LCMR reform stays alive in Legislature

Staff Writer

St. Paul Coming into the final hours of this year’s legislative
session, sportsmen still are awaiting passage of three major bills
dedicated funding, the Clean Water Legacy, and reform of the
Legislative Commission on Minnesota Resources.

LCMR reform, first proposed last fall by Gov. Tim Pawlenty, is
contained in the House version of the Environment Finance Bill, but
not the Senate version.

A conference committee has been appointed and met for the first
time Monday to discuss the bill, though LCMR reform wasn’t
discussed at that time.

The Clean Water Legacy Act passed out of the Senate Finance
Committee last week and is awaiting hearing on the floor. It is
awaiting hearing in the House Taxes Committee.

Legislation to dedicate one-quarter of 1 percent of the state
sales tax half to game and fish, half to clean water also is
awaiting hearing in the Taxes Committee. The Senate version of the
bill was tabled in April.

John Schroers, of the Minnesota Outdoor Heritage Alliance, said
dedicated funding stands a good chance on the House floor if it can
pass through the Taxes Committee.

“That’s the high hurdle there,” he said of the committee.

LCMR reform

The House version of LCMR reform is similar to Pawlenty’s
initial proposal. It would create an 11-member citizens board,
appointed by the governor and confirmed by the Senate, that would
parcel out money from the Environment and Natural Resources Trust
Fund.

LCMR reform would take politics out of the conservation-funding
equation, and allow for more long-term vision, according to
Pawlenty’s office.

“We think it’s reasonable and responsible and faithful to the
constitution and to the needs of Minnesota,” said Bob Schroeder,
Pawlenty’s deputy chief of staff.

As the idea has moved through the House, some lawmakers
attempted to change the makeup of the board, but the final version
was the one Pawlenty supported, Schroeder said.

Still, the conference committee could change it.

“I think we’re going to wind up with some kind of reform, but
what that will be I can’t say for certain,” Schroers said.

Clean Water Legacy

House and Senate versions would fund water cleanup in different
ways. In the Senate, the estimated $80 million cost to bring the
state’s lakes and rivers into compliance with the federal Clean
Water Act would come from the General Fund. The House version would
fund cleanup through a fee on improved property.

Each version has good parts and bad parts, according to Anne
Hunt, environmental program coordinator for the Minnesota
Environmental Partnership.

“(The Senate version) delays the implementation of the
comprehensive program until 2009,” Hunt said. “(With the House
version) We are worried about whether the improved parcel fee is
politically viable.”

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