The 2016 Session is just around the corner and I am very busy preparing proposals to help our district as well as the state.
Because House Rules allow for pre-filing of bills before session begins, I have already introduced legislation that would establish an economic relief package for the Lake Mille Lacs region. As always, I encourage input from area residents and businesses and from across the state before the bill is heard in committee in March.
Communities and businesses in the Lake Mille Lacs region have long been negatively impacted by the DNR’s continued mismanagement of the lake, in part because they have based their decisions on a treaty rather than on sound biology. After nearly 20 years of this kind of management coupled with negative publicity season after season, the businesses in the area collapsed economically last year when the walleye season was closed in early August.
In general, House File 2592 transfers revenue generated by the lieu sales tax on lottery tickets into the general fund. These funds would otherwise go to the natural resources and game and fish funds. This transfer would have the effect of offsetting a general fund expenditure of $12 million annually for three years to fund an economic relief package for the Lake Mille Lacs area. The counties of Mille Lacs, Crow Wing and Aitkin are included in the package.
Analysts in the House of Representatives Research Department have confirmed that this approach should have a general fund impact of zero.
The relief package consists of both loan and grant programs as well as property tax abatements—if counties so choose. The grants and loans could also be used for the development of broadband in the area, especially on the southeast side of the lake where internet access is lacking. Also included in the package are additional dollars to be used for tourism.
Mille Lacs County will serve as the fiscal agent while the Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED) and the Department of Revenue (DOR) also serve important roles.
DEED could allow for as much as six million dollars in grants or loans each year of the three and allow up to $800,000 to be used for infrastructure for a bridge that crosses over part of the lake near Isle.
For accountability and transparency purposes, audits by DEED and DOR are required in the proposal.
Additionally, I introduced two other bills aimed at providing accountability and transparency of the DNR and its actions. This proposal and others begin the process to rebuild the local economy and rebuild trust in the actions taken by the agency.
I introduced legislation mandating that the meetings between the DNR and the technical committees of the Ojibwe Bands, that are part of the 1837 Treaty area, comply with Minnesota’s opening meeting law and that the meetings be recorded. The latter change would preserve a historical record for all parties involved.
Another proposal would require that the Legislature approve any future management plans, such as a five-year plan, between the DNR and the eight Ojibwe tribes.
As your legislator, I will continue to work for the economic vitality of our communities so I hope these proposals will begin the process of rebuilding not only local economies, but ensure that Mille Lacs once again is an area to which people want to come both to fish, to enjoy recreational activities, to live and to create jobs.
As always, please don't hesitate to contact me if you have any questions or comments about issues that are important to you.
Please contact my office via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 651-296-6746 to discuss your ideas as to how we can make Minnesota a great place to live, work, and raise a family.