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House agriculture committee adopts resolution that could delay nitrogen rule

The House Agriculture Policy Committee adopted a resolution Sunday that may block a controversial groundwater protection rule from taking effect until the end of next year’s legislative session.

The resolution relies on a state statute signed into law by former Gov. Jesse Ventura in 2001 that has never before been used. It allows standing committees in the House and Senate, “with jurisdiction over the subject matter of a proposed rule” to prohibit an agency from adopting the rule “until the legislature adjourns the annual legislative session that began after the vote of the committee.”

The Senate Agriculture, Rural Development and Housing Policy Committee approved the resolution Saturday while the House committee debated it but took no action in case a compromise with Gov. Mark Dayton could be reached.

The resolution approved Sunday may still allow for that compromise. One of its clauses requires the committee chair to satisfy the statute’s “notification and publication” requirements.

Rep. Paul Anderson (R-Starbuck), chair of the committee, said he would offer Dayton whatever assurances are needed that he would not make the necessary notifications if the governor agrees to sign the standalone omnibus agriculture finance bill, HF4133, which has already been passed by the Legislature. It contains language supported by Anderson that would return control of the soil loss index from the Board of Water and Soil Resources to the counties.

“It has been my hope the governor would compromise with us and sign the ag policy bill,” Anderson said. “It’s my intention to give him as much time as he needs.”

Republican committee members said delaying the rule is necessary in order to allow further public input and to ensure lawmakers have the final say before it goes into effect.

But DFL members of the committee say the rule has received years of input and invoking the statute is a political move that could have long-lasting impact if it sets a precedent where legislative committees begin overriding the rulemaking process.

“This is a radical action,” said Rep. Clark Johnson (DFL-North Mankato).


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