The House and Senate voted late Monday to pass the LCCMR conference committee report, which would appropriate more than $64 million in lottery proceeds for projects that benefit the environment and natural resources.
Sponsored by Rep. Josh Heintzeman (R-Nisswa) and Sen. Torrey Westrom (R-Elbow Lake), HF1265/ SF550* would appropriate money from the Environment and Natural Resources Trust Fund established in 1988. The report was passed by the Senate 51-10 and the House 84-49. It now heads to the governor.
Trust fund appropriations are made by the Legislature based on recommendations from the Legislative-Citizen Commission on Minnesota Resources, a 17-member body that was created to oversee the funding request process.
The House bill eliminated 23 of 69 projects recommended by the LCCMR, directing that funding instead to the Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program.
The conference committee agreement restores 16 projects, although some at a reduced funding level. It would also appropriate $19.5 million for CREP – $13.5 million for easements and acquisitions, and $6 million for outreach and implementation.
Gov. Mark Dayton signed an agreement in January to secure $350 million in federal funding for the program, which pays landowners to retire environmentally sensitive land to protect and improve water quality and other natural resources. As part of that agreement, the state must commit $150 million of its own money.
Heintzeman said “hard choices” had been made on the unfunded projects to provide money for CREP and he would have liked to include them.
“This conference committee report represents compromise on both sides, it is a good bill,” Heintzeman said.
The six projects left out of the agreement include outreach on alternatives to lead hunting ammunition; forums to train youth on the climate and its impact on natural resources; research on manufacturing solar cells; developing solar-powered robots for weed control in agriculture; a community scale storage guide for renewable energy; and habitat restoration at Hall’s Island.
Rep. Jean Wagenius (DFL-Mpls) said that although the cuts in the report aren’t as severe as the original bill, all LCCMR recommendations should have been included.
“I worry when we say we want to engage citizens in our democracy and then turn around, when they have put their heart and soul into something, and not respect what they have done,” Wagenius said.
The agreement would appropriate $8.43 million during Fiscal Year 2017 and $50.73 million in Fiscal Year 2018 and $5.08 million in Fiscal Year 2019. Those appropriations include:
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