by T.W. Budig
ECM Capitol reporter
Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton (Saturday, May 14) caught and released a northern pike at his first Governor’s Fishing Opener held in Grand Rapids.
Dayton made his first cast a minute after midnight, and hooked into his pike around nine this morning on Pokegama Lake, according to his office.
In outdoor matters at the State Capitol, the House passed its $449 million Outdoor Heritage funding bill, dollars derived by the voter-approved outdoor heritage amendment.
Squabbling broke out on the House floor when Rep. Bev Scalze, DFL-Little Canada, offered an amendment pulling several million dollars out of Greater Minnesota parks and trails funding and switching them to Metropolitan Council parks and trails funding.
Metro lawmakers, such as Rep. Ann Lenczewski, DFL-Bloomington, argued the metro accounts for 68 percent of state income taxes paid, 72 percent of the corporate taxes paid — in essence foots the majority of the bill for the state.
“The metro pays the overwhelming majority of the taxes in the state,” said Lenczewski, arguing it deserved a larger cut of the parks and trails’ action. “It’s time to defend the metro,” Lenczewski urged fellow metro lawmakers.
Supporters of the Scalze’ amendment argued it simply restored parks and trails funding to a 50/50 split between Greater Minnesota and the metro.
Rep. Tom Rukavina, DFL-Virginia, turned Lenczewski’s argument around. Perhaps most the tax dollars come from the metro, he argued. “(But) one hundred percent of the food comes from rural Minnesota,” Rukavina quipped.
The Scalze amendment failed on a 79-54 vote.
The Coon Rapids Dam became an item of debate when a Republican lawmaker attempted to shift $17 million in proposed bonding to upgrade the dam — upgrade it into a better Asian carp barrier — onto a heritage funding source.
But Rep. Steve Drazkowski, R-Mazeppa, saw his amendment fail.
But Drazkowski did succeed in amending the heritage bill to prohibit the Lessard-Sams Outdoor Heritage Council, which receives heritage dollars, from buying land outside the metro for a period of ten years — except school trust land.
Rep. Rick Hansen, DFL-South St. Paul, successfully amended the bill, taking $600,000 from in education funding and slating it towards wellhead protection.
One of the biggest successful amendments to the bill, offered by Rep. Ryan Winkler, DFL-Golden Valley, took some $2.8 million slated for the Department of Agriculture for various grants and instead slated the dollars towards two veterans rest camps.
Originally, the bill contained $400,000 for the Disabled Veterans Rest Camp on Big Marine Lake in Washington County, but Winkler’s amendment upgraded the funding to $2.4 million.
Another veterans rest camp in Northern Minnesota also saw its funding increased.
But the heritage bill is destined for conference committee with the Senate, and there’s no guarantee the finished legislation will retain the veterans camp funding at the current level.
The heritage bill contains funding for the Janet Johnson Memorial Wildlife Area, a projected to honor the late North Branch state senator.
Legacy Funding Committee Chairman Dean Urdahl, R-Grove City, changed his bill over the course of the session, placing more emphasis on grants than direct appropriations. “No one is entitled to receive funding forever,” he said.
But complaints about the metro/Greater Minnesota funding breakdown resurfaced just prior to final vote.
Rep. Jean Wagenius, DFL-Minneapolis, said the metro, too, has environmental needs.
“It’s being ignored in this bill,” said Wagenius, saying some 78 percent of the total funding in the heritage bill is directed towards Greater Minnesota.
“We tried to be fair,” said Urdahl, adding most of the land in the state is located outside the seven-county metro area.
“This bill is extremely fair — to Greater Minnesota,” quipped Winkler, who serves on the House Legacy Funding Committee.
Rep. Mark Buesgens, R-Jordan, argued the whole idea behind the legislation — the constitutionally-dedicated funding — is a terrible idea.
Chunks of the State Capitol are falling off and a “choo-choo” train, or light rail line, will soon be running down University Avenue and rattling the building, he explained. “What this bill does for this (State Capitol) building is create a silly commission,” said Buesgens.
Rep. Pat Garofalo, R-Farmington, said he campaigned against the heritage amendment, saying at the time he’d never for constitutionally-dedicated funding. “I’ve never been in favor of this,” he said.
But Garofalo said he’d vote for the bill, explaining voters did pass the amendment and that bill took a good direction in terms of government land acquisition.
The bill passed the House on a 86-45 vote.
The Senate today passed a game and fish bill that defines the gray wolf as a small game animal and allows for a hunting season once the wolf is delisted as an endangered species by the federal government.
Other items in the Senate bill defines sandhill cranes as a game bird and stiffens civil penalties against dog owners whose dogs kill big game animals.