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Minnesota Legislature

House, Senate pass $540 million omnibus legacy bill

Rep. Dean Urdahl speaks to the omnibus legacy bill during special session June 12. Photo by Andrew VonBank

House lawmakers approved the plan to distribute Minnesota’s legacy funds for the upcoming biennium Friday afternoon, voting 116-6 to pass the legacy omnibus bill, HF5/SF1*, during the special session.

Sponsored by Rep. Dean Urdahl (R-Grove City) and Sen. Richard Cohen (DFL-St. Paul), the bill would appropriate $540 million to be allocated in the following manner:

  • Clean Water Fund:                       $228.3 million
  • Arts & Cultural Heritage Fund:       $124.8 million
  • Outdoor Heritage Fund:                $97.8 million
  • Parks & Trails Fund:                     $89.3 million

Those funds were created by the Clean Water, Land and Legacy Amendment in 2008 to benefit the environment, arts, parks, trails and other state resources.

Urdahl told his fellow lawmakers HF5/SF1* was the same bill the House passed 123-11 on May 17, but ultimately failed because the Senate did not have time to act on it.

The Senate passed the bill 54-10 on Friday.

“It’s the same bill you all, mostly, voted for earlier, I would urge you to vote for it again,” Urdahl said.

2015 Special Session - House floor session - part 2

Among the appropriations is money needed to fund the buffer initiatives Gov. Mark Dayton has called for to reduce water pollution around the state. The bill would appropriate $11 million each year of the biennium for payments to give Minnesota’s 89 soil and water conservation districts a $100,000 per year increase in its base funding. The remaining money would be available for matching grants based on county allocations to the SWCD’s.

Rep. Rick Hansen (DFL-South St. Paul) said he was voting against the bill because the money for those appropriations was being taken from other projects that were to be funded by the Board of Water and Soil Resources, and because he did not believe the buffer appropriations met the requirements set forth in the state constitution for legacy spending.

“I don’t think this is constitutional,” Hansen said.

Other provisions in the omnibus legacy bill would:

  • mandate a study of alternatives to the current payment-in-lieu of taxes system for reimbursing counties for lost tax revenue when the state purchases land in their jurisdiction. The study must include examination of a trust-fund approach that would create accounts counties could use to pay for the ongoing costs associated with land acquisition;
  • prohibit previous legacy fund recipients from receiving future funds if found to have failed to comply with laws, rules or regulations by the legislative auditor;
  • require the owner of land previously purchased with money from the Outdoor Heritage Fund to submit any profits made if the land is subsequently transferred to the state;
  • require the Lessard-Sams Outdoor Heritage Council to prepare a report on OHF land acquisitions. It would need to include, among other things, the total number of acres acquired in each county, the average price paid per acre, the total PILT payments made for lands acquired and an estimate of future PILT payments based on the estimated total number of acres acquired over the life of the fund;
  • direct the Board of Water and Soil Resources to work with local, state and federal agencies, groups and stakeholders to “foster mutual understanding” and provide standardized specifications for water quality, soil conservation protections and improvement;
  • require the Greater Minnesota Regional Parks and Trails Commission to submit a ranked list of projects to legislative leaders containing recommendations for funding from the Parks and Trails Fund for Fiscal Year 2017;
  • require the Greater Minnesota Regional Parks and Trails Commission to submit a report to legislative leaders with criteria for funding from the Parks and Trails Fund, including criteria used to determine if a park or trail is of regional significance;
  • appropriate $16.7 million for completion of 20 percent of the needed statewide assessments of surface water quality and trends;
  • appropriate $3.5 million for the Minnesota Zoo for programs, development of a zoological garden and to provide access and education related to the state’s cultural heritage;
  • appropriate $3.25 million for the restoration and preservation of fine art in the State Capitol complex;
  • appropriate $2.5 million to implement the Agricultural Water Quality Program statewide;
  • appropriate $2 million for the Como Zoo to develop educational programs, enhance habitat and historical garden access and create special exhibits;
  • appropriate $1.2 million for Science Museum of Minnesota for arts, arts education, arts access and to preserve the state’s heritage;
  • appropriate $250,000 to fund arts education, mentor programs and community presentations designed to engage Somali youth in communities around the state; and
  • add language that says, when feasible, recipients of legacy funds are encouraged to use conservation practices that promote monarch butterfly habitat, including planting and maintaining vegetation beneficial to monarchs and minimizing the use of pesticides. 

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