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Agency budgets, legacy funds, bonding bill were all completed in final two days of session.
(Published May 24, 2013)
The environment, natural resources and agriculture budget (Chapter 114) includes approximately $350 million per year in funding for the various state environmental agencies. A number of the issues addressed in the package are of interest to cities.
The highest profile issue was the house proposal to increase water appropriation permit fees by over $6 million per year to fund important research on groundwater supply and quality. The final deal funded the research, but used general fund money to do that instead of fee increases. The legislation also includes new requirements related to the mining of industrial silica (frac) sand. It creates a state technical panel to provide assistance to local governments, adds a new DNR permit requirement if the mine is within a mile of a designated trout stream, requires an Environmental Assessment Worksheet on more and smaller proposed mines and storage areas while new state guidelines are developed, and allows local governments to extend the duration of local moratoria beyond the normal statutory limits.
The bonding bill (Chapter 136) ended up being crafted in the final hours of the legislative session. The package was kept extremely small to ensure strong bipartisan support and passage of funding to continue the restoration work on the state capitol building. The final package was $157 million of projects that included $20 million in flood hazard mitigation funding was provided, however, to help specific cities, counties and townships construct approved flood control projects. Also, $8 million was included to meet the federal match requirements for the state revolving fund, preserving access to $40 million in federal funding for city water infrastructure. The balance of the spending was for the state capitol complex and the state share of funding needed to generate federal funds for a new veterans’ facility in Minneapolis.
The legacy bill (Chapter 137) allocates the money from constitutionally dedicated sales tax funds targeted to environmental and cultural programs. Most of the controversy centered on the balance of park funding between metro and non-metro areas of the state and on how closely the legislature would follow the recommendations of advisory groups tied to the various accounts. The Clean Water Fund portion of the bill funds state agencies to continue to make progress on meeting federal clean water act requirements for identifying and cleaning up impaired lakes, rivers, and streams. Cities will receive access to $22 million per year in grants for meeting wastewater and stormwater environmental requirements triggered by these clean-up plans.
In addition, two important policy provisions were included. One bans the use of coal-tar based paving sealants effective January 2014. Previously, those products were banned for state agency use and cities had to enact local bans to be able to get state financial assistance to clean out stormwater ponds contaminated with chemicals heavily coming from these sealants being used on driveways and parking lots.
Also, the state will again work on rules to update the land use rules in the Mississippi River Critical Corridor Area, which encompasses 1500 feet on each side of the river for its entire length through the metropolitan area. The last attempt at these rules failed to be completed before the 18-month timeline for state rule authority expired. The statutes guiding that process were amended to remove restrictive definitions, to make the process far more flexible, and to preserve existing property uses and local planning priorities as much as possible. The 18-month limit has been waived, so these rules can be worked on until they are completed.
Questions? Contact Craig Johnson at firstname.lastname@example.org or at (651) 281-1259.
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