Anderson: Council's advice needs to be heeded

  • Article by: DENNIS ANDERSON , Star Tribune
  • Updated: February 15, 2013 - 7:24 AM

Citizens' voice can get lost when legislators covet Legacy Act money.

Electing not to consider too seriously the early musings of the Minnesota House of Representatives is good policy, session to session. To do otherwise invites teeth gnashing, if not fear that one of the wacky ideas this bunch bats around in its initial deliberations will become law.

That said, the meanderings of Rep. Phyllis Kahn's House Legacy Committee are worthy of mention, even now in February. The responsibility of Kahn's panel is to review and ultimately pass on to the House floor funding recommendations for the arts, clean water, parks and trails, and wildlife habitat stemming from passage of the Legacy Act by voters in 2008.

As originally conceived by sportsmen and sportswomen, the Legacy Act would boost the state sales tax fractionally, attempting with the proceeds to repair a state whose wetlands, prairies, shallow lakes and forests over time had been sold to the highest bidders. Handmaidens to this skullduggery, oftentimes, were legislators themselves.

So it went for generations until hunters, anglers and other outdoors types joined in 2008 with arts, parks and trails supporters to bypass the Legislature and take their case directly to the people. Minnesotans, it was believed, would vote to tax themselves if given a chance to support what they held most dear.

Which they did. But not without a promise made concurrently by Legacy Act supporters, namely that the third of funds dedicated to fish, game and wildlife habitat would be overseen by a council dominated by citizens.

Legislators, after all, had previously usurped monies assigned to the environment (see funds tied to lottery ticket sales), and giving these same lawmakers unfettered access to so much new cash could invite similar shenanigans.

Thus was born the Lessard-Sams Outdoor Heritage Council, a 12-member group comprised of eight citizens and four legislators. Variously composed since its inception in December 2008 with members serving staggered terms, the council is government at its best, largely because of the apolitical interests of its citizen members, whose fundamental concerns lie not with backroom dealing and vote-trading, but with the environment.

Return now again to the House Legacy committee, whose chair, Kahn, has stressed on more than one occasion that the work of the Lessard-Sams Council amounts only to a recommendation about how to spend nearly $100 million in the next fiscal year -- this while acknowledging she has not recently attended a council meeting to see firsthand how it works.

"At all times, we must remember that their recommendations are just that," she has said. Context here is important, because proponents of two projects the council rejected are attempting, in an end-around, to have Kahn and her committee fund them nonetheless.

The first spurned project is little more than a brazen attempt by metro parks folks to dip into the Outdoor Heritage Fund to the tune of $6.3 million, under the guise of improving wildlife habitat on property under their administration.

Rejected for good reason by the Lessard-Sams Council, this undertaking, assuming it has merit, should be paid for by the parks and trails fund created by the Legacy Act, not the Outdoor Heritage Fund.

The second rejected project is less clear-cut, because the land and water in question are probably worthy of acquisition. But because the property would be owned by the Fond du Lac band of Chippewa, which is independent in key ways from the state, its conservation and control ultimately would lie, or could lie, apart from the state. What's more, because lands acquired with the Outdoor Heritage Fund must be open to hunting, and because many state Chippewa bands forbade wolf hunting on their lands, its purchase is problematic.

Yet notwithstanding the specific qualifications of these or other projects, the greater concern for the state, and for voters who approved the Legacy Act, is that money flowing from the Outdoor Heritage Fund for fish, game and wildlife habitat be fundamentally funneled through the Lessard-Sams Council, acting on behalf of the citizenry.

The Senate so far has abided by this pact, however implicit, and will again this session. Similarly, Gov. Mark Dayton and, before him, Gov. Tim Pawlenty, have left the council's recommendations fairly untouched. Dayton, in fact, has publicly pledged to sportsmen and sportswomen not to change the council's recommendations.

Kahn, for her part, insists her motives are well-intentioned, and that she wants only to ensure maximum efficiency of Legacy Act expenditures.

Let's say that's true.

Let's say also that in coming sessions she and other members of her committee resume their funding deliberations by showing they actually understand the work, effort and reasoning of the Lessard-Sams Council -- reminding themselves in the process why voters approved the Legacy Act in the first place.

Dennis Anderson • danderson@startribune.com

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions

Click here to send us your hunting or fishing photos – and to see what others are showing off from around the region.

