ST. PAUL, MN –In order to protect fishing and clean up impaired fisheries that threaten the future of our water resources and recreational opportunities in Minnesota, Rep. Melissa Hortman (DFL-Brooklyn Park/Coon Rapids) has coauthored the "Minnesota Fishing Protection Act."
Hortman joined the chief author of the bill, Rep. Frank Moe (DFL-Bemidji) and sportsmen, families and House colleagues when he introduced it on Tuesday.
Hortman said that the health of Minnesota's waters and fisheries is essential to the future tourism and sporting economy in the state.
"Polluted waters threaten the fishing opportunities and enjoyment of our natural resources by future generations' of Minnesotans," said Hortman. "There is a business interest there as well. Resort owners, retailers that cater to outdoors enthusiasts and countless others depend on quality of fishing in Minnesota to drive their business."
The "Minnesota Fishing Protection Act" would recapture lottery proceeds that were intended for environmental and economic development investments in the state of Minnesota. Minnesotans voted in support of a constitutional amendment to dedicate 40% of those proceeds to the environment. The remaining funds were intended for economic development. Currently, the majority of lottery funds have not been used to provide for economic development in Minnesota as originally promised. Instead, over $55 million of lottery proceeds went to the general fund in FY 2004, filling holes in the state budget.
"When the Minnesota State Lottery was established, the idea was to use the revenues collected to protect our natural resources and the future economic security of the state," said Moe. "Unfortunately the promise has not been fulfilled. We are calling for the state to renew its commitment to using those funds for their intended purpose."
The initiative would not depend on assessing regressive user fees on homeowners and business. Instead, the cost of water quality monitoring and development of TMDL (Total Maximum Daily Load) guidelines would be covered by capturing the lottery funds. The implementation of the Minnesota Fishing Protection Act would meet guidelines for water quality under the federal Clean Water Act.
The bill establishes 13-member Minnesota Fishing Protection Council to work along side the MPCA and advise on the priorities and administration of funds to prevent fisheries from becoming impaired or to improve the quality of fisheries listed as impaired. The Council is to include members of statewide fishing conservation groups along with business and local government representatives.
The grants provided to address impaired fisheries would be allocated to local governments, allowing for more local control.
The "Minnesota Fishing Protection Act" is the second in a series of ABCs legislation sponsored by first-term DFL members. The ABCs agenda includes legislation that forwards the basics of good state governance: Accountability, Balance and Common Sense.
"Protecting our future fishing and recreational opportunities in Minnesota is a common sense thing to do," said Hortman. "That is why this is a ABCs initiative."