LCMR advisory group seeking public input

By Joe Albert

Staff Writer

St. Paul – A task force that’s evaluating the way conservation
projects in the state are funded is looking for input.

The Environment and Natural Resources Trust Fund Advisory Task
Force is taking public testimony next Thursday, Nov. 17, from 6:30
to 8:30 p.m. in St. Paul.

Created during last spring’s legislative session, the task force
is examining the process for spending about $18 million annually in
trust fund money – currently doled out by the 20 lawmakers who make
up the Legislative Commission on Minnesota Resources.

The task force – made up of eight citizens appointed by Gov. Tim
Pawlenty, and eight current or former legislators appointed by the
LCMR – has met twice. The first two meetings were mostly a
historical overview of the LCMR. In terms of potential action, the
next meeting will be pivotal, said Dave Zentner of Duluth, the
group’s co-chair who Pawlenty appointed.

‘We’re still at a point where some people aren’t sure how
seriously to take the allegations that there has been a drift in
missionŠ’ Zentner said. ‘We need to hear from people on what they
believe the (LCMR) performance has been, and to confirm that things
haven’t been that bad, or have been that serious that we need to
change.’

The task force is charged with examining the process by which
money is spent from the trust fund. It must issue a report of its
recommendations by Feb. 15, 2006.

Pawlenty originally envisioned the dismantling of the LCMR, to
be replaced by a citizen’s board that would oversee trust fund
expenditures.

But some legislators weren’t comfortable with such broad change,
and the task force was created to explore the idea.

‘There are strong proponents for both sides – for reform and no
reform,’ said Bob Meier, DNR director of legislative affairs, who
noted the DNR supports change of some kind. ‘It’s going to be a
battle.’

By the time next week’s meeting is over, more will be known
about each member’s feelings on possible change, Zentner said.

He also said the group will come to some kind of consensus about
the major issues that surround the LCMR. ‘We’re very close to
agreeing what (the major issues) are,’ Zentner said.

Some people who seek change say the LCMR process needs to be
speeded up, that politics need to be taken out of the process, and
that appropriations haven’t been, at times, in line with the state
constitution.

Anyone can testify at the meeting, both about past LCMR
experiences and what the future should look like.

At the fourth meeting, set for Nov. 29, the task force will hear
from states including Colorado, Nebraska, and Missouri about their
processes for disbursing conservation money. The task force also
will hear from private foundations in the state.

‘The third and fourth meetings are really going to be critical,’
Zentner said.

When: Nov. 17 from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m.

Where: State Office Building, 100 Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King
Jr. Boulevard in St. Paul, in Room 5.

To testify: Call LCMR office at 651-296-2406, or email lcmr@lcmr.leg.mn.

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