State House calls for a committee on bonding bill

The House and Senate hope to quickly resolve differences in the bills.

by Jim Hammerand

The state Senate bounced the capital investment bonding bill back to the House in a game of legislative pingpong that will continue for the next few days as the chambers try to reach an agreement on nearly $1 billion of borrowing for state projects.

The House rejected the $990 million Senate bill Tuesday and called for a conference committee to be formed.

Conference committees smooth out any differences between House and Senate versions of a bill so both chambers can vote on the same bill before sending it to the governor to be signed into law.

The bills under consideration would allow the state to pay for improvements to the University’s statewide infrastructure, including one-time maintenance of old structures and construction of new buildings. The House bill would borrow about $121 million for the University, about one-fifth less than the Senate’s proposed borrowing of $153 million.

At this point, the pingpong ball is on the House’s side of the net.

The Senate sent its bill to be approved by the House, where the state constitution mandates borrowing bills originate. The House rejected that bill, starting the conference committee process.

House Speaker Steve Swiggum, R-Kenyon, could announce his five committee appointees as early as today. Senate Majority Leader Dean E. Johnson, DFL-Willmar, would name his five soon after.

Rep. Dan Dorman, R-Albert Lea, said he would suggest a politically and geographically balanced House conference committee, starting with last year’s committee members.

“I thought we had a pretty good team together last year, I’m not sure if they all want to serve again. I would assume Alice (Hausman, DFL-St. Paul) and Mary (Murphy, DFL-Hermantown) would,” Dorman said.

Sen. Keith Langseth, DFL-Glyndon, agreed that balance was important for a speedy process.

“(Legislators) feel a little more comfortable if they’ve got somebody from their part of the state (on the committee),” Langseth said.

Rep. Bud Nornes, R-Fergus Falls, said that as the session winds down, lawmakers are busy with different conference committees.

“I don’t always go looking for trouble Ö we serve when we’re asked to serve, and that’s kind of the bottom line Ö we deal with what we can,” Nornes said.

The length of a conference committee varies based on how much time is left in the session, Langseth said.

“If they said, You gotta get it done in two days, you’d get it done in two days,” Langseth said.