Environment Trust Fund bill is back for round two

After previously failing to pass their own bill to allocate funding from the Environment and Natural Resources Trust Fund (ENRTF) for the upcoming fiscal year, Senate Republicans gave it another try this week when the bill was once again brought before the Senate Environment Finance Committee.

The Legislative-Citizen Commission on Minnesota Resources (LCCMR) typically reviews projects and makes recommendations to the Legislature on how to spend the funds, but the commission failed to reach consensus on the 2021 proposal, resulting in no recommendations being made to the Legislature for the 2022 legislative session. Without recommendation, the Legislature can still move forward in making appropriations from the ENRTF, but instead of following the guidelines of the LCCMR for vetting projects, Senate Republicans chose to circumvent historic practices by inserting their own projects into the spending bill. Because of this issue, one member from the Senate Republican caucus joined Senate DFLers to vote against the bill, which caused it to fail several weeks ago.

During this week’s committee hearing, Senate DFLers offered our own proposed funding allocations, which included only the highest scoring projects that had been vetted by the LCCMR, as well as other LCCMR projects that focused on pollinator habitats and the health of Minnesota deer. One Senate Republican joined us in voting for the DFL proposal, but it failed on a split vote of four to four.

Because of how late we are in this year’s session and the critical need to pass a bill to conference committee with the House, the bill was ultimately passed out of the Senate Environment Finance committee to be reviewed by the Finance committee next. Senate DFLers and the lone Senate Republican member all spoke to their disappointment in this year’s bill, which we hope to see cleaned up in a way that respects the LCCMR vetting process. (SF 4043)