As you know from media reports, budget bills have dominated action at the state legislature the past few weeks. Action on coal, nuclear, and other policy bills has been put on hold.
This week, however, is shaping up as “Energy Policy Week” in the House Environment, Energy, and Natural Resources Committee.
On Tuesday and Wednesday, the Committee is scheduled to hear fourteen energy-related policy bills. Bills are being heard for possible inclusion in an “omnibus” energy policy bill to be assembled later this session. Subjects run the gamut, touching energy efficiency, renewable energy, utility regulation, and other topics. As issues appear likely to make the cut for the omnibus bill, I will provide further updates.
Environment, Energy, and Natural Resources Budget
House File 1010, with the Senate companion bill, has moved through both houses and is now being reconciled in conference committee. This omnibus bill includes funding for a host of agencies, including the Pollution Control Agency, the Department of Natural Resources, and the Public Utilities Commission. Both Houses have named their respective members of the conference, which should start meeting in the near future.
The House version, for example, makes substantial cuts to agency budgets, while preserving core functions such as enforcement and permitting. There are no fee or tax increases in the bill.
Also, the bill fulfills the promise to redirect money allocated by the Legislative-Citizen Commission on Minnesota Resources (LCCMR, state lottery funds) to reflect current spending priorities.
House File 1140, the Omnibus Transportation budget bill, has moved through both houses and is also being reconciled in a conference committee. The bill covers funding for both the Department of Transportation and the Metropolitan Council. Both Houses have named their conferees and should be meeting in the near future.
Focus of the transportation bill has been on funding current priorities such as fixing roads and bridges. Transit advocates are unhappy with the shift in emphasis toward more reliance on cost-benefit tests for new transit projects.