ST. PAUL -- For the last 12 years, the annual job fair at St. Cloud Technical College featured motivational speakers who offered job-search and interviewing pointers to graduating students.
Things will be different at this year's fair -- scheduled for Wednesday -- where as many 800 students can connect with 125 employers. "At this point, they'll have lunch, but there will not be a speaker there," said Laurie Kloos, the college's chief financial officer.
St. Cloud Tech can't hire a speaker because of a ban on new contracts with consultants and some outside vendors -- in effect through June 2003 -- that covers state agencies and the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system. (The University of Minnesota, which has constitutional autonomy, is not affected.)
Routine government and college functions have been complicated by the moratorium on professional and technical services contracts, an element of a recently enacted law meant to save Minnesota money during a time of budget strain. The move is expected to save $35 million.
At the state Office of Tourism, for example, advertising campaigns may be in jeopardy. For MnSCU, the ban may mean graduation ceremonies without commencement speakers, delays in campus construction and fewer nurses and doctors for immunization clinics.
The law allows for waivers if an agency proves a contract is necessary to avoid a public health, welfare or safety threat, or if a government function would be seriously disrupted without outside help.
Nearly 100 waiver requests have come in and most have been approved, said Department of Administration spokesman Jim Schwartz.
The Bureau of Criminal Apprehension was allowed to hire consultants to train law enforcement officers in things like crime-scene investigation, use of force and interrogation. The Office of Environmental Assistance got the go-ahead to hold workshops for pharmacists, nurses and other clinical staff on hazardous waste management.
MnSCU did receive a waiver for roughly 3,000 adjunct professors, instructors for emergency-personnel training courses and hearing interpreters. But the college system's attempt to get clearance in other areas was denied. MnSCU sought permission to sign contracts with intramural sports referees and architects for building projects.
Gerald Joyce, the administration department employee who reviews applications, responded in a memo that some of the requests weren't essential under Commissioner David Fisher's view that "it is the intention of the moratorium to be frugal in granting waivers."
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