By Molly Pederson, Executive Director, Audubon MN & Kimberly Scott, Legislative Liaison
Minnesota is a better place for birds and people because of your commitment to fighting for clean water, reducing carbon pollution, and making homes and communities more bird-friendly. Regardless of political affiliation, we must continue to work together as conservationists to address issues that impact us all.
The Minnesota Legislature kicks off the 2017 legislative session on January 3rd. Your voice is needed to protect, restore, and conserve our natural resources.
What to Expect
This will be the first year of the legislative biennium, which means legislators will focus on funding the state’s budget. In order to pass a new budget or make other legislative changes, Republicans will need Democratic Governor Mark Dayton’s approval. Gov. Dayton has signaled his continued desire to support clean water programs and policies and Audubon Minnesota will assist those efforts by advocating for budget outcomes that promote clean water.
The 2017 legislative session is not a bonding year, however, both majorities have expressed interest in passing a pared down bonding bill.* An important project that was included in the 2016 bonding bill was funding for the Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP). CREP benefits clean water by helping landowners install and maintain perennial grasses and flowers on their most erodible acres. Many of you wrote and encouraged your legislators to support bonding for CREP last May. Because of your action and others, CREP was included in the 2016 bonding bill for $10 million. Disappointingly, the overall 2016 bonding package failed to pass the Legislature, but we will need your help again to appeal for the inclusion of CREP in any bonding bill considered this session.
Whether you are supporting clean water, habitat for birds, or renewable energy, your voice will make a difference. Audubon Minnesota will endeavor to keep you informed of relevant actions at the Minnesota Legislature and assist you in making your voice heard.
We can help by scheduling and facilitating discussion between you and your representatives at the State Capitol.
Watch for calls to action and consider meeting with your legislators in person to advocate for these important issues.
You can also make an impact by writing a personal letter or phone call.
The best way to support policies and state funding for birds is to get involved. Let us know how we can help you participate in our joint mission.
As a result of the election, below is an update on the make-up of the House and the Senate:
- ? Republicans have a new majority, led by Majority Leader Paul Gazelka.
- ? The Senate majority will be held by a single seat (34-33) which will likely necessitate a higher level of cooperation with the Democratic Farm-Labor minority, in order to, pass most legislation.
- ? Senator Tom Bakk will serve as Minority Leader for the DFL.
- ? Republicans have an expanded majority in the House (76 seats), led by Speaker Kurt Daudt.
- ? The DFL will hold 58 seats and be led by Minority Leader Melissa Hortman.
*Bonding dollars generally go towards repair, renovation, or replacement of publicly owned buildings, property, and land. The state raises money for these projects by selling bonds on the bond market and then pays debt service to pay off the bonds over time.