Dennis Anderson

Dennis Anderson has been a Star Tribune outdoors columnist since 1993, before which, for 13 years, he held the same position at the Pioneer Press. He enjoys casting and shooting. Dogs, too, and horses. Also kids and, occasionally, crusading in his column for improved conservation.

Posts about Fishing

11 a.m. and 3 p.m. meetings delayed; sporting groups fear sell-out by Senate

Posted by: Dennis Anderson Updated: May 18, 2009 - 3:41 PM
As the first meeting Monday of the House-Senate conference committee, set for 11 a.m., came and went without a gavel falling, sporting group leaders scrambled in advance of a re-scheduled 3 p.m. gathering to lodge complaints about a deal that supposedly had been cut to break a logjam over Legacy Amendment legislation.

Senators Saxhaug, Frederickson and Anderson, meeting with House conferees on behalf of Senate conference committee chair Dick Cohen, DFL-St. Paul, reportedly cut a deal Monday afternoon that sporting group leaders say is "dead on arrival'' if it isn't changed.

Among problems, according to sources who have seen the tentative agreement:

1) It awards $2 million to fight emerald ash borer disease, against the wishes of the Lessard council, and probably unconstitutionally, in that it does not fall within the confines of "habitat'' as detailed in the amendment approved in November by voters.

2) It changes the name of the Lessard council to the Lessard-Sams council, favoring the late Sen. Dallas Sams. Nothing wrong here; Sams was a champion of conservation. But the intent is to slap at the council, sportsmen say, and particularly at Lessard, who was a longtime thorn in the side of Rep. Jean Wagenius, DFL-Minneapolis, and Rep. Phyllis Kahn, DFL-Minneapolis.

3) It delays implementation of the Conservation Partners program until 2010 — a year after everyone else gets their money, from artists to parks and trails advocates. "They do that and the legislation is dead,'' said Gary Leaf, executive director of

Key members of the Lessard council have seen the brokered agreement — they did so in early afternoon Monday — and lodged their complaints and concerns. These include council chair Mike Kilgore and member Bob Schroeder. Also, Leaf rushed into Cohen's office after hearing details of the tentative pact, and is meeting there now, at 3:42 p.m., and Leaf also alerted staff of Senate Majority Leader Larry Pogemiller.

Pogemiller had told Leaf and other sporting group leaders that he would not approve changes they disfavored, Leaf said.

As this is being written — at 3:42 p.m. Monday — meetings are still going on in Cohen's office. Meanwhile, the hearing room down the hall in the Capitol, is filled to overflowing to see what the conferees ultimately will approve in appropriating what amounts to $210 million ($70 million for fish, game and habitat) in new money — rare for a session punctuated by big deficits.

Projected meeting time best-guess: about 5 p.m. — only hours before the Legislature is to adjourn.

12:30 a.m. Monday and meeting tonight canceled; one session day to solve Legacy Amendment issues

Posted by: Dennis Anderson Updated: May 18, 2009 - 12:33 AM
Chairman Sen. Dick Cohen, DFL-St. Paul, notified House and Senate conferees about 12:15 a.m. Monday that no meeting will be held this early morning to settle differences on the Legacy Amendment legislation.
Sources said the House, however, has softened its position on the Conservation Partners portion of the fish, game and wildlife part of the bill — good news, because the Senate was not going to negotiate this issue, according to conferees from that chamber.

So a meeting will be held sometime Monday, and the clock will be ticking. Some conferees — and certainly Senate Majority Leader Larry Pogemiller — believe it critical that a Legacy Amendment bill come out of the session, lest voters become even more cynical that even this amount of money couldn't be appropriated correctly.

Look for one more fairly long conference committee meeting Monday, then perhaps a brief final meeting to go over the final bill, before bills are sent to the House and Senate for votes.

If it gets done this session.

Midnight Sunday, and no Legacy Amendment meeting; progress reported, however

Posted by: Dennis Anderson Updated: May 18, 2009 - 12:11 AM
House and Senate staff have worked Sunday — despite the postponement of conferee meetings — and have reached near agreement on the clean water and parks and trails portions of the Legacy Amendment bill now in conference committee, according to sources familiar with the negotiations.

Basically, the bill being debated between House and Senate conferees has four portions: arts, clean water, parks and trails, and game, fish and wildlife habitat.

It's the last portion that has caused, and continues to cause, the most consternation between the House and Senate. The House has even tried to remove retired Sen. Bob Lessard's name from the Lessard Outdoor Heritage Council, a 12-member group developed by the Legislature last year to recommend spending on about $70 million in fish, game and wildlife habitat funds.

