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.”