10 Second Street Northeast
Minneapolis, Minnesota 55413
To: Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board Commissioners
Environment Committee Chairs
From: Brian Rice, Kirk Pederson, Maryann Campo
Date: March 19, 2004
Re: Legislative Update for the Week of March 15, 2004
Today was the first committee deadline in the Senate, and the second committee deadline in the House. As noted previously, these incongruent deadlines are causing confusion as to the status of bills in the House vs. the Senate. Numerous lengthy hearings and late night committee meetings were held throughout the week. In the House, finance committees have submitted bonding recommendations to the Capitol Investment Committee, and the bonding committee held several overview hearings on these projects. In the Senate, finance divisions are in the process of submitting their priority lists to the Capitol Investment Committee, but details of exact proposals have not yet been released for several divisions. Policy committees in both bodies are finishing up hearing non-fiscal bills that will be passed on to the floor or included in omnibus bills.
With these developments, our time and energy is now shifting to working with members of the bonding committees to ensure the viability of our projects. It is crucial at this point to get the highest level of funding and priority rankings possible for our projects as the bonding committees begin putting together their bills. We are also coordinating with other park groups and legislators on major policy and fiscal issues affecting the Park Board such as the 4/16ths bill, funding mechanisms for non-metro regional parks, and budget balancing plans that will be decided in the upcoming weeks.
The following is the list of items that we are lobbying on or tracking this year.
- Park Board Bonding Projects. The Park Board is requesting capital improvement (a.k.a. bonding) appropriations for the following projects:
- Restoration of Lake of the Isles. (H.F. 2053 – Kelliher/S.F. 1930 – Dibble). Senator Dibble reports that this project is doing well as the Senate discussions on the bonding bill progress. The project was given a very high priority by Minneapolis Senators. The Senate Environment and Economic Development Budget Division Chairman has forwarded his bonding proposals to the chair of the Capitol Investment Committee, but the funding levels and priority list of projects has not yet been made public. We believe this is a high priority issue for the Senate and that the committee has included a significant amount for this project in its recommendations to the Senate Capital Investment Committee. The House Environment Finance Committee did not recommend any funding for this project, so any hope of obtaining money for Lake of the Isles rests in securing a high priority ranking on the Senate side, thereby giving us a strong leverage position in conference committee. We are working with our delegation members and bonding committee members to reinforce the importance of this project.
- East Phillips Cultural and Community Center. (H.F. 1990 – Clark/S.F. 1858 – Berglin). As noted above, the Senate Environment and Economic Development bonding package has not yet been released, but we believe this project will be ranked second among Minneapolis projects, next to the Colin Powell Center bonding request. In the House, it was included on the finance committee’s "regular" priority list, meaning that funding has not been ruled out but is not a high priority.
- J.D. Rivers Urban Agricultural Awareness Center. (H.F. 1940 – Kelliher/S.F. 1950 – Dibble). This is a $2.5 million bonding request to build an urban agricultural awareness center in Theodore Wirth Park. As noted last week, H.F. 1940 was included on the "regular" priority list for potential consideration by the Capital Investment Committee. In the Senate, it appears that Senator Dibble was able to earmark $50,000 for planning for this project in the recommendations that will be forwarded to the Capital Investment committee, although the official committee recommendation has not yet been announced.
- Grand Rounds Missing Link. (H.F. 2154- Kahn/S.F. 1920 – Pogemiller). As noted previously, Rep. Kahn was able to get rider language included that earmarks $250,000 for this project out of the Local Initiative Grants bonds in the House Environment Finance Committee’s bonding proposal. We have met with Senator Pogemiller and are coordinating a strategy for earmarking funds in a similar manner in the Senate bill.
- Upper Riverfront Park – Minneapolis Marina. No further legislative action was taken on this issue this week.
- Met Council Bonding. (H.F. 2562- Tingelstad/S.F. 2380 – Anderson). The House Environment Finance Committee recommended $7 million for the Metro Parks bonding request, the same amount included in Governor Pawlenty’s proposal. Although the Senate bonding numbers are not yet available, we expect this item to receive high priority and a higher level of funding than in the House.
- Dedicated Funding Sources for Environmental Programs ("1/4% for Nature"). (S.F. 401- Sams/H.F. 1166 – Hackbarth). There were several high-level discussions regarding the details of and strategy for this bill this week. In particular, we have been working to regain the percentage of funds allocated to Metro Parks that were proposed in earlier versions of the proposal. The current version of the bill in both the House and Senate divides the $170 million that would be dedicated into three major categories: fish and wildlife, parks and trails, and impaired waters, with varying percentages for each fund in the different bills. Monies are further broken down within these major groupings. As momentum grows, different groups have come to the table seeking to get in on this revenue stream. As other interests have been added, the percentages for the various subgroups have been altered, mostly to the detriment of the Metro Parks. We have been fighting hard to restore the percentage of funding allocated to the Metro Regional Parks to a more fair and proportionate level. S.F. 401 is scheduled to be heard in the Environment Finance Division on Thursday of next week, and we will continue working with the various groups and legislators involved to make sure that Metro Parks receive a fair and proportionate percentage of funds should this measure be approved by the voters.
