In a late Tuesday night post, SOB session: Will Speaker Daudt & Majority Leader Bakk weep at defeat of radical policy?, Bluestem suggested that the talking point of blaming Governor Dayton for "playing politics" with the livelihood of poultry farmers whose flocks have been stricken with the deadly avian flu doesn't bear scrutiny.
When the ginormous ag and environment budget bill that the governor vetoed is scrutinized, inquiring minds discover the political games in this story are those played by politicians in both parties who fused the House ag bill and environment bill together. After doing so, they crammed a radical rollback of decades of environmental progress into the final document that landed on Dayton's desk.
Sign this, or the suffering in the state's poultry sector will be prolonged.
Bluestem isn't a voice crying in the wilderness (say what you will about Chippewa County, wilderness it is not) about this set-up, although we might be among the more harsh in our assessment of the monetary incentives for the vetoed radical policy changes as we follow the money.
There's the gray lady of Southeastern Minnesota, the Rochester Post Bulletin. In Wednesday's editorial, readers are told Our View: Doing too much can leave much undone, and the plight of pandemic-stricken poultry people is part of the problem.
Post-Bulletin: End supersized, inefficient omnibus bills
In Doing too much can leave much undone, the PB editorial board writes:
The blame game is in full effect. After Minnesota's legislative session ended with unfinished business and Gov. Mark Dayton vetoing three major bills, there's plenty of opportunities for finger-pointing.
Amid the blaming, however, few fingers are pointing at the process, which appears to hare blame with political parties and individuals.
Rep. David Bly, the ranking DFLer on the House Agriculture Policy Committee, came close Monday, noting emergency funding for the state's avian influenza crisis was possible. "Today, I'm hearing House Republican Majority members express concerns that Gove. Dayton's veto puts farmers at risk," he stated in a press release days after the Environment and Agriculture Omnibus bill was rejected. "Gov. Dayton repeatedly directed the legislature to send him a standalone bill to provide the emergency funding. In the final days of the legislative session, I stood up five times and asked my colleagues to suspend the rules and send a clean bill to the governor."
He's right; the emergency funding could have been — and should have been — handled differently. But so should many measures that were derailed by inaction or vetoes. . . .
Now, it's time for our state leaders to realize that large, omnibus bills aren't saving time for taxpayers. They are delaying results and leaving work left undone.
It's a simple case of attempting to do too much and achieving too little.
In short, don't put one's eggs in one basket--and there were many, many eggs in that container.
It's also a consequence, Bluestem believes, of playing chicken on behalf of "reforms" dropped into conference committee reports or omnibus bill mark-up sessions without sufficient examination, in discussions where unfounded representation of a single case will go unchallenged. The number of unpermitted generators at a distribution center in Thief River Falls simply isn't common knowledge.
Heck, as we noted earlier this month, even MN House Republicans were against combining ag & environment finance bills before they were for it. Perhaps there's something to the old cliche about the corrupting nature of power.
Bly's timeline on proposals for avian flu relief
After reading a plaintive press release by Rep. Dave Baker (R-Willmar) about the plight of turkey growers in light the governor's veto, Bluestem contacted Rep. David Bly over the weekend concerning his numerous attempts to pass stand-alone bills to address the pressing needs of the state's poultry producers.
Our hope was to construct a timeline of the many points at which the legislature could have acted (obviously, the Post Bulletin was asking similar questions about process independently down in Rochester).
As it turned out, Bly had constructed such a timeline himself, intending to deliver the prepared statement below on the floor of the Minnesota House. As it was, he made an abbreviated set of remarks instead (we'll revise this post later tonight with more links to the incidents on the timleine); he arranged to have the document sent our way when offices opened again on Tuesday.
Here's the Bly timeline, which illustrates the PB editorial board's point about getting simple things done in excruciating detail:
I am bringing this motion to once more give you the opportunity to address this important Avian flu crisis and allow this funding to move forward today and get to the Governor’s desk before we adjourn this session.
