Minnesota State Capitol
May 25, 2022

Lawmakers stall on bonding bill, special session debated

The Minnesota Legislature adjourned on Monday, May 23rd without an agreement to pass a number of major supplemental finance bills, a tax bill, or a bonding bill. While House Speaker Melissa Hortman, Senate Majority Leader Jeremy Miller, and Governor Tim Walz struck a deal the previous weekend on a framework for how to spend the surplus, cut taxes, and save the remainder, many conference committee chairs were unable to reach compromises in time. Gov. Walz and Speaker Hortman favor holding a special session, but Senate Majority Leader Jeremy Miller said that his caucus is not interested in one. It is unclear if that will change.

The legislature was able to agree on a $70.9 million Environment and Natural Resources Trust Fund Appropriations Bill after the Legislative Citizens Commission on Minnesota Resources (LCCMR) was unable to reach an agreement on a 2022 package. Gov. Walz has 14 days from regular session adjournment to sign the bill into law. Included within the bill that awaits the governor’s signature is $7.87 million for state trail development, $1.6 million for state parks and trails maintenance and development, $3.56 million for Local Parks, Trails, and Natural Areas grant programs, $1.3 million for a Mesabi Trail extension to Tower, and $1 million for a multi-modal Trailhead Center in Silver Bay.

Here is where Parks & Trails Council’s Legislative Agenda stands after the conclusion of the 2022 regular legislative session:

Capital Improvement Projects

Even though leadership agreed on a $1.4 billion target for capital investment projects, leaders’ inability to come to an agreement on spending bills in other issue areas halted progress on a bonding bill. The bonding bill is traditionally the last bill to pass during a legislative session. It must originate in the House and it requires a supermajority to pass. The only way a bonding bill can still pass this year is if the Governor calls a special session and all four caucuses have reached an agreement on the composition of the bill. P&TC worked with Sen. Scott Dibble (SF4524) and Rep. Alice Hausman (HF4838) on a comprehensive package of critical state parks and trails investments that are driven by the Minnesota DNR’s “10-Year Capital Asset Need report and P&TC’s State of the Trails Report. For more information on the status of items that P&TC is working to secure in an omnibus bonding bill please visit our 2022 Legislative priorities page.

OHVs in State Parks

P&TC and our members have vigilantly opposed any and all bills that seek to open up state parks to Off-Highway Vehicles (OHVs). (See No OHVs in state parks). Our meetings with decision-makers before and throughout the legislative session to emphasize the importance of keeping OHVs out of state parks seems to have paid off for now. No harmful legislation passed this year that would allow the use of OHVs in state parks.

Of special note, the Environment and Natural Resources Conference Committee agreed on a policy bill shortly ahead of the deadline to pass a bill, but they were unable to advance it to the Senate and the House floors in time for a final vote before adjournment. That agreement contained no threats to state parks. If the legislature ultimately decides to meet for a special session, we would expect a similar agreement to pass.

Community-Driven Park and Trail Projects

P&TC is proud of our role in supporting volunteer Friends Groups who advocate for trail and park projects in their communities. In 2022, we have supported nine different Friends-Group-driven projects, all but one of which had bills authored in both the House and Senate. We will continue to wait and see if the legislature meets for a special session and if the four caucuses can agree on a bonding bill. These projects can only receive bonding dollars if a bonding bill is passed and signed into law during a special session. For more information on the nine community-driven projects that P&TC has worked to get funded in an omnibus bonding bill please visit P&TC’s community-driven park and trail projects page

Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

We encourage and support legislative efforts to develop new programs that welcome more Black people, Indigenous people, and people of color communities into parks and trails. While no major programs or policies emerged in this area, we were encouraged by a $500,000 Environment and Natural Resources Trust Fund (ENRTF) appropriation aimed at increasing diversity in environmental careers. The appropriation requires the DNR to work in cooperation with the Conservation Corp to provide internships, mentorships, and fellowships that will result in more diverse students pursuing careers in environment and natural resources.

And while a bonding bill didn’t emerge during the regular session we will continue to work to secure funding for the Perham to Pelican Rapids Regional Trail connection to Maplewood State Park because nearly half of the residents of Pelican Rapids identify as persons of color and 62% of the population are non-native English speakers.

About Lisa Filter