Unfinished business awaits at Capitol

Published 5:08 pm Saturday, April 7, 2012

Easter/Passover break began recently at the Legislature. House and Senate members will go back to their respective districts for a few days before returning to St. Paul to complete the 2012 legislative session. There is still much unfinished business included final passage of a 2012 Legacy bill, which distributes funding from the Legacy Constitutional Amendment approved a few years ago. This week, the House of Representatives passed the Omnibus Legacy bill on a bi-partisan vote of 101-28. Earlier, the Senate passed their version of the Legacy bill on a unanimous vote of 63-0.

On Nov. 4, 2008, voters in Mower and Fillmore Counties overwhelmingly supported passage of the Legacy Amendment in the general election. In fact, in Mower County the amendment received 64 percent of the vote and 57 percent in Fillmore County. Minnesota voters sent a clear message that outdoor and cultural heritage, as well as clean water is a high priority.

The House Omnibus Legacy bill contains spending for three funds established by 2008 legislation, including: Outdoor Heritage, Clean Water, and Arts and Cultural Heritage. Unlike other Legacy funds, the Outdoor Heritage Fund is set up for annual, not biennial, appropriations with the majority of those funds allocated for public land acquisition.

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Using recommendations from the Lessard-Sams Outdoor Heritage Council, the House Omnibus Legacy bill makes distributions for fiscal year 2013 as follows: Outdoor Heritage Fund — $97.4 million; Clean Water Fund — $6.4 million; and the Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund — $1.6 million. The Parks and Trails section did not receive any new funding in the bill.

The Outdoor Heritage Fund is allocated as follows: $24. 6 million for prairies and grasslands; $10.3 million for forests; $31.14 million for wetlands; $31.12 million for habitats, and $259,000 for administrative purposes.

Southeastern Minnesota would benefit from the wetlands funding that will be used to purchase permanent easements and restore wetlands through the Reinvest in Minnesota (RIM) Reserve program and the Wetlands Reserve Program (WRP). These programs have been successful in helping our area mitigate and prevent flooding. Also contained in the House Legacy bill is funding to fight the spread of Asian Carp and other invasive aquatic species. It contains $7.5 million for construction of Asian Carp barriers and $4.4 million for research at the University of Minnesota. Recently, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources officials confirmed that two types of Asian carp were caught in the Mississippi River near Winona. This is an urgent situation and can cause serious ecological problems as we’ve seen in other states.

A conference committee made up of House and Senate members will convene to negotiate a final Legacy spending bill. Upon agreement the conference committee report will be sent back to each chamber for final passage and then sent to the Governor for his signature.

Rep. Poppe can be reached at 1-888-682-3180 or 1-651-296-4193, by mail at 291 State Office Building, 100 Martin Luther King Blvd., St. Paul, MN 55155 or via e-mail at rep.jeanne.poppe@house.mn.