Posted at 8:44 AM on July 19, 2011
by Elizabeth Dunbar
Filed under: MN Legislature
A provision putting fewer open meetings restrictions on the Lessard Sams Outdoor Heritage Council isn't part of the agreed-upon Legacy bill lawmakers released yesterday.
The bill, made possible through a constitutional amendment voters passed in 2008, spends about $450 million in the next two years on the outdoors, water, parks and the arts.
The change in how the state Open Meetings Law applies to the council had been in the conference report, but the Minnesota House rejected it and asked the conference committee to take it out. The debate happened just hours before the Legislature adjourned in May, and as a result, the Legacy bill was added to the to-do list for a special session.
Besides the open meetings provision, there was discussion this year about whether distribute more of the Legacy arts funds through competitive grants rather than direct appropriations. The competitive grants model was adopted for public radio, where Minnesota Public Radio and the Association of Minnesota Public Educational Radio Stations (AMPERS) will compete for $2.65 million in each of the next two years.
The Senate had wanted to require libraries to also apply for competitive grants, but that money will continue to be distributed to regional library systems through a formula.
Two things to watch for as the Legislature debates the Legacy bill:
• Parks money. Metro-area lawmakers had complained that 20 percent of the parks funding was off-limits to metro parks. A provision was added to the final bill that appears to give the Metropolitan Council more flexibility in how to distribute its funds for metro-area parks. It's unclear whether that will satisfy metro-area lawmakers.
• Are there remaining concerns about using Legacy money to pad agency budgets that have been cut? Another reason the Legacy bill didn't pass before adjournment is because some lawmakers wanted to see what the budget bill funding the DNR and Minnesota Pollution Control Agency looked like first. The amendment states that Legacy money can't replace regular state funding sources.