Minnesota Legislative Update
By Bruce Kleven MAWG, MBGA legislative strategist
Prairie Grains is the
Legislature is officially in recess until Jan. 16, 1995;
however, various legislative events continue throughout
the year. Heres an update on some recent
Wetlands a mini-session issue
Approximately 100 of the 134 members of the Minnesota House of Representatives participated in a "mini-session" on Sept. 19-21 in Bemidji.
Although there is no voting or action on any particular piece of legislation, a mini-session gives urban lawmakers a chance to visit various regions of the state. A mini-session also gives local citizens a chance to participate without the formal structure found at the Capitol.
Of particular interest to wheat and barley growers was the Environment and Natural Resources Committee hearing on wetland legislation. About 200 residents attended the hearing; landowners were on hand to tell the Committee the current wetlands protection law is too restrictive, while environmentalists said reform is not needed.
During the 1995 legislative session, the House passed a bill that would have eased some of the restrictions in the Wetland Protection Act of 1991. However, the companion bill failed in the Senate.
Much of the push behind last years reform efforts came from five northern Minnesota counties that did not adopt the provisions of the Act because they did not enter into a regulatory agreement with the state Board of Soil and Water Resources (BOWSR).
Since the bills failure in the Senate last spring, seven other counties have rescinded their agreements with BOWSR, with some saying that the act has become "an administrative nightmare." Needless to say, there is ample fuel for another stab at wetlands reform in the 1996 session.
Bertram Steps Down
The Senate Agriculture and Rural Development Committee will have a new chairman at the beginning of the 1996 legislative session, following the resignation of Sen. Joe Bertram (D-Paynesville).
The Senate Rules and Administrative Committee, chaired by Majority Roger Moe (D-Erskine), will appoint a temporary chair to serve until the permanent chair is chosen after the 1996 session begins on Jan. 16.
Likely to be interim chairman is Sen. Dallas Sams (D-Staples), a farmer and member of the Senate since 1990. A second possibility is the Agriculture Committees current Vice Chair, Sen. Paula Hanson (D-Ham Lake). However, Sen. Sams status as a farmer and the fact he has slightly more seniority than Sen. Hanson puts the odds in his favor.
The remaining DFL members of the Agriculture Committee, Senators Berg, Morse and Vickerman, are all chairmen of other committees, so it is unlikely any of the three would be named chairman of the Agriculture Committee.
Commissioner Hugoson Visits
At the invitation of Rep. Tim Finseth (R-Angus), Minnesotas Commissioner of Agriculture Gene Hugoson visited with farmers in East Grand Forks, Crookston, and Thief River Falls in late September.
During the first of his two-day visit, the Commissioner toured the USDA potato research laboratory and the Farmers Finest Edible Bean Company in East Grand Forks, as well as the American Crystal Sugar factory in Crookston.
The Commissioner and Rep. Finseth also met with wheat and barley growers in Thief River Falls at a public forum hosted by the Minnesota Association of Wheat Growers and the Minnesota Barley Growers Association.
This was Hugosons first visit to the Red River Valley as Commissioner of Agriculture. Prior to taking over his new post as Commissioner on July 1, Mr. Hugoson served nine years in the Minnesota House on the Agriculture, Tax and Transportation Committees.
(Source: U of M Legislative Network (Vol. 7, Number 5, June/July 1995)