Sausage-making time at Minnesota state Capitol

Those Minnesotans who like to fish for walleyes love this time of year because the season is now open, and will remain so for many months. But for people who like open and transparent government, and like understanding how and why laws are made and budgets are set, the middle part of May can be frustrating.

Much of the deal-making occurs behind closed doors, with leaders emerging only to complain about their negotiating partners, to say they’re “making progress,” or to announce an agreement on some budget or policy item.

It can be hard for citizens at home – and even lawmakers not directly involved in negotiations – to understand what’s happening. That’s compounded by the fact that almost everything these days is passed in the form of massive “omnibus” bills that stretch on for hundreds of pages and include both budgets and policy items.

As of Wednesday morning, May 17, state legislative leaders and Gov. Mark Dayton had agreed on an omnibus agriculture bill. It’s the smallest bill, so in some ways it’s low-hanging fruit. But the dominoes have to start falling somewhere.

It seems likely the Environment Budget and Policy bill, which, like the ag bill, represents a relatively small part of the state budget, could be one of the next bills upon which Dayton and legislative leaders agree. Recall, though, that Dayton last week vetoed the Republican-backed bill (HF 888).

It’s worth noting, too, that negotiations about bills allocating money from the Environment and Natural Resources Trust Fund (HF 1265 and SF 550) and the four pots of money created via the Clean Water, Land and Legacy Amendment (SF 566 and HF 707) likely are tied in with negotiations about the broader budget bill. As of Wednesday afternoon, there had been little movement on either the Legacy or the Environment and Natural Resources Trust Fund bill. But once an agreement is reached, things likely will happen relatively quickly.

Stay tuned. It’ll be an interesting few days before the Legislature adjourns on May 22.

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