Some of the language in that portion of the bill remains a problem, and will have to be hammered out when the conference committee is finally re-convened. But most of the wrinkles are believed to have been ironed out, and now — as much as anything — the arts portion is a problem.

Another problem is the so-called Conservation Partners program of the Lessard recommendations. This is an important part of the overall Lessard council recommendations, in that it allows for small grants to sportsmen's and other, similar clubs statewide.

Sportsmen backers say they won't deal this component away in negotiations. The House now wants to set the Conservation Partners program aside, perhaps for a year or so of study. Sen. Satveer Chaudhary, DFL-Coon Rapids, said just before midnight Sunday that that won't happen — that there would be a "revolt'' among sportsmen.

12:11 a.m. Monday and still no word about a meeting.

Sunday night at 10:45, and still no Legacy Amendment meeting

Posted by: Dennis Anderson Updated: May 17, 2009 - 11:03 PM
Amid chaos surrounding the budget deadlock between the Legislature and Gov. Tim Pawlenty, the Legacy Amendment negotiations between conferees from the House and Senate have been sidelined.
After adjourning about 12:30 a.m. Sunday, a meeting was set for 11 a.m. Sunday. Sen. Dick Cohen, DFL-St. Paul, was supposed to have the gavel — alternating it with Rep. Mary Murphy, DFL-Hermantown, co-chair of the conference committee.

But the 11 a.m. meeting was never officially begun. Instead it was changed to 6 p.m. But 6 p.m. came and went, and now, at 10:48 p.m., the House is taking up a pension bill that could be time-consuming, meaning it could be midnight or even later before Legacy Amendment conferees gather again.

Generally, work on the bill has to be done by about noon on Monday, so final bills can be drafted and taken to the House and Senate floors for votes.

For that to occur, a lot will have to happen in a hurry. So far, neither the House nor Senate has given much ground, even though conservation, wildlife and environment groups of every stripe back the Senate version.

At stake is $210 million in new sales tax revenues, with about a third of that — $70 million — dedicated for fish, game and wildlife habitat.

Murphy had said on Friday morning that perhaps a bill wouldn't come out of the Legislature this year, meaning that the 56 percent of Minnesota voters at the polls last November who advocated for more habitat and cleaner water, as well as parks and trails funding and arts funding, had missed the mark in trusting the Legislature to move these projects ahead.

In the end, the DFL has a lot at stake in the Legacy Amendment outcome. As this is being written, legislators want Pawlenty to approve $1 billion or more in new taxes — yet the DFL can't even agree on appropriation of $210 million, generally, for the outdoors.

Meanwhile, Senate Majority Leader Larry Pogemiller, DFL-Minneapolis, just stopped by, having left a meeting between Cohen and Murphy. Pogemiller seemed unaware — and not unexpectedly, given the budget issues he's dealing with — of details of the conflict arising between the House and Senate over the Legacy Amendment.

"But Cohen and Murphy are talking right now,'' Pogemiller said. "Though I get the impression they are talking more about the arts'' (than the conservation provisions of the Legacy Amendment legislation.)

House gives a little ground, inches closer to Senate Legacy Amendment position

Posted by: Dennis Anderson Updated: May 17, 2009 - 11:50 AM
House and Senate conferees broke up their most recent meeting about 12:30 a.m. Sunday, with no agreement. Rep. Mary Murphy, DFL-Hermantown, in a closing statement, said the House wants to get an agreement on $210 million in Legacy spending. But a lot of ground will have to give — mostly on the House side — if a pact is to be agreed upon.

Regardless how things stand when the Legislature adjourns in the next day or so, a transition is occurring — a major shift in political allegiances. Doubtless, the House will find the going much more difficult in future sessions, trying to circle the wagons of environmental advocates particularly, when needed.

The reason: No one — not the greenest of green groups, and certainly not hunting and angling groups — trusts this bunch, anymore. Rep. Jean Wagenius, DFL-Minneapolis, no doubt will feel the fallout, as will Murphy, as will Rep. Rick Hansen, DFL South St. Paul.

By contrast, the Senate continues to solidify its position. Even Sen. Ellen Anderson, DFL-St. Paul, who had been the subject of considerable skepticism in recent months, while a member of the Lessard Outdoor Heritage Council, has risen to a position of general admiration as conferees have met now for consecutive days, albeit without much to show for it.

Early Sunday, while the conference committee was preparing to adjourn, it was suggested by the Senate side that conferees should be prepared to meet through the night Sunday and Monday to get an agreement. The gavel is in the Senate's hands today, Sunday, so that appears likely to happen, barring a significant early shift in the House's position.

Meanwhile, the hearing room is packed. DNR representatives are there, as are representatives of all manner of conservation and environmental constituency groups, in addition to some members of the Lessard council. No testimony is being taken.


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