Legislative News Briefs: No indication when flood bonding bill could passMinnesota Legislature
-- Communities around the state, especially in the Red River Valley, asked legislative committees to speed work on bills funding work to prevent future floods. But there is no indication when those capital investment bills may receive committee votes, much less when the full House and Senate could take up the issue.
By: Don Davis, Pierce County Herald
ST. PAUL - Communities around the state, especially in the Red River Valley, asked legislative committees to speed work on bills funding work to prevent future floods.
But there is no indication when those capital investment bills may receive committee votes, much less when the full House and Senate could take up the issue.
“We need to hear that input,” Senate Majority Leader Amy Koch, R-Buffalo, said about cities.
Now that the input has been delivered, she could not say when the issue would receive a vote.
When asked about the bills, to be funded by the state selling bones, Koch and House Speaker Kurt Zellers, R-Maple Grove, said they are ready to speed money to communities affected by spring floods. However, the bonding measures would fund future flood-prevention needs, not the current flood situation.
“We can move fairly quickly as needed,” Koch said.
Watershed officials said if lawmakers wait until May to approve flood bonding bills, work on building dikes and other structures may not be done in time for next year’s floods.
Legislators decide to let Dayton ‘save northwestern Minnesota’
Democratic lawmakers have decided not to fight Republican bills that would eliminate tax breaks in five western Minnesota cities.
They want the tax breaks to continue, but know the Republican-controlled Legislature would reject their arguments. They are betting that Democrat Gov. Mark Dayton wins the day.
“Why make a fuss about it?” Sen. Keith Langseth, DFL-Glyndon, asked. “Gov. Dayton is going to save northwestern Minnesota with a veto anyway.”
Existing law allows Breckenridge, Dilworth, East Grand Forks, Moorhead and Ortonville to lower property taxes for some new businesses so the communities can compete with lower taxes in nearby North Dakota. The law has been on the books for years, and area lawmakers often have had to overcome opposition to it.
While Dayton refuses to say what bills he will veto, he told reporters on Thursday that he has strong opposition to GOP tax bills that would reduce aid paid to local governments. Those bills contain the border cities action.
Action to ramp up in next two weeks as budget bills hit floor
The next two weeks will be the busiest yet in an already-busy Minnesota legislative session.
Budgets for each part of the state budget have passed out of their separate committees and legislative leaders say that beginning Monday the full House and Senate will begin voting.
“We expect a very long and detailed week going through these budgets,” House Speaker Kurt Zellers, R-Maple Grove, said about the coming week.
But one week will not be enough, so many budget votes will spill over into the following seek.
In the Senate, agriculture and economic development bills will be debated Monday, but the rest of the week’s schedule is not set. In the House, a tax bill that lowers income taxes and keeps local aid payments static is due for a Monday vote.
Conference committees soon will begin after both chambers pass similar bills, so differences between House and Senate versions can be negotiated. The next stop for the bills will be Gov. Mark Dayton’s office, and he has not been happy with what he sees in GOP legislative budgets.
Dayton attacks GOP legislative leaders for their budget process
Gov. Mark Dayton says Republicans running the Legislature are ignoring his commissioners, rushing budget decisions and hiding the results of drastic budget cuts.
The Democrat governor said Republican budget work includes “a lot of drastic and very poorly thought-through, or not thought-through, actions.”
He accused Republicans of giving commissioners who head his agencies too little time to testify on bills setting state spending for the next two years.
Dayton also said Republicans are trying to avoid the public watching their work by holding some meetings in rooms that do not have television coverage available. The governor said Republicans do not want Minnesotans to know that their cuts will affect the public.
They are some of the harshest words yet from Dayton, who took office just after the first of the year. Still, he said, he is optimistic that he and GOP leaders can work out a budget deal before the Legislature’s mandated May 23 adjournment.
While Dayton said he plans to write letters to House and Senate leaders, examples he gave are only from the House.
House GOP spokeswoman Jodi Boyne said Speaker Kurt Zellers, R-Maple Grove, had not received the letter and would not comment until seeing it.
However, Boyne defended Republican decisions and two chairmen do not understand Dayton’s complaints.
While Dayton said Education Commissioner Brenda Cassellius was given just three minutes to testify about education funding for the next two years, Boyne said Chairman Pat Garofalo, R-Farmington, gave her plenty of time.
House Human Services Chairman Jim Abeler, R-Anoka, said there must have been a miscommunication because he allowed commissioners to talk for as long as they wanted.
A written transcript of a meeting made it appear that Human Services Commissioner Lucinda Jesson received just 3.5 minutes to testify about a $1.6 billion cut proposed to her agency.
“That was a joke,” Abeler said. “I let her go as long as she wanted.”
Jesson testified for several minutes, the chairman said.
“He didn’t get the joke,” Abeler added.
Public Safety Chairman Tony Cornish, R-Good Thunder, said he does not understand why Dayton complained about his committee. Dayton said Human Rights Commissioner Kevin Lindsey was rejected when he wanted to testify.
Cornish said that Lindsey already had testified twice to a bill funding his department and one to an amendment to the bill. When he wanted to testify a fourth time, Cornish said, he turned down Lindsey.
A DFL lawmaker complained that it was rude to reject a commissioner’s request, but Cornish said Lindsey appeared to have no problem with it.
Cornish said he has problem with Dayton’s comments. “He and I get along fine. … The governor, like me, during the end of the session may get his ire up and throw a tantrum.”
Dayton said that this is his 10th legislative session in the executive branch. “I have never seen a session this chaotic.”
Dayton showed that not everything under the Capitol dome is serious on Thursday when he brought his rapidly growing puppy to meet officials from her namesake city.
The mayor and others from Wanamingo visited Dayton and “Mingo,” bearing gifts of dog tags, a city history and a city resolution thanking Dayton for picking the dog’s name.
Dayton said he wanted to pick a Minnesota community name and likes Wanamingo. He said he would take the black German shepherd to visit Wanamingo, the town, this summer.
While in the office, a room full of the Capitol press corps took photos and petted the dog as she explored the building for the first time. And the last, Dayton said, until she is house trained.
Green acres passes
A bill known as “green acres” to give farmers in rapidly developing areas tax relief passed the House 97-24 Thursday, while Future Farmers of America members watched.
The bill heads to the Senate to beat a May 1 deadline to enroll in the upcoming green acres program.
Farmers may enroll in green acres to avoid paying higher property taxes on farmland when it could be assessed at a higher rate because non-farm development raises land values.
Don’t bet on it
Democrats have given Republicans grief this week for writing budget bills that include questionable revenues such as federal funds that have not been approved.
So Rep. Tina Liebling, DFL-Rochester, suggested a new way to raise money: “Purchasing a Mega Millions lottery ticket is just as reliable as the budget proposals put forth by the Republicans. It’s a nice dream, but you can’t take it to the bank.”