- Protect Local Government Aid. The Governor’s supplemental budget bill does not appear to make any further cuts to LGA.
- Mississippi Waterwater Park. We will continue to monitor this item as the year progresses.
- LCMR. No further LCMR action is likely to occur until the Commission processes the requests submitted and begins holding hearings over the summer.
- Buckthorn and Other Invasive Species. (S.F. 2211 – Skoglund/ H.F. 2363 – McNamara). This bill imposes or increases penalties for people who transport or introduce invasive species in Minnesota. H.F. 2363 was passed by the House Judiciary committee this week. In the Senate, S.F. 2211 was passed by the Crime Prevention Committee and referred to the State and Local Government Operations Committee.
- Conceal Carry – Prohibiting Concealed Carry Guns in Parks. (S.F. 1654 – Solon/ H.F. 2611 – Slawik)). S.F. 1654 is awaiting action in the Senate Crime Prevention Committee. In the House, H.F. 2611 has been introduced and was referred to the Judiciary Committee.
- Phosphorous Fertilizer Prohibition Extension (H.F. 2005 – McNamara/S.F. 1999 – Sparks). This bill extends the current metropolitan area ban on lawn fertilizer to the entire state. H.F. 2005 is awaiting floor action. S.F. 1999 is scheduled to be heard in the Environment Policy Committee on Monday.
- Youth Enrichment Grant Program Reinstatement. (S.F. 2032 – Hottinger/H.F. 1774 – Mariani; S.F. 2034 – Hottinger/H.F. 1778 – Slawik). These bills reinstate and provide appropriations the after school enrichment grant program which was repealed two years ago. As with the previous program, it gives priority to certain Minneapolis neighborhoods. We have offered to provide Senator Hottinger and his staff more information about the impact After School Enrichment programs had in the past.
- Forest Pest Control. (H.F. 1959 – Sheldon Johnson/S.F. 1692 – Murphy). This bill is awaiting action in the Agriculture Committees in both bodies.
- Land Banking (H.F. 3006 – Cox/S.F. 2570 – Robling). This is a $3.75 million Met Council bonding request for the acquisition of potential regional park land. Last week, we mistakenly reported that the Upper Mississippi Marina was a potential site that could qualify for funding under the land banking proposal. At this time, there is no site for such a marina. Instead, the property north of the upper river terminal is a key link to North Mississippi Regional Park, and some of that property is becoming available. This would be a better example of a project that may qualify for land banked money under this legislation.
- Possible O&M Cuts. The DNR’s supplemental budget deficit reduction package includes a cut of $99,000 for Metro Regional Park operation and maintenance funding. This will reduce the Metro Parks O&M base funding level from $3,300,000 for FY05 to $3,201,000, a 3% cut. For the Park Board, this cut would mean a loss of approximately $28,203 in FY05. This compares with $256,000 in cuts for State parks. No cuts are proposed to the $4,152,000 Metro Regional Parks receives in "lottery-in-lieu-of" funding.
While we are not opposed to some level of funding for non-metro parks (provided that Metro Park funding is not negatively impacted), we maintain that it should be a fair and proportionate amount. Giving 83 times the O&M funding to rural regional parks than to Metro Regional Parks can in no reasonable way be construed as fair or proportionate.
The "rural regional parks" funding bill has gained some credibility through the LCMR Parks Study. However, the research to support a major state commitment simply does not exist. What seems to fuel the syllogism is that the state supports Metro Parks and therefore must support non-metro parks. Aside from the fact that there is no such legally defined thing as a non-metro regional park, the primary reason the state funded Metro Parks was the fact that there is virtually no such thing as a State Park in the metro area.
Also, the Metropolitan Regional Park System has very strict guidelines for defining parks, prioritizing projects and appropriating funds. Under the bill as currently structured, rural regional parks are not bound by the same restrictions as are other park systems, no administrative structure is in place for planning and prioritizing projects, and no criteria is outlined to determine what would constitute a rural regional park. In fact there is no consensus as to how many or which parks would be included in the rural park system. As such, this proposal is premature and we recommend that this issue be studied further before being enacted.
This proposal would provide approximately $4.5 million to $5.5 million in additional revenues for the Park Board every year if passed. It is important to reiterate that the concept of a dedicated environmental funding source appears to be gaining momentum, and that we must stay involved if we are to remain included in discussions.