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House moves closer to overhaul of LCCMR, using lottery proceeds for housing

The House moved closer to reforming the makeup of the Legislative-Citizen Commission on Minnesota Resources, while also approving a plan to increase revenue in the state’s Environmental Trust Fund and help in the area of housing.

The House Ways and Means Committee approved HF4649, as amended, by a 17-11 party-line vote Tuesday and referred the bill to the House Rules and Legislative Administration Committee.

Per its website, “The function of the LCCMR is to make funding recommendations to the legislature for special environment and natural resource projects, primarily from the Environment and Natural Resources Trust Fund.”

Established by state voters in 1988, the dedicated fund has provided approximately $875 million in state lottery proceeds to nearly 1,800 projects around the state since 1991.

Sponsored by Rep. Athena Hollins (DFL-St. Paul), the bill would extend the commission’s work to 2050, put a proposed constitutional amendment on the November 2022 ballot to increase the amount of lottery proceeds dedicated to the environment and natural resources trust fund from 40% to 50%, and establish a new housing fund with the other half.

“Let’s get this before the voters and, hopefully, renew this,” said Rep. Leon Lillie (DFL-North St. Paul).

The second bill, sponsored by Rep. Rick Hansen (DFL-South St. Paul), would alter the commission’s makeup so it is comprised of nine citizens, all appointed by the governor, with one member from each congressional district along with one member from tribal governments recommended by the Indian Affairs Council. There would also be four legislators on the commission, two from each body and two from each major caucus.

“It provides for needed reform,” Hansen said. “It was discussed in terms of my intent. When we were having the debate, we took input on the House Floor, got the bill drafted, brought through committee, we have it here and we still have time left. We have the opportunity to work every day to get the people’s work done.”

As amended, HF4850 was approved by a 16-11 party-line vote and also referred to the House Rules and Legislative Administration Committee.

A reason for Hansen’s bill is that LCCMR has had trouble in recent years being able to reach a supermajority, which is needed to offer formal recommendations to the Legislature.

The House passed HF3765 on April 21 by a 72-60 vote based on the package that received the most votes from the LCCMR.

The timing of the bills, which come after a suggestion of reform was mentioned during a House Floor debate, is a concern for Republicans.

“We’re not renewing it,” said Rep. John Petersburg (R-Waseca). “This completely changes a lot of stuff that’s going on here with adding housing, increasing the cost. I guarantee you that this deadline of 2025 has been around for at least 25 years. We’ve known that the deadline is coming and to bring it in with less than five days left in the session, trying to negotiate a bill of this stature, that has this complexity, that is going to go to the public without even us understanding it, is irresponsible for us to actually bring it forward.”

Sen. Carrie Ruud (R-Breezy Point) sponsors both companion bills: SF4131, which awaits action by the Senate State Government Finance Policy and Elections Committee, and SF4578, which awaits action by the Senate Environment and Natural Resources Policy and Legacy Finance Committee.

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