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May 19, 2017
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Legislative Update: Uncertainty remains as the end of session draws near

The end of the legislative session is only three days away, and important pieces of legislation that will impact Minnesota’s parks and trails are still up-in-the-air. Lawmakers have spent most of the week going back-and-forth on what the overall size of the state budget should be. If lawmakers can’t agree on a budget before Monday, May 22, a special session will be needed to avoid a government shutdown come July.

Quick updates on the major pieces of parks and trails legislation:

  • Parks & Trails Budget: Last week the governor vetoed a series of budget bills including the Environment Omnibus bill (HF 888), which would have made cuts to Minnesota’s state parks and trails. Parks & Trails Council is continuing to do everything we can during these final days to convince lawmakers how important it is to fully fund parks and trails and keep them affordable, as outlined in our legislative agenda.

 

  • Bonding: The House bonding bill – which is substantially smaller than proposals from the governor and Senate – was voted down on Wednesday, falling 11 votes short of the 81 needed to pass. Bonding bills are typically passed in even-numbered years to fund public works projects across the state (such as building and rehabilitating parks and trails), but the last time Minnesota passed a large bonding bill was 2014. Despite the setback this week, the bonding bill will remain a crucial bargaining piece in budget negotiations, and lawmakers may still pass a bonding bill this year. For more details on the various bonding proposals, see our earlier updates.

 

  • Legacy Fund: On Thursday the Legacy Conference Committee reached an agreement on the Legacy bill (HF 707). In a bit of good news, the compromise bill removed some of the controversial provisions included in earlier drafts and will now go to the House and Senate floor for a full vote.

 

  • Environment and Natural Resources Trust Fund (LCCMR): On Thursday the House debated and passed a controversial LCCMR bill (SF 550). The House bill deletes 22 recommended projects and includes “no net gain” policies for land acquisition in northern Minnesota. Funding for parks and trails projects were among the projects cut. Parks & Trails Council partnered with other environmental organizations on a letter detailing our concerns. Thankfully, the Senate version of the bill, which was passed earlier in session, doesn’t contain those harmful provision. A conference committee will be named to negotiate differences between the House and Senate versions.

 

With the legislature scheduled to adjourn on Monday, May 22, this will be the last of our weekly legislative updates. But as always, Parks & Trails Council will be working at the Capitol and keeping you up-to-date as the legislative season comes to a close and a special session looms.