New ‘guide’ generates concern
St. Paul – Lawmakers from the state House say a new set of
“legislative guidelines” is meant to guide spending of dedicated
funds and establish oversight and accountability for those
expenditures. Some conservation advocates, though, worry something
more sinister is afoot.
“I think much of it is about control,” said Dave Zentner,
co-chair of the Duck Rally, a group formed, in part, to push for
passage of dedicated funding.
The Cultural and Outdoor Resources Finance Division, the House
committee set up to oversee amendment spending, released the draft
guidelines Dec. 14. It’s accepting comments through Dec. 31.
The guide deals with all four pots of money created by the
amendment: clean water, parks and trails, fish and wildlife
habitat, and the arts. It’s meant to be a five-year guide for the
Legislature and the groups that apply for funds, said committee
vice chair Rep. Will Morgan, DFL-Burnsville.
“The constitutional language is very vague,” he said. “This is
designed to kind of provide a clearer framework.”
The constitution, for example, talks about prairies, wetlands,
and habitat – as well as clean water and the arts – “but there is a
lot that could fit into that,” Morgan said. “The goal is to kind of
work within the constitutional framework to be more specific.”
Morgan said he didn’t know of any other such guides. It was a
collaborative effort with input from committee members,
stakeholders, and partisan and non-partisan House staff, he
The 11-page draft includes a variety of “principles,” including
the following, taken directly:
€ Each fund will give priority to projects that improve the
state or regional economy, creating jobs and leveraging non-state
money or increasing community involvement.
€ Funding for habitat should include metro and other urban
habitat projects and habitat protection for non-hunting purposes
including scientific and natural areas and park/natural areas. It
is important to protect habitat for many public purposes – hunting
and fishing, wildlife health, recreation, etc.
€ Prairies, wetlands, forests, and habitat may be restored or
enhanced on existing public property, including parks and trails,
to improve quality.
€ Ensure that current habitat (land and water) are properly
maintained in a sustainable manner and that all invasive species
issues are addressed before new lands are acquired.
Garry Leaf, of Sportsmen for Change, said he’s concerned about
many provisions in the guide and believes it minimizes the focus on
projects that would be open for hunting and fishing. He also
believes it shifts priorities to areas like jobs, which “was never
a focus of the effort,” to pass the amendment, Leaf said.
Said Morgan: “One of the things we believe we as a state need to
be focused like a laser on is getting people back to work … If
there is anything we can do with these dollars to move in that
direction, that is a priority for the House and I think the
language reflects that priority.”
The committee will take comment on the guide until Dec. 31. Its
goal is to have it complete by Jan. 15. View a draft at: www.house.leg.state.mn.us/comm/