UPDATED: Outdoor Heritage Bill 2013: What’s it going to be Gov. Dayton?

Rob Drieslein

UPDATE – 1:51pm, Thursday May 23

Gov. Mark Dayton made the right call today when he line-item vetoed two contentious items from the Legacy bill. Joe Albert's news story contains quotes from Dayton's letter on the decision, and it's clear the decision weighed heavily on our governor. Sportsmen (voters) had our governor in a box on this one, given the fact that blogs like this one contained video documenting his strong commitment to the Lessard-Sams Outdoor Heritage Council.

Still, give Dayton credit for not going back on his word. Politicians flip-flop all the time, and I think it speaks very well of our governor's character that he lived up to a promise he made to the people. Sen. Bill Ingebrigtsen, R-Alexandria, echoed that sentiment in a press release this afternoon. “Governor Dayton has long stood by his word.  When these provisions were included in the bill myself and sportsmen from all across Minnesota were worried about the impact this would have. I’m happy to see the governor live up to his word and veto something the Council did not recommend,” Ingebrigtsen said.

Sportsmen should give themselves a pat on the back. We're organized and made sure we got Dayton on the record regarding the council three summers ago at Game Fair. I'm not sure that would have happened 20 or even 10 years ago, and it's a testament to the political experience, gravitas, and savvy the outdoor community has developed. Readers can rest assured that we'll get all future gubernatorial candidates on record to respect the recommendations of the Lessard-Sams Outdoor Heritage Council.

Thank you, Gov. Dayton. You set an important precedent today that preserves the integrity and spirit of 2008's dedicated funding for conservation amendment.

Players on the state outdoors scene were watching closely today to see if Gov. Mark Dayton would veto all or part of the Legacy bill. Dayton has until Saturday to act on the legislation, which came together in a House-Senate conference committee Sunday.

The rub? The House version contained $6.3 million in metro parks funding along with $3 million for aquatic invasive species work. Worthy programs, but not when other dedicated funding dollars exist for metro parks, and not when the 12-member Lessard-Sams Outdoor Heritage Council hasn’t even reviewed the AIS proposal. Most of us thought the House version, brought forth by Rep. Phyllis Kahn, DFL-Minneapolis, was DOA going into the weekend, but the above two items survived conference committee.

Neither of these projects offend me as much as they have other outdoors scribes, but there are bigger issues at stake, and that’s why sportsmen need action from our governor. He must draw the line for two reasons.

First, Dayton made a specific campaign promise at the Game Fair gubernatorial debate, an event that Ron Schara and I emceed in August 2010. You can view a video of the entire debate below, including Dayton’s clear statement about a veto – at the 9:40 mark.

Here’s what he said: “I just want everyone to know that if I’m governor, the sportsmen and women of this state are going to have a friend in the governor’s office. I will veto any legislative attempt to usurp the authority of the Lessard-Sams Council.”

A shorter, edited version of the debate video from Outdoor News contributor Ron Hustvedt is available below. At the 2:09 mark of that video, Dayton also makes this comment:

“The Lessard-Sams Council word ought to be the authority on where that money is spent.”

I don’t see any wiggle room for the governor. He either vetoes that $9.3 million or goes back on his word. Unlike a president, governors have that nifty line-item veto, which gives him the ability to eliminate the two pieces in the Legacy bill that deviate from the council’s recommendations while maintaining the other acceptable 90 percent.

Politicians break campaign promises all the time, but sportsmen won’t allow Dayton to forget this one. Will it be enough to sway a possible re-election in November 2014? Maybe, maybe not. If he decides not to act, I personally guarantee he’ll need to explain that decision to a potentially feisty crowd at Game Fair this summer or next.

But I believe the second reason Dayton needs to wield the veto pen is more important. This is a slippery slope, Governor. Deviating 10 percent from the council this year doesn’t sound like a big deal, right?

Well what about two or four years from now when the other party potentially is back in power? Or maybe it’s still the DFL. Either way, no veto in 2013 establishes a precedent. We’ll watch future legislative committees ignore 10 percent of the council’s recommendations…  or maybe 20 or 50 percent of the what the council brings forth.

Certain legislators hate the council because they believe that spending power and influence should lie solely with them. Bottom line, I don’t believe dedicated funding would have passed the electorate without the council.

I know Gov. Mark Dayton believes in conservation values that Minnesotans supported with the passage of the dedicated funding amendment in 2008. Will he preserve its integrity for 2013 and beyond?

We’re waiting to see.

Categories: Rob Drieslein

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