The legislative results of the November election were a surprise to many, including GMPT lobbyist Elizabeth Wefel. For the first time in a decade, the Democratic-Farmer-Labor (DFL) party will control the House, Senate, and Governor’s office. The number of DFL legislators representing Greater Minnesota, however, has shrunk. Only six DFL senators and eleven DFL representatives serve communities outside the Twin Cities metropolitan area.
What this will mean for GMPT priorities remains to be seen, but we can make a few educated guesses. With the DFL in control, it is unlikely that we will see legislation that impedes the future development of parks and trails, such as restrictions on eminent domain or limitations on the value of purchased property. It is possible the DFL could seek to impose other restrictions, but we are not aware of any such intentions.
Traditionally, the DFL has been supportive of increased parks and trails funding. The question is whether the funds will be spread equitably across the state. Currently, there is no formal agreement cementing the 40/40/20 division of Legacy Funds, and we may see an effort by metropolitan members to increase the share that parks in their districts receive. With a razor-thin margin of control in the Senate that needs the support of all rural DFL legislators, we hope that any such efforts would be rebuffed.
The House and Senate unveiled their committee structure and committee chairs last week. Although the Legacy chairs in both bodies are from the eastern metropolitan areas, both are experienced legislators who are quite familiar with the history of legacy funding. Rep. Leon Lillie (DFL-North St. Paul) has chaired the House Legacy Finance Committee for the last two sessions and has carried GMPT’s legislation several times. Sen. Foung Hawj (DFL-St. Paul) will be chairing the Senate Legacy and Natural Resources Committee for the first time, but he has served on the committee in the past. Just a fun fact: both legislators enjoy cycling and other activities. Rep. Lillie once rode his bike from the West Coast to Minnesota, and Sen. Hawj regularly organizes slow-roll bike rides in his community to encourage more residents to get on their bikes.
Regardless of whether a DFLer or a Republican represents your community, it is still crucial that you develop a relationship with them. If you want to learn more about how to do that, check out the video and handouts from our recent forum on legislative advocacy.
If you have any questions regarding our legislative work, please contact Elizabeth Wefel at email@example.com.