Extra innings?

Baseball field, city skyline in background
At the Twins Game after session, photo by Joe Birkholz, Conservation Strategies and part of Freshwater’s policy team.

The legislative session has gone into extra innings more often than not recently. Is this the new norm? This time the game was called with bases loaded and only a couple of runs on the scoreboard. Runners left on base and the pitcher were playing chicken when the lights went off.

While we are still processing what all this means, it’s clear that partisan politics won the day. Instead of conferring on the mound (legislating), conference committees did not meet publicly for many hours of the day. Not many players (legislators) seemed to attempt to find honest common ground.

The tax bill and bonding bill were left on the table, with the latter never being made public. This means that, in addition to badly needed state funding to support important water infrastructure projects (wastewater and drinking water treatment plants, lead pipe replacements, etc.), the required state match was not made to unlock federal infrastructure dollars from the bipartisan infrastructure law known as the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) passed in 2021. A match needs to be made on a yearly basis to receive the federal dollars from IIJA, and this failure means that hundreds of millions of dollars for critical infrastructure projects and discretionary grant programs won’t be coming to the state.

What happened?

The Environmental and Natural Resources Omnibus Bill did not make it to the floor but the Legislative and Citizens’ Commission on Minnesota Resources (LCCMR) bill did, and it was passed. As a result, Freshwater and others who applied to the LCCMR for funding are among the only ones who got a couple of runs across the plate before the game was called.

⚾ Our Aquifer Properties Data Base bill that followed up on a recommendation from Banking Groundwater was slipped into the LCCMR bill instead of the General Fund and received $400,000 to be directed to the DNR for completion of this important data tool.

⚾ A Teacher Training Program for integrating Nature-Based Education across the curriculum was also funded. Freshwater, Hamline and the Institute on the Environment at the University of Minnesota are collaborating on this two-year effort. This will add additional years to a pilot we are currently conducting with Manitou Fund money.

We said we’d stay at the game until the ninth inning — and into extra innings, if needed. Well, it looks like they are needed. If the game resumes after this rain delay, it must do it soon or momentum will be lost. There really has to be agreement between all four caucuses, majority and minority, before they reconvene. The special session offers a chance to reset but we can’t afford to lose (and pay for the loss with real money) the last six months of effort by starting over again.