House higher-ed committee passes omnibus bill

Got out of there around 8:45, with the bill having passed after a lot of partisan bickering, failed DFL amendments and one Republican dissenter.

So the bill remains relatively unchanged from its condition in the first part of today's session, with the exception of tuition. The committee adopted an amendment proposed by Rep. Tom Rukavina (DFL-Virginia) that essentially allowed the University of Minnesota the equivalent of a 5 percent tuition cap on all Minnesota resident undergraduate students.

The change came amid U of M Chief Financial Officer Richard Pfutzenreuter's concerns that the original proposal to allow the U to increase revenue from students only by $76.3 million was badly worded and would have hamstrung the university's efforts to increase enrollment.

The bill passed largely along partisan lines, though Rep. King Banaian (R-St. Cloud), himself an economics professor, voted against the bill even after shooting down practically all DFL amendments.

Before voting, he told the committee:

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"I'm sorry that we're in this awful situation. (When I return to teaching in the classroom) the question is whether or not I could tell my students, 'We did the best we could.' That's why I can't support this bill. I say this out of respect. I wish I could help you."

After the session, he told me:

"Chairman Nornes did the best he could with what he had. But the (funding) target was just bad. I knew the bill would pass, so I (voted against some amendments) because I wanted to make the bill as good as I could. Sometimes you have to play the game."