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May 21, 2020

Legislature adjourns with much at stake in Special Session

When the Legislature adjourned on May 18, it did so without passing either a Bonding bill or a LCCMR bill – two of the most critical items of interest to all Parks & Trails advocates and supporters. Disagreements over the pandemic response and the size and content of the Bonding and Tax bills means legislative leaders have a lot of work to do before the Governor calls the Legislature back for a much anticipated special session sometime in June. We will continue to keep you updated, but for now we leave you with a short summary of the status of key items on our legislative agenda.

  • Keep State Parks quiet and natural – Although an Omnibus Environment bill did not become law, it is unclear at this time whether legislative leaders will try and reconcile differences during a Special Session. If there are any attempts at changing state law to allow off-highway vehicles (OHVs) in state parks it could happen in this bill. P&TC will continue to express our strong opposition to any attempts to open up state parks to OHVs. We remain engaged with the governor’s office and legislative leaders on this issue.
  • Accelerate the pace of state trail rehabilitation – After completing a comprehensive State of the Trails assessment, P&TC has been trying to turn research into policy by encouraging the Legislature to invest in ongoing state trail rehabilitation. Reps. Rick Hansen (DFL- South St. Paul) and Leon Lillie (DFL-North St. Paul) and Sen. Dave Senjem (R-Rochester) got us off on the right foot by authoring HF 3662/SF 3734 which would have appropriated $4.8 million for state trail renovation. Unfortunately, our bill hearing was canceled when the Legislature initially shut down to address the COVID-19 pandemic and a specific line-item for state trail renovation was not included in either the House or Senate Bonding Bills.

  • Fix critical infrastructure in state parks and trails – There were significant differences in the funding amounts for natural resources asset preservation in the House and Senate bonding bills. This is the part of the bonding bill that dedicates funding to fix critical park and trail infrastructure as well as other natural resources capital assets like roads, bridges, buildings, wastewater systems and more. Gov. Tim Walz proposed $70 million for this purpose, while the House included $65 million in its bill and the Senate included a disappointing $19 million. In the end, neither chamber could muster the number of votes needed to pass their respective bills.
  • Continue to invest in local and regional parks and trailsGrants to local governments for local and regional parks and trail projects is one of the most effective ways to ensure bonding investments reach every corner of the state. Gov. Tim Walz set the tone by proposing $4 million for this purpose and the House followed suit by including $4 million in its bonding bill. Unfortunately, the Senate bill did not include funding for local and regional grants, but we remain hopeful that local grant funding will emerge in a Special Session bonding bill.

  • Support Environment and Natural Resource Investments in Parks and Trails – More than $61 million in appropriations from the Environment and Natural Resources Trust Fund remain in limbo as the House and Senate were unable to resolve differences during the regular legislative session. The LCCMR bill generally includes recommendations from the Legislative-Citizen Commission on Minnesota Resources (LCCMR) but disputes over wastewater infrastructure and how to proceed without a LCCMR supermajority recommendation doomed this bill despite both chambers passing their own versions that would have funded many park and trail projects, including: $2.4 million for local and regional park and trail grants, $3.5 million for state park and trail acquisition, $994,000 for state trail development, and $450,000 for the Superior Hiking Trail. We are hopeful that legislative leaders can work together to pass a bill with this funding included during a much anticipated special session.
  • Investing in metropolitan regional parks and trails – The House Bonding bill and the Governor’s proposal funded metropolitan regional parks and trail grants at a level of $10 million. The Senate proposal set aside $4 million. Funding for Metro Parks should emerge if a special session bonding bill is passed. It is simply a matter of how much funding will be approved.
Accessibility Improvements in Minnesota State Parks $10 M $10M $5M
Battle Creek Winter Rec Area – Ramsey County $2.127 M $2M $0
Betterment of DNR Buildings (includes state park shower buildings) $25 M $25M $0
Blazing Star State Trail – Albert Lea $1.75 M $1M $600K
Cottage Grove Regional Park – Washington County $2 M $1M $0
Gateway State Trail – Scandia Connection $1.25 M $1.25M $0
Gitchi Gami State Trail $0 $0 $2.5M
Graham Park Expo Building – Olmsted County $12.5 M $12.5M $0
Heartland State Trail – Becker County to Frazee $0 $3M $3M
Itasca-Heartland Connection Trail $0 $0 $2.8M
Lake Waconia Regional Park $4.3M $0 $2.5M
Mill Towns State Trail – Northfield connections $0 $2.5M $0
Mississippi Blufflands State Trail – Lake Pepin $0 $0 $2.67M
Mississippi Blufflands State Trail – Red Wing $900K $900K $0
Mississippi Gateway Regional Park -Three Rivers $8.5 M $8.5M $0
Mississippi River Overlook – MPRB $3M $3M $0
North Commons Park Community Center – MPRB $11.25M $11.25M $0
Oberstar Trail $650K $650K $0
Perham to Pelican Rapids Regional Trail – Otter Tail County $1.978M $1.603M $0
Silver Bay Trailhead Center $1.9M $1.9M $0
Voyageurs National Park Visitor Center – Crane Lake $6.6M $0 $0

About Lisa Filter