ADVERTISEMENT

San Francisco - M. Bumgarner 7:07 PM
Pittsburgh - E. Volquez
Minnesota 10/2/14 7:25 PM
Green Bay
Buffalo 10/5/14 12:00 PM
Detroit
Chicago 10/5/14 12:00 PM
Carolina
Cleveland 10/5/14 12:00 PM
Tennessee
St. Louis 10/5/14 12:00 PM
Philadelphia
Atlanta 10/5/14 12:00 PM
NY Giants
Tampa Bay 10/5/14 12:00 PM
New Orleans
Houston 10/5/14 12:00 PM
Dallas
Baltimore 10/5/14 12:00 PM
Indianapolis
Pittsburgh 10/5/14 12:00 PM
Jacksonville
Arizona 10/5/14 3:05 PM
Denver
Kansas City 10/5/14 3:25 PM
San Francisco
NY Jets 10/5/14 3:25 PM
San Diego
Cincinnati 10/5/14 7:30 PM
New England
Seattle 10/6/14 7:30 PM
Washington
Washington 6:00 PM
Buffalo
Carolina 6:00 PM
Columbus
Pittsburgh 6:30 PM
Detroit
Montreal 7:30 PM
Chicago
Arizona 8:00 PM
Edmonton
Fla Atlantic 10/2/14 6:00 PM
FIU
UCF 10/2/14 6:00 PM
Houston
Arizona 10/2/14 9:30 PM
(2) Oregon
Louisville 10/3/14 6:00 PM
Syracuse
San Diego St 10/3/14 9:00 PM
Fresno State
Utah State 10/3/14 9:15 PM
(18) BYU
(6) Texas A&M 10/4/14 11:00 AM
(12) Miss State
Ball State 10/4/14 11:00 AM
Army
Iowa State 10/4/14 11:00 AM
(21) Oklahoma State
Marshall 10/4/14 11:00 AM
Old Dominion
Southern Miss 10/4/14 11:00 AM
Middle Tennessee
(20) Ohio State 10/4/14 11:00 AM
Maryland
Purdue 10/4/14 11:00 AM
Illinois
Florida 10/4/14 11:00 AM
Tennessee
SMU 10/4/14 11:00 AM
(22) East Carolina
Virginia Tech 10/4/14 11:30 AM
North Carolina
Eastern Mich 10/4/14 1:00 PM
Akron
North Texas 10/4/14 1:30 PM
Indiana
Massachusetts 10/4/14 1:30 PM
Miami-Ohio
Tulsa 10/4/14 2:00 PM
Colorado State
New Mexico 10/4/14 2:30 PM
TX-San Antonio
(3) Alabama 10/4/14 2:30 PM
(11) Ole Miss
(14) Stanford 10/4/14 2:30 PM
(9) Notre Dame
(17) Wisconsin 10/4/14 2:30 PM
Northwestern
Navy 10/4/14 2:30 PM
Air Force
(7) Baylor 10/4/14 2:30 PM
Texas
(4) Oklahoma 10/4/14 2:30 PM
(25) TCU
Wake Forest 10/4/14 2:30 PM
(1) Florida State
NC State 10/4/14 2:30 PM
Clemson
Buffalo 10/4/14 2:30 PM
Bowling Green
Ohio U 10/4/14 2:30 PM
Central Mich
Oregon State 10/4/14 3:00 PM
Colorado
Vanderbilt 10/4/14 3:00 PM
(13) Georgia
Kansas 10/4/14 3:00 PM
West Virginia
Kent State 10/4/14 4:00 PM
Northern Ill
South Alabama 10/4/14 5:00 PM
Appalachian St
Texas-El Paso 10/4/14 6:00 PM
Louisiana Tech
(15) LSU 10/4/14 6:00 PM
(5) Auburn
UAB 10/4/14 6:00 PM
Western Ky
Texas Tech 10/4/14 6:00 PM
(23) Kansas State
Michigan 10/4/14 6:00 PM
Rutgers
Hawaii 10/4/14 6:00 PM
Rice
Toledo 10/4/14 6:00 PM
Western Mich
ULM 10/4/14 6:00 PM
Arkansas State
Georgia State 10/4/14 6:00 PM
Louisiana
Idaho 10/4/14 6:00 PM
Texas State
Memphis 10/4/14 6:00 PM
Cincinnati
Arizona State 10/4/14 6:30 PM
(16) USC
So Carolina 10/4/14 6:30 PM
Kentucky
Pittsburgh 10/4/14 6:30 PM
Virginia
Miami-Florida 10/4/14 6:30 PM
Georgia Tech
(19) Nebraska 10/4/14 7:00 PM
(10) Michigan State
UNLV 10/4/14 7:00 PM
San Jose St
Ga Southern 10/4/14 7:00 PM
New Mexico St
California 10/4/14 9:30 PM
Washington St
Utah 10/4/14 9:30 PM
(8) UCLA
Boise State 10/4/14 9:30 PM
Nevada
Winnipeg 10/3/14 6:00 PM
Ottawa
Calgary 10/3/14 9:00 PM
Saskatchewan
Edmonton 10/4/14 3:00 PM
Toronto
Brt Columbia 10/4/14 6:00 PM
Hamilton
Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

question of the day

Poll: Should the lake where the albino muskie was caught remain a mystery?

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close