By Bobby King, Land Stewardship Project
Last week the bill weakening local control, Senate File 270, came up on the Senate floor, met with strong opposition, and failed to pass. This is significant for a lot of reasons, not the least of which is that the bill was given the thumbs down even after key anti-local control provisions were stripped out of it. Apparently, the “don’t mess with local democracy” message coming out of rural Minnesota was finally heard in the Senate. Now it’s time to thank the Senators who supported local control and make it clear this issue should be dead not only in this session but future sessions. For details on how Senators voted and how you can contact them, click here.
Immediately after the bill was brought up, Sen. Carla Nelson (R-Rochester) offered an amendment that removed all the language limiting the ability of local governments to enact a moratorium. This was a change in position for Sen. Nelson, who had voted for the bill in the Senate Local Government Committee earlier in the legislative session. Sen. John Sterling Howe (R-Red Wing) rose in support of the amendment, which then passed overwhelmingly by a vote of 57 to 6.
What was left in the bill was language placing restrictions on development agreements between municipalities and developers. Sen. Tony Lourey (DFL-Kerrick) and Sen. John Marty (DFL-Roseville) raised strong concerns with this. Sen. Katie Sieben (DFL-Newport) urged Senate members to vote against the bill. It could not survive its negative reputation and did not get the 34 votes necessary to pass. (Bills need a majority of all 67 Senators to pass. The final vote on the bill was 32 “for” and 31 “against”).
Since its introduction early in the session, Senate File 270 has every step of the way met with strong grassroots opposition from citizens, township officers, county commissioners and city officials. They all delivered a version of this message: “Minnesotans value local control and do not want corporate rights to trump community rights.”
The bill as introduced dramatically weakened the power of local governments to enact a moratorium. A moratorium allows local governments to quickly put a temporary freeze on major development. This power is essential when the community is caught off-guard by unanticipated and potentially harmful proposals, such as frac sand mines, big box stores like Wal-Mart or a large-scale factory farm.
Give your Senator immediate feedback on his or her vote and help ensure this issue is not revisited. This type of feedback lets legislators know that you are watching the issue closely and it has a real impact at the Capitol on how lawmakers think about these issues.