Capitol Chatter: Pre-Easter adjournment looking less likely
ST. PAUL - Many people under the Capitol dome say it feels like the Legislature is in its final days, but more and more it looks like lawmakers will take a break and return April 16 to wrap up work.
Senate Majority Leader Dave Senjem, R-Rochester, said lawmakers are working quickly, but it looks difficult to quit on Thursday, the last day before a long-planned Easter-Passover break begins. In the last week or so, the feeling of a Thursday adjournment appeared to be a goal but few observers see how that can happen.
If nothing else, passing a high-priority public works funding bill looks like it needs more than a week to negotiate widely differing proposals.
The governor wants to spend $776 million, plus he supports another $241 million for Capitol building renovations. The House is prepared to debate a bill to spend $280 million, with a separate bill to spend $221 million for the Capitol.
Senators had planned to debate on Friday a bill of just less than $500 million, including $25 million for the Capitol, but Senjem delayed debate a few days.
Such big differences seldom melt away in less than a week. That is especially true since House Minority Leader Paul Thissen, DFL-Minneapolis, said only a few Democrats may vote for it, and some Republicans likely will oppose it in the House, making its passage uncertain.
Thissen said Republicans have not worked with Democrats on the public works bill.
"We have a goal of adjournment in the very near future," Senjem said. "We just can't put a date on it yet."
Senjem said committee chairmen have their marching orders, or maybe running orders: "We are pushing our chairs pretty hard, do it right, do it quickly."
Senate Minority Leader Tom Bakk, DFL-Cook, who has urged early adjournment, said that so far he has not seen lawmakers make good use of taxpayers' money this session. Few significant bills have passed so far.
Minnesota Republican U.S. Reps. Collin Peterson and John Kline told the House Natural Resources Committee that states should be allowed to manage overpopulations of cormorants.
Peterson talked about problems double-crested cormorants cause in Minnesota, reminding representatives that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has primary responsibility to manage the birds.
The Peterson-Kline bill would require states that want to control cormorants to submit their plans to the federal government.
"Cormorants have no natural predators, so the increase in population has gone unchecked for 40 years," Peterson testified. "Flocks of thousands of cormorants will fly into an area and completely wipe out the fish in a lake or river, devastating open water game fish populations."
Besides eating fish, Peterson told of the Meeker County Area Lakes Association that said the birds also damage wildlife, vegetation and risk human health because of "vast amounts of guano produced by thousands of cormorants."
Tribal leaders also have complained that cormorants may affect fish populations in places such as Leech Lake.
"They pointed to the negative implications this has for the tourism industry, which is increasingly important in their area of the state," Peterson said.
The Minnesota Agriculture Department begins hanging 6,500 emerald ash borer traps statewide within days.
The three-paneled purple traps will be hung in trees in areas thought to be high-risk for the destructive insect. When borers are found, state scientists know where they need to act.
The borers have destroyed thousands of trees and are found in several parts of the state.