Minnesota’s 2016 legislative session was short but Conservation Minnesota was still able to help advance policies that protect the Minnesota you love – all while defending against policies that would jeopardize Minnesotans’ health or the health of our natural resources. For example, the buffer bill was further cemented into state law to help promote clean water, the electronics recycling regulations were updated to reflect modern market conditions, and attempts to rollback our clean energy progress were successfully defeated. Over 30,000 messages from our members to their respective legislators during session helped inform elected officials of the policies we support and the policies we opposed.
Bonding Proposals for Clean Water
Conservation Minnesota was disappointed that the Legislature failed to pass a 2016 bonding bill. This failure meant $156.2 million for clean water projects was not approved, including:
- $133. 5 million for wastewater and drinking water infrastructure aid to local governments.
- $12.705 million for cleaning up contaminated sites in the Louis River.
- $10 million for the Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP) which helps private land owners protect water quality and drinking water by putting marginal lands in conservation easements.
Many of the projects proposed within the bonding bill are expected to reappear in 2017 legislative proposals, and Conservation Minnesota will continue to advocate for projects that protect our clean water.
Working Lands and Forever Green Funding
Conservation Minnesota supported two programs that promote agricultural practices that reduce pollution and promote clean water. These programs were included in a small supplemental budget bill approved by the Legislature:
- $1 million in one time funds for the Forever Green program at the University of Minnesota to accelerate development of viable cover crops and perennial crops that enhance water quality
- $594,000 in one time funds for the Working Lands program administered by the Board of Water and Soil Resources to study incentives to grow perennial crops for use in biomass processing facilities and for livestock.
Aquatic Invasive Species (AIS)
Conservation Minnesota supported one time funds for AIS prevention work on Lake Koronis in Stearns County, which was the first lake in the state to be infested by starry stonewort, a new invasive species that creates dense mats of a grass-like algae on the water’s surface. These funds were also included in the budget bill.
Conservation Minnesota opposed the portions of the House Omnibus Energy bill that contained several rollbacks that would have undone much of the progress Minnesota has made on renewable energy. For example, the House bill would have stopped Minnesota’s implementation of the Clean Power Plan, reduced funding for popular clean energy assistance programs, included a rollback of rules designed to help implement clean energy policies, and included a provision that would have politicized the public utilities commission. Thankfully, Conservation Minnesota and our clean energy allies worked with the Minnesota Senate to maintain a strong leadership position on renewable energy. When the conference committee met to discuss the Omnibus bills, the Senate successfully removed the House rollbacks.
Habitat and the Great Outdoors
Parks and Trails
Conservation Minnesota supported the supplemental budget that includes a $2.8 million one-time increase for state parks and trails.
Outdoor Heritage Fund
Conservation Minnesota successfully work for the passage of a “clean” Legacy bill that included $109 million in allocations from the Outdoor Heritage Fund. The allocations largely followed the recommendations of the Lessard Sams Outdoor Heritage Council, with one exception: a proposal by the Minnesota Deer Hunters Association to protect pine forests in Central Minnesota was reduced by roughly $2 million compared to the Council’s request.
Conservation Minnesota opposed a House proposal that would have prohibited the DNR from enacting rules to regulate the use of certain types of lead ammunition on some public lands. The Senate did not hear the companion bill so the proposal did not pass.
Recycling and Waste Reduction
Conservation Minnesota worked with many recycling partners to pass important modifications that significantly improve Minnesota’s Electronic Recycling Act. Minnesota’s E-Waste program was originally created in 2007 to make sure citizens and local governments were not unduly burdened by the costs of collecting and recycling electronics. However, since that time, technology has changed leading to a need to update the program. Citizens and local governments had been bearing too much of the cost of e-waste collection.
The bill passed this session improves manufacturers’ obligations based on the weight of volume collected, shifts transportation costs away from local governments, and requires third party verification ensuring recyclers use the highest environmental standards.
Conservation Minnesota was buzzing about supporting the bill that passed that created voluntary BMPs for pollinator-friendly solar gardens. And, Conservation Minnesota supported several LCCMR pollinator research including funding for the University of Minnesota, the MN DNR, the Minnesota Zoo, and the Minnesota Science Museum.