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Minnesota Legislature

Legislative News and Views - Rep. Steve Drazkowski (R)

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SHOULD CITIZENS BE ALLOWED TO DECIDE HOW TO SPEND STATE ENVIRONMENT REVENUE?

Tuesday, March 22, 2011
Not long ago I agreed to co-author House File 1073, which would have eliminated the Lessard-Sams Outdoor Heritage Council (LSOHN), Clean Water Council, and Legislative-Citizen Commission on Minnesota Resources (LCCMR). The goal of this legislation is to take the spending authority away from these committees and give it back to the legislature. The current system of allowing “citizens” to help decide how to spend environmental funds clearly is not working. I wholeheartedly supported the creation of the LSOHN, as I felt Minnesotans needed to be directly involved with how and where outdoor legacy funds would be spent. Since then, the LSOHN and the LCCMR have become controlled by the special interest groups who are most represented on the respective boards. These councils continue to bring forward more proposals for buying thousands of acres of more state land when we are unable to properly manage the 8.5 million acres the state owns now – 17 percent of the entire state. The non-partisan Legislative Auditor agrees, having concluded that state government owns more land than it can afford, and that it cannot keep up with rising operation and management costs. Buying more land only exacerbates this problem. Basically these two groups have grown into their own bureaucracies, with LCCMR now having an administrative budget approaching $1.5 million per biennium, and LSOHC quickly catching up top that figure. House File 1073 is an effort to bring a new direction to these and other councils and to figure out how to align them to work better with the Legislature. I signed onto this bill originally, because the current process is not working and significant changes need to be made. But then I began to hear from my constituents – lots of them. They told me that having the Legislature eliminate citizen input sends a poor message. After considering their input, I’ve determined they are absolutely right. Based on their concerns, I have removed my name from sponsorship of the bill and will continue to support the concept of citizens being directly involved in developing recommendations to the legislature each year for spending environmental revenue. That being said, the problems with these councils still exist and we all must work to improve them and the processes in which they are engaged. If you have any thoughts or ideas, I’d love to hear them.