Legislature, Congress return to session today

NEW ULM – The U.S. Congress and the Minnesota Legislature will return to session today.

The Legislature is starting the special session called by Gov. Mark Dayton at 10 a.m. Legislative leaders of both parties agreed to limit the one-day special session to passing disaster relief legislation. The special session originally considered adding a repeal of a farm equipment repair tax, but it was dropped after both sides could not reach an agreement.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Congress will return after a five-week recess today. It will attempt to finish off major legislative issues in the nine days left before several deadlines start in October.

The biggest legislative issue for southern Minnesota is the completion of the farm bill. A compromise version of the bill has been passed in the U.S. Senate and is pending a conference committee. The U.S. House had the compromise bill rejected by Republican members over demands for deep cuts in the nutrition [food stamps] portion of the bill. The House passed a modified version of the agriculture portions of the bill, which has some controversial provisions. The split farm bill was passed on the floor, but Republican leadership has held it from going to conference committee over concerns it could be rejected by the Senate.

The issue behind the debate is the looming deadline of the farm bill. If a version is not passed before October, a provision in U.S. law, which pressures Congress into passing a new farm bill, will automatically revert it to the bill’s Truman era version. The result would that mean numerous modern legislation will be lost, and spending levels will be increased. Alternately, if Congress simply reauthorizes the existing farm bill, the significant budget cuts drawn up in the compromise bill do not go into effect.

(Josh Moniz can be e-mailed at jmoniz@nujournal.com)

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