2017 Legislative Update – May 19

Advocating to clean up and protect our lakes, rivers, and water resources

May 19, 2017

Environment and Natural Resources Omnibus Bill

Last week Governor Dayton vetoed a number of big budget bills including the Environment and Natural Resources Omnibus Bill. The Governor said that a number of harmful policy and budget provisions within the bill required his veto. A few issues he cited in his veto letter include items that effect our lakes and rivers, including: language to minimize the stream buffer law and forbid enforcement of the law; transferring all water-related decisions (like water quality standards) out of the hands of scientists at the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency and into the hands of Administrative Law Judges; and shifting funding for local Soil and Water Conservation Districts out of the general fund and into the Legacy Amendment funding (by cutting the recommendations of councils like the Clean Water Council and the Lessard-Sams Outdoor Heritage Council). With the regular legislative session required to adjourn by May 23, it will be interesting to see if lawmakers can reach a compromise in time, or if a special session will be required to finish their work.

Bonding Bill

Another important issue we’re watching at the Capitol is the bonding bill. There are a number of important projects to protect and clean-up lakes and rivers that we’re working to see included in the bonding bill, such as: significant investment in wastewater treatment plants across the state; clean-up of the St. Louis River estuary; and fully investing in the Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program. Each of the projects have been floated in proposed bonding bills, but at the time I am writing this, the House has yet to put together a bonding package that has enough votes to pass.

Aquatic Invasive Species (AIS)

Finally, as lawmakers head down the home stretch, we are continuing to work to see that many important provisions concerning aquatic invasive species (AIS) make it into the final bills that will become law. We’ve supported expanding zebra mussel research to new lakes across the state; allowing new research methods to better understand invasive Asian carp; and we continue to advocate for long term funding for the Minnesota AIS Research Center at the University of Minnesota. We will continue to work to see that our concerns about AIS are addressed in the end of session negotiations.