From the MN Broadband Coalition…
House Passes Agriculture Bill, Broadband Funding
The MN House of Representatives passed its Agriculture Omnibus Bill SF 958 Thursday afternoon 69-63. $30 million for the Border-to-Border Grant Program and $350,000 per year for the Office of Broadband Development are among the provisions. The House has passed quite a few of its omnibus finance and policy bills this week. The debate and passage of the agriculture bill took only a few hours. Some bills this week took well over 8 hours of floor debate and amendments before they were passed.
The Senate already passed its omnibus package late last week. Their bill included $40 million in funding with the option of up to $120 million if federal funds became available. The bill also included the same $350,000 per year for the Office of Broadband and some policy provisions that the House did not consider this year. The next step is a conference committee of 10 to resolve the differences between the two bills. Here are the conferees:
- Sen. Torrey Westrom (R-Elbow Lake) Co-Chair
- Sen. Gene Dornink (R-Hayfield)
- Sen. Mike Goggin (R-Red Wing)
- Sen. Bruce Anderson (R-Buffalo Township)
- Sen. Erin Murphy (DFL-Saint Paul)
- Rep. Mike Sundin (DFL-Esko) Co-Chair
- Rep. Samantha Vang (DFL-Brooklyn Center)
- Rep. Gene Pelowski (DFL-Winona)
- Rep. Todd Lippert (DFL-Northfield)
- Rep. Nathan Nelson (R-Hinckley)
The conference committee will meet to review the differences and the co-chairs will begin to negotiate a final deal that can pass both chambers of the Legislature. Typically, the Agriculture budget is one of the more collegial items that the Legislature passes, so it is a good thing that broadband funding is part of the bill.
We will ask conferees to make the largest investment in broadband that they can and to remove the policy changes from the bill, including altering the statutory broadband definitions to include “fixed wireless.” Ideally, we would like to see a clean funding bill.
There are less than four weeks left in the legislative session before they adjourn for the year on May 17th. The next stage of the legislative process will be fluid and information could change in a matter of hours. Please bear with us as we navigate this, and we will keep you as up to date as possible.