LCMR agreement to add citizens to ‘hybrid’ plan

By Joe Albert Staff Writer

St. Paul — Citizens would play an expanded role in determining
how money from the Environment and Natural Resources Trust Fund is
spent under an agreement to reform the Legislative Commission on
Minnesota Resources.

The agreement, reached last week between Dave Zentner and Rep.
Loren Solberg, DFL-Grand Rapids, was expected to be voted upon
Tuesday (after Outdoor News went to press) by the 16-member panel
exploring LCMR reform.

Zentner and Solberg co-chair that panel, created last session
after Gov. Tim Pawlenty sought to replace the 20-legislator LCMR
with an all-citizen panel. If the task force signs off on the
agreement, it would be sent to the Legislature for approval.

Zentner and Solberg’s recommendation is a “hybrid” between what
Pawlenty and those who favored no change wanted, Zentner said.

It would create a 17-member panel made up of seven citizens and
10 legislators.

“It’s not perfect, but it goes a long way,” said Zentner, who
was appointed by Pawlenty. “It’s a major improvement.”

Solberg, a former LCMR chair appointed by the commission’s
executive committee to the task force, said: “I think it’s somewhat
of a middle ground. Each side is going to be a little bit
disappointed, but I suppose that’s where you need to be.”

Key parts of the agreement, based on a draft set to be discussed
and possibly voted upon Tuesday, include:

  • Seven citizens, five House members, and five Senate members
    would make up the as-of-yet unnamed panel. The governor would
    appoint five of the citizens, the House and Senate each would
    appoint one.
  • A “super majority” of 11 of the 17 members would be required
    for Trust Fund spending recommendations.
  • Chair of the new panel would rotate between citizen and
    legislative members.
  • The panel would adopt a long-range strategic plan for Trust
    Fund spending and review it regularly.
  • The legislative funding cycle would be changed from biennial to
    annual to make funding available on a more timely basis, and an
    “emerging issues” account would be created to fund items outside of
    the normal grant cycle.
  • Regional grants would be available to address unique
    needs.
  • Term limits would be in place for all members: staggered
    three-year terms, with a maximum of two full terms for citizens,
    and two-year terms, and a maximum of three full terms for
    legislators.
  • Citizen members would be screened for conservation and
    environmental experience and expertise by a committee set up by the
    governor.
  • The new panel would sunset in 2016.

The report essentially is a recommendation to the Legislature on
how to improve spending from the Trust Fund.

Gary Botzek, chair of the Minnesota Environmental Partnership’s
government relations committee and lobbyist for the Minnesota
Conservation Federation and Minnesota Waters Association, said it
took a long time for the LCMR process to become “convoluted,” and
wasn’t surprised the task force wasn’t voting on a recommendation
to completely overhaul the LCMR.

“We shouldn’t be surprised that we can’t totally reinvent it in
one year,” he said.

However, he said adoption by the panel and passage by the
Legislature would be a step in the right direction.

“They are saving the best of the LCMR, and adding some floors to
it that are positive,” Botzek said. “We are making a skyscraper out
of a pretty good foundation.”

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