New strategy and a new name: LCCMR

By Joe Albert Staff Writer

St. Paul — Change is afoot for the way conservation projects in
the state are funded.

In one of their final orders of business, lawmakers passed
legislation to retool and rename the Legislative Commission on
Minnesota Resources.

“I think it’s history-making,” said Dave Zentner, who co-chaired
the task force charged by last year’s Legislature with recommending
items for reform. “We’ve got a strategic plan, we are going to make
it clear that we are going to reduce the politics and the pork
barreling.”

The new Legislative-Citizen Commission on Minnesota Resources
will include seven citizens and 10 legislators. The LCMR was made
up of 20 legislators, and spent about $37 million a biennium from
the Environment and Natural Resources Trust Fund.

Gov. Tim Pawlenty in October of 2004 proposed the dismantling of
the LCMR and sought to have its spending and policy decisions given
to a citizens panel.

The Legislature in 2005 balked at the proposal, instead calling
for a task force to study the idea.

While legislators still will be part of the LCCMR, Pawlenty is
pleased with the outcome, said Bob Schroeder, Pawlenty’s deputy
chief of staff.

“This is a very workable compromise that I think will serve
citizens and the process very well,” he said.

Legislators largely accepted the LCCMR model the task force
proposed, Zentner said.

Details of the LCCMR include:

  • 17 members: five legislators from the House, five from the
    Senate, and seven citizen experts. The governor will appoint five
    of the citizens, while the House and Senate each will appoint
    one.
  • Each year, the commission will recommend a funding bill for
    various projects. Approval of the bill requires affirmative votes
    from at least 12 members.

That ensures legislators can’t vote together and pass a bill the
citizens don’t agree with.

“There’s a lot of citizen power,” Zentner said.

  • The commission will adopt a strategic plan for making trust
    fund expenditures, including identifying priority areas for funding
    for the next six years. The plan must be reviewed every two
    years.

“There is going to be more discipline, more focus,” Zentner
said.

Pawlenty’s office also is proposing that an outside firm be
hired to help with the strategic plan, he said.

  • While the grant proposal period was reduced from two years to
    one, another pot of money also will be available to respond to
    opportunities and threats that come up, Zentner said.
  • Former LCMR staff, including John Velin, director, and Susan
    Thornton, assistant director, will remain on the LCCMR
    administrative staff.

Zentner also sought term limits for members of the LCCMR, and to
have the legislators on the commission, like the citizens, be
experts in natural resources.

“The bar is now held higher for citizens,” he said.

Qualified citizens currently are being sought to serve on the
LCCMR. Applications are being accepted through the Secretary of
State’s office, and will be taken through the end of June. The
governor’s office will screen the applicants and make a decision by
about mid-July, Schroeder said.

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