With a little discussion and a lot of kidding around about bees, the Minnesota Senate passed a bill Thursday that says plants sold as "pollinator friendly" don't need to be free of insecticides.
The new language, which scales back bee legislation passed just last year, was included in the 2015 agriculture omnibus bill, which passed unanimously. The bill passed the House on Monday and now heads to Gov. Mark Dayton. Dayton's office said Thursday that he's aware of the issue and expects it to become part of end-of-session negotiations at the mansion on the state budget.
The new provision modifies a law passed in 2014, which said that plant nurseries could not market plants as bee- and butterfly-friendly if they are grown with the controversial class of pesticides called neonicotinoids. That class of pesticides has been implicated in the global decline of honeybees and other insects.
But the Minnesota Nursery and Landscape Association successfully pushed back with a provision, added to the House agriculture bill, that will allow nurseries to use the label on plants as long as they are not toxic enough to kill an adult honeybee outright.
During Senate floor discussion Thursday, Sen. Kari Dziedzic, DFL-Minneapolis, said that even though "people want to know if their plants are bee friendly," she would not derail the entire bill by trying to delete the new labeling language.
Dziedzic said Senate leadership has agreed to hold hearings on pollinator protection next year, and that the nursery and landscape association also agreed to keep discussing solutions to the problem.
Then, in some late-session humor, Sen. Ron Latz, DFL-St. Louis Park, offered up a gag amendment. He said he understood that bees that visit a flower more than once are more likely to experience higher toxic exposures. So any bee that visited a flower more than five times "would be guilty of a felony," he said to laughter around the Senate chamber.
Other senators began to riff on the joke as well.
"I don't want to be stung by this unexpected amendment," said Sen. Warren Limmer, R-Maple Grove. "Senator Latz, your bill is hard to bee-lieve."