Legislative notebook: New teacher license bills advance

Senators passed a bill to allow an easier path for professionals who want to become teachers Thursday while a House committee sent a similar bill to the full House.

The Senate voted 40-23 for the alternative licensure bill, which establishes new procedures for Minnesotans to become teachers. It lays out needed education requirements and mandates that potential new teachers to take basic skills tests.

Sen. Gen Olson, R-Minnetrista, said her bill helps people who think “they can make a difference.”

Olson said the bill offers assurances that only people with proper training will be licensed as teachers.

Education Minnesota, a union representing the state’s teachers, complained about the bill.

“Our students deserve better,” President Tom Dooher said. “Education Minnesota supports a responsible approach to alternative pathways into teaching. We believe it’s only reasonable that a teacher have a college degree in the field they’re teaching and that alternatively licensed teachers be supervised to make sure our students are getting instruction from a fully-qualified professional. “

Republicans said during the Senate debate that not all teachers licensed in traditional ways have degrees in the subjects they teach.

A House vote has not been scheduled.

Budget concerns Ritchie

Secretary of State Mark Ritchie told a House committee that he worries about how budget cuts could affect his office.

Ritchie said his office already has faced cuts, but he needs the 69 employees left in his office. Also, he said, many of his employees are nearing retirement age and he wants to make sure there is time for them to teach new workers.

He told the House State Government Finance Committee that his office has been able to reduce its workforce by better use of technology.

A federal law prohibits the state from cutting its election spending, and his office runs Minnesota elections.

Permit law goes to House

A bill meant to speed Minnesota’s environmental permitting process is headed to a full House vote.

The House Government Operations and Elections Committee approved Rep. Dan Fabian’s bill by voice vote.

“I believe it is a bill that will allow us to get our economy going more quickly,” the Roseau Republican said.

Committee Democrats feared the quicker timeline could shortcut environmental protections when businesses seek permits allowing them to do things like discharge waste or dig new wells.

“We are not sidetracking anything in view of environmental standards,” Fabian responded.

Republicans say that quicker permits mean businesses can hire new workers quicker, which should help the economy.

A similar bill is making its way through the Senate.

 Voters ID bills discussed

A House elections committee discussed bills what would require Minnesotans to present photographic identification cards before voting, but the committee made no decision Thursday.

“This is a common-sense rule,” Rep. Mike Benson, R-Rochester, said.

Benson said that voters who drive to the polls need a license, so he does not see why a photo ID is a problem. Not having a photo ID opens the voting process to fraud, he said.

A 94-year-old League of Women Voters member, Mary Lou Hill, said the bill would “disenfranchise thousands of senior citizens” because they may not have photo IDs.

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