I heard this morning from the member from Dakota in reference to the Ag/environment bill and I quote I “I can’t predict … when this bill will be settled … it is only part of the decision… we may meet in conference committee in a couple days.” Which again greatly concerns me as there are now some 70 hours left in our session. I believe that we should make sure we move this money forward to the agencies that need it.
Let me remind you what is in the bill as there seems to be some confusion about what the Governor has asked for.
In addition to the disaster recovery loan program; there are appropriations of $3,619,000 for Avian flu emergency response activities from the general fund in fiscal year 2015, a one-time expenditure available until it is expended.
$1,853,000 to the Board of Animal Health for emergency response activities from the general fund in fiscal year 2015, a one-time expenditure available until it is expended.
$103,000 to the commissioner of health for emergency response activities including the monitoring of human infection among workers from the general fund in fiscal year 2015, a one-time expenditure available until it is expended.
$350,000 to the commissioner of natural resources for sampling wild animals to detect and monitor the avian influenza virus from the general fund in fiscal year 2015, a one-time expenditure available until it is expended.
$544,000 is appropriated from the general fund in fiscal year 2015 to the commissioner of public safety to operate the State Emergency Operation Center in coordination with the statewide avian influenza response activities.
Now since several claims here on the floor and in the press have been made to accuse me of playing political games with the Avian Flu crisis. Let me first say my intent from the beginning and I have been clear about this is to get the funds as quickly as possible as we can to the agencies that need it. I have not wavered from that since the beginning. I am thankful that the whole house joined me in addressing the issue on April 16th and again on April 29th to pass the earlier funding bill. But in my defense let me remind you of the sequence of events.
On March 4th the first incidence of a MN farm being infected by the H5N2 influenza occurred.
On April 10th at the House Ag Finance Committee after money was added to the Ag omnibus Finance Bill to address concerns about the Avian Flu outbreak and placed under the jurisdiction of a proposed and yet to be formed Transfer Board (made up primarily of lobbyists and interest groups), Rick Hansen asked if a hearing had been scheduled, and then proposed the Ag Committee convene a hearing on the Avian Flu crisis as we were getting daily reports of increased flu outbreaks.
April 11th I drafted and dropped in a stand-alone funding bill to meet the Governor’s request to send emergency funds to the Dept. of Ag and to The Board of Animal Health
April 16th a joint hearing of the Ag Policy and Finance Committee was convened to hear testimony about the Avian Flu crisis affecting Minnesota Turkey Farmers. Testimony was heard from Commissioner of Ag Dave Fredrickson, Chief Vet. Medical Officer at USDA Dr. John Clifford, Pomeroy Chair of Avian Health at the Univ. of MN Dr. Carol Cardona, State Veterinarian at MN Board of Animal Health Dr. Bill Hartman, Executive Director of Natural Resources Seve Olson, Lou Cornicelli of the Dept. of Natural Resources and a constituent of mine and turkey grower John Zimmerman.
Later that day HF 2225 was introduced and I asked for a suspension of the rules to move my stand alone bill with emergency funds forward. You all joined me in suspending the rules and passing my bill off the floor.
April 21st The bill returned with an amendment. In the interest of getting the money to the Governor for his signature as quickly as possible I moved to concur. But the House decided not to concur and a conference committee was formed with myself the author as Chair and Rep. Hamilton and Rep. Miller.
April 23rd Governor Dayton declared a peace time emergency and outlined a new request for additional funds, I was the only legislator to attend the press conference and took notes on what those requests would be.
Between April 21st and April 24th while we waited for the Senate to appoint a conference committee I met several times with the Senate Author Senator Dahle he indicated who the conferees were likely to be including Senator Skoe who was the strongest proponent of their amendment, which the House objected to. I made several overtures to Rep. Hamilton and Sen. Skoe to meet and address the concerns thinking that this would facilitate the conference committee meeting and allow us to come to a quick agreement. Senator Skoe indicated he would rather have Rep. Hamilton contact him so I gave Rep. Hamilton Sen. Skoe’s cell phone number and encouraged him to call and arrange a meeting. That meeting never took place.
