The MN Legislature met in a special session this past weekend and completed the nearly $42 billion budget and averting a partial government shutdown.
The special session was needed to pass three budget bills vetoed by Governor Dayton last month. All three bills were passed and Governor Dayton signed them last Saturday. By generally large margins, the House and Senate approved measures to fund education and economic-development budget plans to replace those Dayton vetoed.
It was not smooth sailing for the environment and agriculture budget bill. The DFL-controlled Senate, which had needed Republican votes to approve the environmental regulation measure in May, came just one vote shy of approving the measure Friday.
While a personal plea from Dayton led several DFLers to add their support, Republican support had dropped off since the bill passed in May.
DFLers in the Senate moved to restore a pollution control agency oversight board and prevent other regulatory changes amid pressure from environmental groups. But House Republicans rejected those changes. Senate DLFers joined with almost all Republicans to pass the original bill which Dayton then signed into law.
Not contained in the bill was language opposed by MWFPA relative to the Toxic Free Kids Act, which would have removed a food and beverage packaging exemption from the law.
The bill did contain an expansion of the "Farm to Foodshelf" program which compensates agricultural producers and processors for the harvest and transport surplus fruits and vegetables. MWFPA supported this language.
The House and Senate also passed a small bonding bill that funds road and bridge projects along with other important public works projects across the state. Despite recognizing that the state's road, bridge and transit infrastructure needed about $7 billion more in spending over the next decade to serve the state, Dayton and the Legislature were unable to agree on whether to tax or borrow to find that money.