No action on Legacy bill in House before adjournment

The Minnesota House has adjourned without voting on the Legacy bill. That means the Legislature would have to take it up again during an expected special session to approve the state’s budget.

Members had issues with a provision related to the Open Meeting Law and the Lessard Sams Outdoor Heritage Council.

The House initially rejected the conference committee report, but brought it back later without the changes members had requested. Rather than voting on the bill, the House debated it until the midnight deadline.

UPDATE at 8:22 p.m.

The House has voted to reject the Legacy conference report and send the bill back to committee. At issue was the Open Meetings change for the Lessard Sams Outdoor Heritage Council.

Rep. Dean Urdahl, R-Grove City, revealed that it was the reason he had questions about the bill even while serving as co-chair of the conference committee. DFL Rep. Rick Hansen moved to reject the report, and after some discussion, Urdahl agreed.

The House voted 119-14 to reject the conference report. It isn’t yet clear whether the Legacy conference committee will meet before the midnight deadline, but they certainly could, especially if all they plan to change is the Open Meetings provision.

POSTED at 5:49 p.m.:

The Minnesota Senate has approved a bill designating how $450 million in Legacy Amendment funds will be spent in the next two years.

The three-eighths of a cent sales tax voters approved in 2008 is dedicated to funding programs for the outdoors, clean water, parks, and arts and culture.

This year, the fund includes $550,000 for a commission to preserve the State Capitol. Sen. Michael Jungbauer, R-East Bethel, supports the provision.

“I got a lot of calls and a lot of interest in this bill by having this provision in here, and I think that’s exciting because we do need to take care of this building, we do need to have a vision to keep this building strong and sound for the future and do any additions or anything we need to do so we do the work more efficiently here,” Jungbauer said.

The Senate vote was 54-11.

Sen. Tom Bakk, DFL-Cook, voted against the measure. He said later that he doesn’t have a problem with the bill itself but objected to it being front and center when the budget hasn’t been finished.

“Republicans made it too much of a priority,” Bakk said. “They say we have to pass them when the walls of state government are crumbling.”

The House is expected to take up the final version of the bill later today. One of the provisions generating the most debate had to do with how to split parks and trails money between the metro area and greater Minnesota, but conference committee members said a compromise was reached that gave 38 percent to state parks, 42 percent to metro parks and 20 percent to parks in greater Minnesota.

“That was where the real work was done,” said Sen. Bill Ingebrigtsen, R-Alexandria, who co-chaired the conference committee.

Sen. Terri Bonoff, DFL-Minnetonka, said she still had questions about the parks money, but she said legislators can reassess the funding allocations in the future.

Another change from two years ago is the amount of money being distributed directly to groups. Both the House and Senate Legacy committees showed interest in putting more money into grant programs that groups would have to compete for.

Groups that will have to compete for the money include children’s museums in greater Minnesota and Minnesota Public Radio, which received a direct allocation of $2.65 million in Legacy funds during the last two years. MPR will now compete against other public radio stations for $5.3 million over two years. The criteria for the grants will be determined by the Department of Administration.

One issue that could come up during the House debate is a provision in the bill that puts fewer restrictions on the Lessard Sams Outdoor Heritage Council in terms of their meetings. Under the provision, the council would abide by the part of the Open Meetings Law that applies to the Legislative Citizen Comission on Minnesota Resources, rather than a higher “executive level” groups under the law.

Rep. Mary Murphy, DFL-Hermantown, said she wished lawmakers hadn’t changed anything. But she said she plans to support the bill when the House takes it up this evening.

Comments are closed.