April 24th Friday The Senate appointed Sen. Dahle, Sen. Skoe, and Sen. Dahmes to the conference committee.
April 27th the Conference Committee was scheduled the morning of that day for April 28th at 3:00pm
April 27th that night I was informed by Nancy Conley that she had been informed by Majority staff that the conference committee meeting for April 28th had been cancelled
April 28th on the House floor I attempted to find out on whose authority a scheduled conference committee would be cancelled. Finding no answer to my question as the conference committee chair, I made the announcement that the conference committee would meet at 3pm.
April 28th 3pm I convened the meeting and as a proposal I introduced an amendment that would become HF 2296, the bill I hope to bring to the floor today. I was told that such an amendment would be out of order as it would greatly expand the bill and was told that it would need approval from both the Speaker and the Majority leader to go forward. While the Senate conferees conferred on accepting the House offer proposed by Rep. Hamilton I checked to see what getting agreement from the Speaker and the Majority Leader of the Senate to agree and would take to move this language forward. I concluded I would not have time though I did not believe it would be impossible, so I accepted the next best thing and wrapped up the conference committee with the agreement from the Senate.
April 29th the amended HF 2225 was taken up and passed on the floor.
May 1st the Governor signed the bill.
May 4th HF 2296 was introduced as a stand alone bill and I made a motion to suspend the rules and take it up and pass it off the floor. This was rejected by Rep. Hamilton and my motion did not receive enough votes.
May 11th Rep. Baker amended the emergency loan language, which he amended from the Ag Finance Omnibus bill to the Ag Policy Omnibus Bill. I attempted to amend the rest of the language in HF 2296 to Rep. Baker’s amendment but that was ruled out of order. Later, I attempted to suspend the rules to bring forward HF 2296 on its own. But I did not have the votes to suspend the rules.
May 13th I made the same motion and it was rejected.
May 14th My motion was also rejected.
Today I stand before you – 70 hrs left in the session and asking for your support to make sure that we send this important funding allocation forward so it has a chance of passing and being signed by the Governor before we close the 2015 session.
I believe it is important that the funds be released from the transfer board where it currently sits in HF 1437 and move forward as a stand alone bill. All members who currently have constituents dealing with this or waiting and praying that they are not hit by it the H5N2 virus should support this and not wait for a meeting that may or may not happen in the next couple of days.
My intent all along since I had HF 2225 drafted was to get the money to the agencies that need it as quickly as possible, that remains my one goal. If that’s what you mean by “playing politics” I will accept your accusation. To me politics is an honorable endeavor and I cast no aspersions on your side for doing what you believe is best.
I believe we owe it to all poultry farmers to act. Think about for a moment, all of the products that depend on chicken eggs and how a wipe out not only of the turkey industry but the egg industry would mean not just for Minnesota but for our national economy. I believe we owe it to all of our constituents to act on their behalf and move without prejudice to declare an urgency and move this funding where it needs to go. Every day matters. We should not wait another day.
But wait they did. House and Senate majority leaders thought getting that big honking bill with its veto-bait environmental policy rollbacks that mostly had little to do with ag policy and funding was more important than simply helping poultry farmers.
Some had predicted that the crisis would abate, but as Dana Melius of the St. Peter Herald reported Tuesday, Six more avian flu cases hit Minnesota turkey industry.
And that bad policy package? Perhaps the best examination of the creation the clean water and air rollbacks can be read in Jon Tevlin's column Minnesota Legislature's cone of silence makes for a bad environmental bill.
Photo: Rep. David Bly, DFL-Northfield, in conversation with opponents of the Ag & Environment Omnibus Finance bill last Thursday. The controversial provisions that led to the veto of the bill stemmed from the environmental sections of the legislation, rather than from agricultural funding.
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