Updates on Real ID, licensure, light rail

To the Editor:
We have arrived at our first committee deadline, meaning most bills must have been heard in at least one committee to move forward, unless the Rules and Administration Committee grants an exception. Here is a snapshot of a few bills that have met this deadline:
Real ID
On Monday, March 6, the Real ID bill failed to pass the Senate by a vote of 38-29. However, despite the bill’s failure to pass, its fate remains unclear; a motion was passed to reconsider the bill and it was subsequently laid on the table. This means that it is open for further consideration for the duration of the session.
Teacher licensure
Minnesota is home to some of the best and brightest students in the nation, but we are experiencing a lack of qualified teachers, particularly in rural school districts. One significant factor in this shortage is the state’s cumbersome and inconsistent teacher licensing process. In 2016, Minnesota’s Office of the Legislative Auditor (OLA) issued a scathing critique of Minnesota’s teacher licensure system. The 107-page report found, in general, that “Minnesota’s teacher licensure system is broken and needs significant changes.” Last year, because of the OLA report, the legislature established a bipartisan working group that studied educator licensing and issued a unanimous set of recommendations. This year, the legislature is acting based on both those recommendations and the recommendations in the OLA report.
Senate File 4 is currently undergoing the committee process to fundamentally alter the way teachers are licensed in our state. Among its many provisions, the bill:
Establishes a new “Professional Educator Licensing and Standards Board,” which will take on the responsibilities currently shared by the Board of Teaching and the Department of Education
Creates a “tiered” licensing system, allowing for a clearer and more affordable pathway into the teaching profession. This new system will empower local school districts to take on more responsibility for educator hiring and development. It will establish consistent standards that will streamline the licensing process for both in- and out-of-state applicants.
The bill has been passed out of the Senate E-12 Policy and State Government Finance and Policy Committees. It awaits a hearing in the E-12 Finance Committee.
Senate File 695
My legislation to place a moratorium on Pollution Control Agency (PCA) wastewater regulations is currently moving through the Senate. This bill is particularly important to small communities, including a handful of cities in Senate District 18, facing tens of millions of dollars in costs as they work to bring city wastewater treatment plants into compliance with recently imposed PCA water treatment regulations. The moratorium will give the legislature time to consider a recently completed cost-benefit analysis to determine whether the PCA regulations are worth the cost.
Light rail transit
Another important bill heard this week relates to light rail transit spending. Senate File 150, of which I am a co-author, would require local governments to seek legislative approval before spending any money on studying, developing or constructing light rail transit. Light rail transit is controversial, costly and inefficient. Construction of light rail lines costs around $100 million per mile; projects total in the billions and require tens of millions of dollars of ongoing taxpayer funds to subsidize operation. This model of mass transit is simply not sustainable at a time when every available dollar should be directed toward transit systems that provide more flexibility and are less expensive to construct and operate.

State Sen. Scott Newman
R-Hutchinson