Busy, busy times at the legislature these days. Here are a few quick updates on what to look forward to and to whet your appetite for tomorrow’s wrap up from John Tuma.
The House Government Operations committee passed the Great Lakes Compact legislation yesterday (HF 110). I understand a couple of folks voiced some concerns about the infringement of property rights, but come to think of it, I have never personally seen a hearing in that committee that hasn’t included a discussion of infringing property rights. Nonetheless, the Compact has been passed on to the House floor, where it now awaits action. The Senate companion bill has passed from Environment Policy to the State and Local Government Operations committee.
The bill to create a Renewable Electricity Standard (SF4) was part of a renewable electricity hearing last week, which carried over to earlier this week and should be also continuing as I write this. There has been some behind-the-scenes work happening to see if many of the folks supporting the competing bills (there are 4 or so similar bills) could agree to a compromise – and it sounds like they are making headway. Thus, I believe they are shooting to have an amendment to SF 4 prepared by next Thursday that would replace the text of the bill and then continue the bill on to the Senate floor.
In the mean time, there is an extra-special energy event happening next Tuesday that involves all of the House and Senate energy and environment committees, plus a transportation committee I believe. Famed Polar Explorer Will Steger will be joined by Catholic Archbishop Harry Flynn, ELCA Bishop Craig Johnson, and U of M scientists Dr. David Tillman, Dr. Lee Frelich, and Dr. Lucinda Johnson to discuss Global Warming and why Minnesota must take action. This informational proceeding will begin at 4 p.m. on Tuesday and is so big they’ll be holding it on the floor of the House Chamber, which means you can watch it online at www.house.mn.
Governor Pawlenty announced his proposed budget for the next two years, beginning in July. Sadly, he came in extremely low on funding Clean Water Legacy programs. He proposed spending approximately $20 million a year – versus the $100 million in identified need. His allocation would be just enough to continue water testing programs and the creation of some cleanup plans. The problem is, there is no money to actually clean up any of our polluted lakes and rivers. It is good to know what water is polluted and it is good to know where the pollution comes from, but we shouldn’t stop there. We should actually clean the polluted water up and we should be proactive in protecting at risk lakes and rivers.
If my count is correct, there are at least 8 separate bills in the Senate that related to constitutionally dedicating a portion of the sales tax to various purposes, including, but not often limited to, habitat conservation and water protection. The Senate Environment Policy committee began a discussion on 5 of these bills yesterday (three were introduced after the fact, but will join their friends in the next hearing). There were many, many people who were not able to testify at that hearing, so it will continue on Monday.
The original plan was for the committee to pass on all the bills to the Environment Finance committee, where they could handle the funding aspect. However, yesterday’s testimony seemed to indicate that they will just pass one bill (likely SF 6) on and that it may skip Environment Finance and go straight to the full Finance Committee (Environment Finance is a division of Finance). If that happens, it’s all the better for arts advocate, as the Chair of Finance (Senator Cohen) is their strongest supporter in this mix and the Chair of Environment Finance (Senator Anderson) does not currently specify an exact amount of arts money in her bill.
I have heard the speculation that Majority Leader Pogemiller is calling out this square dance and most folks have a difficult time guessing what he is crafting. Thus, I can only say that this is going to get a lot more strange – and political – before it’s over. All folks want to do is adequately fund water, parks and wildlife; is that so wrong?