Department of Labor and Industry (DOLI) to convene "industry councils" in four high-demand fields: information technology, health care services, advanced manufacturing, and agriculture. These councils, comprised of representatives of employers, employees, and educators, delivered plans for how to implement this program to the legislature early in the Session.

This legislation will provide grants for the cost of workforce training to higher educational institutions or programs with qualified trainers partnering with businesses. Large employers (more than $25 million in revenue) will be required to pay at least 25% of the cost to train employees. To the extent possible, the Commissioner of DEED must distribute the grant money equally based on geography, while giving preference to women or racial and ethnic minorities. Depending on the amount of applications, 20% of the grants must be directed toward racial and ethnic minorities in the metropolitan area.

To ensure the skills the workforce receives under these partnerships are transferable, the legislation calls for the development of competency standards. As much as possible, the competency standards must be based on recognized international and national standards. Approximately $3.4 million was included for the program in the final bill.

Disclosure and Added Transparency

As student debt burdens continue to increase, more attention is being focused on potentially predatory practices that may take advantage of students. One effort to address this issues increases disclosure requirements for colleges and universities around students who graduate. It is hoped that by requiring information around things like graduation rates and post-graduation job placement, more students will understand which options are best suited for them.

It was clear from Senate hearings that more disclosure and transparency was needed for students, and four different bills were introduced and heard that addressed these issues (S.F. 329, S.F. 418, S.F. 696, S.F. 697).

The final bill included a hybrid of the language in these bills requiring any institution that receives state financial aid to provide information on student persistence and completion, debt of graduates, employment and wage information, and other relevant data. An electronic copy of this information should be provided on the institution's website and provided to public and private high schools, as well workforce centers operated by the Department of Employment and Economic Development.

No Remedial Classes for College-Ready Testers

To improve efficiency and reduce redundancies in class, this provision prohibits a state college or university from requiring an individual to take a remedial non-credit course if the individual received a college-ready ACT score. Additionally, colleges and universities who use placement testing must give reasonable time to review materials provided by the institution covering what will be in the test, including a sample test.

After the test, if a student is required to take a remedial noncredit course, the student must be given the opportunity to retake the placement test at the earliest time possible, as determined by the student and testing schedule. The institution is also mandated to provide the individual with study materials.

Refinance Student Loans

The legislature adopted a technical provision allowing the OHE the flexibility needed to administer a student loan refinancing program. This would allow OHE to refinance high-interest student loans–which currently can be as high as double digits–to rates as low as 3%.

This change advances legislation that passed last year. In 2014, the Legislature passed a bill allowing the OHE to develop a program so students with qualifying loans could refinance them through the state.

Student debt continues to be a major issue for many of Minnesota's students. A recent report found that Minnesota's students rank fifth in the nation in total debt burden. This burden continues to be a drag on the larger economy as students struggle to pay off their debt, start their families, and buy their first homes.

STATUS: The bill is awaiting the Governor's signature. (S.F. 5)