MARSHALL - With numerous and often more subtle bills floating around in the last few weeks - some having already made their way to Gov. Mark Dayton's desk - and with so much attention being paid to the stadium saga, the 2012 bonding bill has all of a sudden seemed to have taken a back seat.
And with a constitutionally-required May 21 adjournment date and a Legislature that is borderline giddy to adjourn early this year - legislative leaders have circled April 30 on their calendars - the question looms: When will a final bonding bill get passed?
"We're doing a lot of work on the bonding bill internally," said District 21 Sen. Gary Dahms, R-Redwood Falls. "It takes some time, but we know we have to get it done."
Dahms said the bonding bill is reliant on bipartisan support, meaning the majority Republicans will need to work carefully to attract some DFLers.
"We're trying to get a bill put together that we feel comfortable picking up the bipartisan support we need to get it done," he said. "That takes time. We need 60 percent of the vote so it has to be bipartisan. We don't have 60 percent, so we know it needs to be bipartisan, we know we're going to have to have some DFL support. Right now, we feel we're getting close."
District 20A Rep. Andrew Falk, DFL-Murdock, said the onus is on the Republicans to present final bills for a vote. He used Dayton's mantra from a few weeks ago by saying the fact that they haven't made more progress on the bonding bill to date shows that majority leaders are "incapable of governing."
"It's doable - if the party in charge wants to bring it up for a vote they can do it," Falk said. "When you're the majority party you control what comes up for a vote and we haven't seen that yet. I know it takes a supermajority, so to not work with people and take a comprehensive approach shows a lack of seriousness."
"If the will is there it can be done," said Democratic Sen. Lyle Koenen, who moved from the House to take over the late Gary Kubly's seat in the Senate. "The House bill is a bit more problematic because it's so small - people who want a larger bill could vote no on it, hoping a larger number comes back. Some more conservative members would like to see a smaller bill, or even no bill at all."
The differences in the House and Senate proposals are stark.
The House has two bonding bill proposals - $221 million for the State Capitol Renovation and a $280 million borrowing plan for local projects. The Capitol portion of the House bill failed by one vote in the House on Thursday.
The Senate has budgeted $25 million for Capitol restoration in its construction projects bill. The Senate has proposed a "bricks and mortar" public works bill that spends $561 million on projects throughout Minnesota, focused primarily on local projects throughout the state, including $39 million for the University of Minnesota, $127 million for Minnesota State Colleges and Universities and $30 million for flood mitigation.
Koenen is surprised at how much the House and Senate bills differ, since both chambers have a Republican majority.
"It seems like a rather large difference to me," he said. "If you look at the differences between Governor Dayton's proposal and the two parties, that doesn't surprise me, but I am surprised at the difference between the House and Senate."
Dayton's bonding plan borrows $775 million.
"One of the hang-ups, like always, is the size of the bill," said Dahms, who believes a bonding bill can get done by April 30. "There's always going to be a window and we have to find that window when it's open. That window involves projects, it involves the size of the bill, and it involves the make-up of the bill."