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Legacy bill brought back to life

Published (8/11/2011)
By Lee Ann Schutz
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Rep. Dean Urdahl listens to debate on the Legacy funding law during the July 19 special session. (Photo by Andrew VonBank)The 2011 regular session ended with debate but no legislative action on the Legacy funding bill. But its provisions came together as part of the budget agreement between Gov. Mark Dayton and Republican legislative leaders.

The original bill stalled on the House floor the last night of session over concerns about a provision exempting the Lessard-Sams Outdoor Heritage Council from the state’s Open Meeting Law. The council is responsible for the $86 million in allocations from the Outdoor Heritage Fund contained in the nearly $449.8 million law. Funds are collected through the 2008 voter-approved constitutional amendment increasing the state sales tax by three-eighths of 1 percent to pay for outdoors and cultural projects.

Funding provisions in the new law are almost identical to those in the previous bill. A major change, however is that the Lessard-Sams Outdoor Heritage Council will remain subject to the Open Meeting Law, ensuring transparency to the allocation process.

Sponsored by Rep. Dean Urdahl (R-Grove City) and Sen. Bill Ingebrigtsen (R-Alexandria), the new law also allocates:

• $179.43 million for the Clean Water Fund for wastewater treatment, water quality monitoring and the AgBMP Loan Program to address runoff from feedlots and farm fields;

• $105.31 million for Arts and Cultural Heritage funding, including grants to arts and arts access initiatives; cultural heritage programming; the Minnesota Historical Society; Minnesota public television and public radio; Minnesota, Como and Lake Superior zoos; children’s museums and veterans camps;

• $86.95 million to the Outdoor Heritage Fund for shoreland protection, prairie restoration, wildlife management land acquisition and conservation programs; and

• $78.1 million for the Parks and Trails Fund with grants for metro parks and trails, state and regional parks and recreation areas.

Rep. Jean Wagenius (DFL-Mpls) called the law unfair to the Twin Cities metropolitan area. The metropolitan area contributes “about 64 percent of the money” in the law, she said, but that 92 percent of the Outdoor Heritage Fund appropriations and about 72 percent of the Clean Water Fund money go to Greater Minnesota. “We took a huge step backwards in fairness,” she said.

The law changes fund distribution for some appropriations to a competitive grant process, including public radio and the state councils of color.

A 22-member State Capitol Preservation Commission is established through the law to develop a comprehensive pre-design plan to restore and preserve the State Capitol.

Additionally, the law extends the sunset date for the Dakota and Ojibwe language preservation working group to Feb. 16, 2013.

Most of the law’s provisions are retroactive to July 1, 2011.

2011 Special Session: HF6/ SF6*/CH6

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