Special session, lost opportunities

On June 12, the Minnesota Legislature gaveled in for a special session that lasted one week. The session was required because Gov. Walz must call the Legislature into session whenever he wishes to extend the emergency peacetime order relating to the COVID-19 epidemic. Before the session began, Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka (R-East Gull Lake) stated that the Senate would only meet for one week, and he held to that promise.

Unfortunately, little was accomplished on GMPT priorities. Our biggest push has been for additional funding for the local parks and trails grants programs, and there are two potential avenues for that funding. The recommendations from the Legislative-Citizen Commission on Minnesota Resources (LCCMR) included $3 million for the grants programs, but the LCCMR bill has been held up by partisan disagreement. During the special session, the House introduced HF 28, which was heard in committee but never brought up for a floor vote. The Senate did not introduce a companion bill.

The second avenue for funding local parks and trails grant programs is a bonding bill. During the regular legislative session, the House included a recommendation for $4 million for the programs in its bonding proposals, but the overall proposal did not advance. During the special session, the Senate introduced a smaller bonding bill that did not include this recommendation, but the bill was never put up for a vote. The House did not introduce a bonding bill before the special session adjourned.

It is anticipated that the Legislature will go back into session on July 12, which is the date the Governor’s peacetime emergency powers will expire unless he chooses to extend them. Although very few details have emerged, we remain hopeful that the Legislature may take up a bonding bill at that time. Please reach out to your legislators and tell them to pass a bonding bill that includes $4 million for the DNR’s local parks and trails grant programs. You can find your legislators’ contact information here.

If you have any questions about the GMPT’s legislative priorities, please contact Elizabeth Wefel at eawefel@flaherty-hood.com.