Minnesota lawmakers are trying to provide a quick response to the avian flu outbreak, but changes in the Senate version of the emergency funding bill could delay the aid.

The bill allocates $893,000 to the Department of Agriculture and the Board of Animal Health for the state’s avian flu response.

State Senators passed the measure Tuesday by a vote of 65-0, after Republicans tried unsuccessfully to remove a section that members of the finance committee had added a day earlier.

The added language changes the date for the commissioner of Minnesota Management and Budget (MMB) to report on the amount of budget surplus to be placed in reserve accounts. The House unanimously passed a version of the bill without that language last week.

“Leave this reporting language for another bill,” said Sen. Torrey Westrom, R-Elbow Lake. “Keep it narrow to the emergency at hand for our turkey farmers across the state of Minnesota.”

Sen. Bill Ingebrigtsen, R-Alexandria, also raised concerns about a potential delay in the aid.

“We are the turkey-producing capitol of the United States, and we’re in a real disaster right now,” Ingebrigtsen said.

Senate Finance Committee Chair Richard Cohen, DFL-St. Paul, said the reporting provision was requested by MMB and needed to be added to an available bill.

“I have no idea why this would cause a problem,” Cohen said.

Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk, DFL-Cook, pointed out that other changes were made in the House bill. He said the House version was passed hastily and left out an appropriation of federal money.

“It may go to conference alright, but it’s going to go to conference because the House sent us a bill that was not ready to go to the governor. This bill now is in much better condition than it was in when the House sent it over.”

Following the Senate action, House Speaker Kurt Daudt criticized the DFL for making unrelated changes to the emergency bill.

“It will not pass the House with that clause in it,” Daudt, R-Crown, said. “We have a rich tradition in the state of Minnesota of not politicizing emergency relief initiatives.”

Good morning!

In Minnesota

A $2 billion tax cut package by Minnesota House Republicans includes $538 million for a one-time income tax exemption and $450 million to begin phasing-out the statewide business property tax. (MPR News)

The Senate votes to bar public funds from subsidizing construction of the new Major League Soccer stadium in Minneapolis. (Star Tribune)

Democrats in the Minnesota Senate released a plan to increase funding for health and human services by about $341 million compared as Republicans push a plan to cut the HHS budget by $1 billion. (MPR News)

Outstate nursing homes would benefit disproportionately from a new funding formula proposed in the House. (Pioneer Press)

4/20 was celebrated at the Capitol. (Star Tribune)

Meet the stone carver who’s at work restoring the Minnesota Capitol. (MPR News)

National Politics

The Koch Brothers, major donors to conservative causes, have all but endorsed Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker’s bid to be the Republican presidential nominee. (New York Times)

A U.S. aircraft carrier is headed to the coast of Yemen as tensions increase in the region. (Washington Post)

Comcast is having trouble selling its proposed merger with Time Warner to regulators in Washington. Sen. Al Franken’s been one of the deal’s biggest opponents though he’s not declaring victory and dancing in the end zone quite yet. (TechCrunch)

…and last, but not least, a big congratulations to our colleagues who won a Peabody Award for their work on the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis child sexual abuse scandal. (MPR News)

Democrats in the Minnesota Senate released a plan today to fund health and human services for the next two years.

The proposal would increase spending by about $341 million to fund programs including child protection services, nursing homes and mental health services.

The Senate bill mirrors Gov. Mark Dayton’s health and human services proposal, but it’s vastly different from a Republican-backed House funding bill that would make about $1 billion in cuts to health and human services programs.

Senate Health and Human Services Finance Committee Chair Tony Lourey, DFL-Kerrick, said the two chambers have a long road of negotiations ahead of them.

“It’s not actually possible to cut $1 billion out of the Health and Human Services budget and pretend like you’re still meeting the needs of Minnesota,” Lourey said.

Some of the biggest savings in the House budget bill – about $563 million over two years – comes from eliminating MinnesotaCare, a program that’s targeted at people who make too much to qualify for Medicaid but can’t afford their own plan and aren’t offered one by an employer.

The House bill would move MinnesotaCare enrollees to MNsure, the state’s health insurance exchange, and provide a subsidy to help them pay for coverage.

But many people and groups testifying in the House Health and Human Services Finance Committee hearing Monday said ending MinnesotaCare would lead to gaps in coverage and potentially make insurance more expensive for people who need it most.

Jennifer Anderson, a volunteer with the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, said her daughter, Tanisha Brooks, is among the MinnesotaCare enrollees who could find herself in that situation.

Anderson said her daughter works a part-time job, and because she’s 27, Brooks can no longer be on her parents’ health insurance. Anderson said MinnesotaCare has made her daughter’s prescriptions affordable and allowed her to see her neurologist regularly.

“If you’re a parent, you know watching your child handle a disease or struggling in pain is beyond heartbreaking,” Anderson said. “I felt so helpless and inadequate because I couldn’t afford to pay for my daughter’s medication.”

The House bill does increase spending in some areas including homelessness programs, programs for people with disabilities, and mental health initiatives and that drew praise in Monday’s hearing.

“Our message this session is, we know what works, let’s build on it,” said Barb Lindberg, a member of the board of directors for the National Alliance on Mental Illness – Minnesota. “You’ve included many of the services we believe will greatly improve access to mental health services.”

There’s at least one area where the House and Senate bills overlap: nursing home funding. The House bill includes $138 million to help nursing homes keep up with salary costs, among other things, while the Senate bill would increase funding by $25 million and keep an already-scheduled 2.4 percent cost-of-living increase.

Both bills make big changes to MNsure, too. The Senate legislation would make the quasi-state agency a traditional state agency accountable to the Legislature and the governor. The House bill would require the state to get a federal waiver to allow people eligible for federal assistance buying an insurance plan on MNsure to bypass the website and buy a plan directly from a health insurance company.