It’s a quiet week in St. Paul with the Legislature away on a 10-day break for Easter. When legislators return on April 6, their work will shift from hearings on individual bills to the passage of large budget bills. Here’s where Greater Minnesota Parks & Trails priorities sit at the halfway mark:
Ensuring that the regional parks and trails of Greater Minnesota receive at least 20% of the state’s Legacy parks and trails funding continues to be a top priority. Both the House and Senate heard presentations on our position, which is outlined in HF 1208/SF 1072.
Last week, the House unveiled its version of the Legacy funding bill, HF 1079 DE2, and will be taking action on it April 7. We are pleased that the bill includes the 20% funding for Greater Minnesota without interfering with the recommendations of the Greater Minnesota Regional Parks and Trails Commission. We anticipate the Senate Legacy Committee will unveil a similar bill when the Legislature returns next week.
Although the parks and trails provisions are largely uncontroversial, other portions of the bill could create conflict between the House and Senate, including controversial changes made to recommendations from the Clean Water Council and Outdoor Heritage Council. These differences could delay passage of the Legacy bill, but it should not effect the parks and trails portions.
Last week, the Senate Environment and Natural Resources Committee heard our bill, SF 787, seeking general fund money to pay for the operations of the Greater Minnesota Regional Parks and Trails Commission. Chair Sen. Bill Ingebrigtsen and committee members appeared sympathetic to concerns that the Commission was the only one of the three Legacy parks and trails partners that must fund its operations using Legacy funds. If the Commission is funded through the state’s general fund, it would free up additional money for parks and trails projects.
Unfortunately, the House has refused to hear the bill. For it to advance, it is important that the Senate include our request in its omnibus bill. Please take a moment and email Sen. Ingebrigtsen at email@example.com to thank him for hearing SF 787 and respectfully request that he include $900,000 in general fund dollars for the Greater Minnesota Regional Parks and Trails Commission in his omnibus environment and natural resources funding bill.
Funding for Local Parks and Trails
Advocating for funds for the DNR’s local parks and trails grant programs is another top priority for the GMPT. Two weeks ago, the House Capital Investment Committee heard our bill, HF 1039, which seeks $4 million in bonding for the Outdoor Recreation and Local Trails Connections grant programs. The Senate has not yet begun to hear legislation regarding bonding. It is too early to tell whether the Legislature will pass a bonding bill this session.
Both the 2020 LCCMR bill and the 2021 LCCMR bill contain recommendations for funding the DNR’s programs as well. The relevant committee in the House has heard both of these bills, which are ready to be voted on by the entire House. Unfortunately, the Senate continues to hold up passage of this bill. The GMPT is partnering with other groups to urge passage of both of these bills.
We have been monitoring a variety of other legislation and we will watch the impact that omnibus bills in the environment and transportation committees may have on our members. You can review the list of bills we are monitoring or join us for one of our biweekly legislative forums.
If you have any questions about the GMPT’s legislative priorities, please contact our lobbyist Elizabeth Wefel at firstname.lastname@example.org.