Capitol Notebook: Dayton Expected To Sign Ag Funding Bill

Gov. Mark Dayton likely will sign an agriculture funding bill despite earlier demands that the Republican-controlled Legislature agree on all of its spending plans before he approves any individual bill.

Dayton spokeswoman Katharine Tinucci said Wednesday the agriculture funding bill is so similar to the governor’s proposal that he likely will sign it when it reaches his desk. Negotiators worked out differences between the House and Senate versions of the bill on Monday, and the compromise bill could be passed in both chambers as early as today.

The governor had said he would reject any budget bills lawmakers sent to him before House-Senate conference committees finished their negotiations on all eight budget bills and a tax plan.

The bill would spend $79 million in the next two years.

The most-discussed item in the bill is the final $13.7 million payment to ethanol producers. The state began paying ethanol producers to develop the corn-based fuel more than a dozen years ago, but budget problems forced the state to postpone promised payments, which would end with the bill that soon will head to Dayton.

No negotiations allowed

While Dayton administration officials will be involved in negotiations working out differences between House- and Senate-passed spending bills, they may not negotiate with lawmakers.

Human Services Commissioner Lucinda Jesson told Wednesday’s health and human services conference committee meeting that what she and other Dayton aides can do will be limited.

“The administration cannot negotiate on conference committee bills until we see the whole position,” Jesson said.

Dayton has said he will not negotiate the budget with lawmakers until the House and Senate pass all eight budget bills and a tax bill that have been negotiated between the legislative bodies.

Despite Jesson’s restriction on negotiating, she said that she continues to object to cuts Republicans propose in health programs for the poor, disabled and elderly.

“It’s good to see we are all here in the same room, if not yet on the same page,” she said.

Invasive prevention OK’d

Bills to fight invasive aquatic species are swimming through the Legislature.

The Senate Environment and Natural Resources Committee has passed legislation by Sen. Bill Ingebrigtsen, R-Alexandria, to provide increased Department of Natural Resources authority to fight species such as Asian carp. The bill also increases penalties for allowing invasive species into the state.

“Invasive species pose a serious threat to our abundant natural resources and cost property owners and resource management agencies millions of dollars each year,” the senator said. “Fortunately, the worst invasive species are not yet known to be in Minnesota.”

Voter ID moves ahead

A requirement for Minnesota voters to show photo identification cards before casting ballots continues its meandering way through the Legislature.

A Senate committee Wednesday approved the plan on a party-line vote, with Republican support. At least two more committees must consider the bill before it reaches a Senate vote.

A similar bill is making its way through the House.

City variances may be restored

A bill to restore cities’ ability to grant variances to zoning ordinances is expected to receive a Senate vote soon.

The Minnesota Supreme Court last year revoked cities’ authority to grant variances to city and county ordinances.

For instance, before the court decision city officials might allow a deck to be built closer to a property line than an ordinance would allow. Or they might approve construction of a larger garage than otherwise would be permitted.

The League of Minnesota Cities spearheaded the bill that lawmakers could pass yet this month.