Another session of the Minnesota Legislature is upon us, with state lawmakers having returned to St. Paul earlier this week for a session that’s set to last for about three months.
While there have been some early bill introductions, none pertain specifically to waterfowl and, in fact, there are plenty of indications this won’t be a policy heavy session. That’s not to say there aren’t things we’re watching, because there are. Public lands have been a hot topic during recent sessions, especially last year, and it’s likely they’ll be a point of contention once again. During the DNR Roundtable last month, public land was the focal point, and it’s common for the DNR at that event to spend time discussing what it believes will be big issues in the coming year.
Two of the funding bills we’ll be watching are those recommended by the Lessard-Sams Outdoor Heritage Council and the Legislative-Citizens Commission on Minnesota Resources. Both bills will include millions of dollars for projects and programs related to conservation and natural resources. Additionally, one of the main points of discussion this year likely will be a package of capital investment projects – also known as the bonding bill. Gov. Mark Dayton has proposed a $1.5 billion bill that includes $30 million for the Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program. In coming weeks, we should find out what lawmakers include in their bonding bill proposals.
And while it’s important to keep our eye on St. Paul, we’re also monitoring what’s going on in Washington, D.C., as it relates to the federal Farm Bill. Along with other conservation groups and the Minnesota DNR, we’re pushing for Congress to increase the national CRP acreage cap to 40 million acres.
There’s a lot to watch, and we’ll do our best to keep you updated as discussions occur and decisions are made.