The Legislature has entered its third phase which is when all the committee hearings are done and the bills go to Conference Committees to reconcile any differences. This Monday morning, the massive $1.6 billion budget for the Department of Transportation was passed by the House in bill SB2012. Included was a new section that encourages the state fleet to utilize ethanol, bio and/or renewable diesel when feasible. Representative Ben Koppelman from West Fargo got up to speak against the legislative intent to use biofuels but the bill was roundly defended by Rep. Jon Nelson who spoke up for the importance of agriculture in our state. It passed 81-10 and will go to Conference in the next week or so. There was money for bridges and some for townships, although more substantial township dollars are being sought elsewhere after $30 million was stripped out of HB1431 last week. Leadership assures that they will find a place to provide those dollars.
Also today, the Career and Technical Education budget was passed. We support these efforts to expand the pool of computer folks, mechanics, welders and others needed in the food raising business. That was in bill SB2019. SB2020, the budget for NDSU Ag Research and Extension was supposed to be voted on today but was pulled off the floor for one day – working to get the backstory on that.