The Minnesota Senate’s Legacy bill is expected to pass off the floor of that chamber Wednesday — a measure whose Outdoor Heritage Fund recommendations virtually mirror those of the Lessard-Sams Outdoor Heritage Council — setting up a conference committee to square significant differences with the House version of the bill.
Monday evening in the Senate Finance Committee, bill author and committee chair Sen. Dick Cohen, DFL-St. Paul, argued that Outdoor Heritage Fund expenditures recommended by the Lessard-Sams Outdoor Heritage Council should be followed in any Legacy bill eventually presented to Gov. Mark Dayton. The council ably reviewed fish, game and wildlife projects presented to it, Cohen said, adding that many Minnesotans who voted for the Legacy Act in 2008 did so because they believed the citizen-dominated council would play a key role in deciding which habitat projects are funded.
Cohen was a major player in passage of the Legacy Act, and while not a hunter or angler, is known among conservation leaders to be trustworthy.
Dayton, meanwhile, phoned retired Sen. Bob Lessard on Tuesday morning to confirm he supports the Senate version of the bill, which Lessard also favors. The governor pledged while campaigning that he would “veto any attempt” to usurp the council’s authority.
The House version of the proposal, crafted by Legacy Committee chair Rep. Phyllis Kahn, DFL-Minneapolis, differs from the council’s recommendations in key areas, among them: It finances the Met Council’s proposals to enhance regional parks; it funds a land acquisition plan by the Fond du Lac Band of Chippewa the council rejected; and it switches the council’s biennial Legacy funding to annual.
Council chair David Hartwell drafted a letter Tuesday to be delivered to conferees when they are named that says in part, “It is of great concern that there are several appropriation recommendations [in the House bill] that were never reviewed by the council. It is not clear how the proposals were solicited and reviewed, what the criteria was for selection, or how the programs were rated in relation to those recommended by the council.”
The first conference committee meeting might occur Wednesday evening, and the panel’s work is expected to be complete by Saturday.
If he chooses, Dayton can line-item veto expenditures in the bill he disagrees with.