At FMR, we stand with Minnesotans from all walks of life who believe that clean and healthy rivers, lakes, streams and drinking water supplies must not be compromised for political gain.
In 2021, this may be more important than ever.
As we noted in our 2021 legislative preview, Minnesota is in the first of its two-year or biennial budget cycle. That means the Legislature must pass a two-year state budget that will take effect July 1, or risk a partial (or total) state government shutdown.
Throughout this session, we'll be watching and working to ensure that lawmakers don't make unfair cuts, raid dedicated environmental funding or roll back bedrock environmental protections in must-pass budget bills.
The top four threats
Here's what we'll be watching for this session:
- Budget cuts: General fund dollars for the environment are already at historic lows (less than 1% of the general fund is allocated to the environment). Yet during the most recent budget session in 2019, the Minnesota Senate proposed staggering cuts to environmental funding, including general fund cuts of 17% from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, 39% from the Board of Water & Soil Resources and 86% from the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency. We stand ready to fight any efforts to undermine bedrock funding for our environmental agencies.
- Funding raids: Minnesota is proud of our dedicated funding for the environment. In recent years, the Legislature has tried to raid dedicated environmental funding for illegitimate purposes. FMR and our allies will be watching closely to ensure that our dedicated environmental funds aren’t used to patch holes in the state general fund budget.
- Policy rollbacks: Our environment is far from "too clean." That's why we work hard to prevent legislative rollbacks to environmental policy. As we did in 2019, FMR and our allies will speak out against any rollbacks to existing environmental protection in Minnesota.
- Restricting public participation: When Minnesotans find out about proposals with the potential to greatly impact their community, they deserve time to read up on the issue and let their voices be heard. We stand ready to push back against efforts to restrict public participation in major environmental decisions.
Omnibus bills & ‘Omnibus Prime’
In recent years, the Legislature has trended toward large "omnibus" budget bills. These are massive stand-alone bills that combine dozens of individual bills into a single larger piece of legislation. While this approach makes for more efficient use of committee time, this at-times controversial approach makes it difficult for legislators to vote down a bill over objections to a single item.
Why? Because doing so can result in a partial government shutdown for any state agency with base funding included in the omnibus bill in question.
In 2018, the Legislature took this approach to its maximum extreme, creating "Omnibus Prime." Nicknamed with a nod to Transformers fans, this bill combined multiple large omnibus bills addressing virtually every aspect of state government into a single, super-omnibus supplemental budget bill. It was vetoed by then-Governor Mark Dayton.
Our hopes for this session with regard to such omnibus bills are two-fold:
- Where policy items are particularly controversial and consequential, we will continue to push lawmakers to carry such bills as stand-alone items, rather than tucking them into massive omnibus legislation.
- Avoid the ‘Omnibus Prime’ approach. Super-omnibus bills are not only questionably constitutional, but are a particularly opaque and unnecessary approach to passing a state budget. We hope any attempts for such a repeat approach are rejected in a bipartisan fashion.
As you can see, there's a lot at stake. Luckily, you can help!
Become a River Guardian
Sign up to become a River Guardian and we'll let you know when important river issues arise. We make it quick and easy to contact decision makers and make your voice heard. River Guardians are also invited to special events, including happy hours, to learn more about important legislative and metro river corridor issues.
Keep up to date
We write regular updates about key environment and water quality issues on our Water and Legislative Updates blog, and share posts on social media (Facebook and Twitter) and in our twice-monthly e-newsletter, Mississippi Messages.