The following article summarizes the original event which is listed below the summary.

Minnesota House Speaker Melissa Hortman offers upbeat advice on how to advocate for the University

Tue, February 27 2024, 11am

UMRA members attending the February 27 UMRA Forum enjoyed an honest and refreshing conversation with guest speaker Melissa Hortman, DFL-Brooklyn Park, speaker of the Minnesota House of Representatives and an honors graduate of the U of M Law School. The discussion, via Zoom, previewed the current legislative session, which started February 12, with particular focus on education-related issues. 

The 2023 legislative session was widely considered to be historic. The state’s resources were better than expected because the economic downturn anticipated in the aftermath of the Covid epidemic did not materialize to the degree forecast. As a result, the Minnesota Legislature was able to bring back more funding for education and various other spending priorities. Now, for 2024, the Legislature’s focus on the education arena is more likely to be on education policy than on new spending initiatives, Speaker Hortman said.

When asked what is the best way to advocate for the University at the state Capitol, Hortman said legislators would like to see more students. “We care a lot about the students, and the faculty and staff,” she said. She remarked how impressive it was when U of M students came to the Legislature wearing gold t-shirts that indicated on their backs the amount of educational debt the students were carrying. 

View a video recording of the UMRA webinar with Melissa Hortman, DFL-Brooklyn Park and speaker of the Minnesota House of Representatives.

Legislators would also like to see the regents more often than simply during the time when regents are up for appointment. Ideally, the University’s new president will get to know the members of the Legislature’s education committees, who tend to continue in those committees for extended periods of time. Cultivating ongoing relationships with those members will be beneficial for everybody, Hortman said.

The University’s academic health programs are very much on the Legislature’s mind. If the U of M wants a billion dollars from the State to help take back Medical School operations in the course of unwinding the current U of M partnership with Fairview Health Services, the University should present a detailed plan on how the money will be used and why that matters, Hortman said. She added: At the moment, it is not entirely clear what the U of M’s vision for the Medical School is going forward.

When asked about the need for holistic efforts to improve the educational system, Hortman said the Legislature is working on bipartisan efforts to help people out of poverty and out of homelessness. Stability in living conditions, food for young kids, and other approaches will make a difference in the abilities of children to learn and thrive. The Legislature’s current billion-dollar commitment to affordable housing is an important step in the right direction, she said.

Hortman was also asked about the North Star Promise Scholarship program, which provides tuition and fee assistance for students from families with modest income. Because the U of M existed before Minnesota became a state, there are some things the Legislature cannot require of the University as a separately chartered entity. For example, the Legislature can recommend, but cannot insist upon, a tuition freeze. However, the Legislature is attuned to the rising costs of education and can help families through programs such as the North Star Promise Scholarship program, Hortman said.

The North Star Promise should not be confused with the “North Star Act,” a current proposal to prevent state law enforcement agencies from collaborating with the federal government on deportation (as opposed to criminal) matters. In Minnesota, there is data suggesting that immigrants are a net benefit to the state in the contributions they make, Hortman said, but the bill is unlikely to make it out of the relevant committees.

Speaker Hortman graduated cum laude from the U of M’s Law School in 1995 and earned an MPA from Harvard’s Kennedy School in 2018. She worked for Legal Aid upon graduation from law school, focusing on housing issues. She ran for the Legislature twice unsuccessfully before winning a seat on her third try in 2004. She has been in the Legislature now for almost 20 years. Her focus originally was on transportation issues, and then on climate change. She has held the speaker role longer than any other woman in the Minnesota House of Representatives.

—Brad Clary, UMRA Program Committee

Event recording
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A preview of 2024 Minnesota legislative politics

Tue, February 27 2024, 11am
Melissa Hortman
DFL-Brooklyn Park and Speaker
Minnesota House of Representatives

Event to be held via Zoom.

On Tuesday, February 27, UMRA will welcome Melissa Hortman, speaker of the Minnesota House of Representatives, for a forum on the Minnesota Legislature, including a preview of its 2024 session. 

Hortman, a member of the Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party, lives in Brooklyn Park and has represented a part of the northwest suburbs of Minneapolis since first being elected to the Minnesota House in 2004. As a legislator, she has focused on energy, transportation, the environment, and civil law. She chaired the House Energy Committee from 2013 to 2014 and was chief author of legislation that created Minnesota’s solar energy standard. 

Hortman will help us understand the agenda for the 2024 legislative session, scheduled to begin February 12, and efforts at bipartisan cooperation.

In 2023, with Democrats holding the governor's office and majorities in both the Minnesota Senate and House, the Legislature passed a wide range of bills, including a $3 billion tax cut, approval of a bonding bill, approval of recreational marijuana use, additional funding for public education, approval of climate control action, and approval of driver's licenses regardless of immigration status. 

But many potentially contentious issues will likely surface or resurface in 2024, such as more funding for public infrastructure, legalization of sports betting, women's rights, and investments in communities of color. 

Of particular interest to UMRA members will be the likely topic of additional state-funded investments in the University of Minnesota hospitals and clinics in light of changes in the relationship between the U of M and the Fairview System.

Hortman holds a BA from Boston University, an MPA from Harvard University, and is a 1995 graduate cum laude of the University of Minnesota Law School. 

Please register for this free Zoom webinar and join us at 11 a.m. on Tuesday, February 27. We look forward to a timely and engaging discussion. 

Email Brad Clary if you would like to submit a question in advance.

—Bradley G. Clary, UMRA Program Committee

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Event Date: April 19, 2024, at 2pm

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Event Date: May 6, 2024, at 9:30am

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Event Date: June 17, 2024, at 11am

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