Welcome from MCEA's legislative team! This is our bi-weekly newsletter “Live from the Legislature,” bringing you inside information on the important environmental issues that MCEA is tracking at the Minnesota Capitol this session.
This will be a short and fast paced session. The session began on February 11 and is slated to end on May 18. It is a bonding year and the 2nd year of the biennium — essentially “part 2” of last session. That means that all of the bills introduced last year are still "live," and new bills are being introduced every day.
Minnesota still has the distinction of being the only divided government in the country. The House and the Governor’s Office is controlled by the DFL, and the Senate is controlled by Republicans. This unique situation can make progress difficult. MCEA and our allies are at the Legislature pushing for climate action and legislation to protect our water in a challenging political climate. We're also always on guard against efforts to undermine our bedrock environmental laws and weaken Minnesota's standards. We can only do this work because of your support.
In this issue:
- Nearly $200 million in climate spending proposed, and you can help get it passed! - MCEA backs pollution burdened neighborhoods - Environmental roundup (clean energy, clean cars, lead fishing tackle and banning toxic TCE) - Meet MCEA's legislative team
Nearly $200 million in climate funding proposed
On Monday, the House Climate Action Caucus announced a proposed package of climate investments aimed at helping Minnesotans take action on climate solutions. The proposal (HF 3436) proposes investing significant money - $191.5 million - in a number of actions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and increase energy efficiency. These solutions include energy conservation in homes, schools, and nursing homes; solar power for schools and homeowners, and rolling out more electric buses and vehicles in the state. The climate funding proposal is chief authored by Rep. Patty Acomb, Chair of the House Climate Action Caucus.
WHAT: House Energy and Climate Finance and Policy Committee WHEN: Thursday, February 20th from 9:45am-11:00am WHERE: Room Capitol 120 at the Minnesota State Capitol, 75 Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., Saint Paul, Minnesota
pictured: MCEA's Suraya Williams testifying in front of the House Environment and Natural Resources Policy Committee on February 11th, 2020 (Representative Fue Lee in the background).
MCEA stands up for pollution-burdened communities
MCEA got right to work on the first day of the legislative session. MCEA Legal Fellow Suraya Williams testified in support of two bills authored by Rep. Fue Lee that address air pollution permits.
HF 3057 requires companies to hold a public informational meeting at least once every five years on non-expiring air pollution permits where the community can ask about test results, operations, permit compliance, and other issues. Currently, there are some air pollution permits that never have an opportunity for public input because they never expire and never have to be renewed.
HF 3058 requires regulators to study the cumulative effects of adding a new source of pollution in an area before they can issue an air pollution permit in the seven-county metropolitan area. Currently, this rule only applies in part of south Minneapolis, but HF 3058 expands it to the entire metro area. As Suraya Williams testified, "a child's lungs don't know where the pollution came from, but they are harmed anyway."
Following testimony, both of the bills passed out of the Environment and Natural Resources Policy Committee, and were referred to the Environmental and Natural Resources Finance Committee. MCEA will be there to support these bills at their next stop in the legislative process.
On February 13th, the Minnesota Senate's version of the "Clean Energy First" bill (SF 1456), chief authored by Senator David Senjem, was heard in the Senate Energy Finance Committee. The bill is still in discussion in the committee and will be heard again in that committee on Thursday, February 20th. MCEA supports Clean Energy First, but has serious concerns about a number of provisions in the Senate version that would slow the adoption of clean, renewable energy. We continue to work to improve the bill and hope that a bipartisan compromise can be reached.
In September 2019, Gov. Tim Walz announced that Minnesota would join 12 other states in adopting clean car standards that encourage the sale of zero-emission and low-emission vehicles. In other states that have adopted similar rules, there's a much better selection of electric vehicles, and adopting these rules will increase the adoption of EVs in Minnesota. MCEA has been pushing for the strongest rules we can adopt, and MCEA staff attorney Evan Mulholland testified in front of a Senate committee hearing Wednesday in favor of the clean car standards.
Several bills are being considered regarding TCE (trichloroethylene), a volatile organic compound and solvent used in a number of industrial processes that is a source of significant air and water pollution and causes cancer. In the house, Rep. Wazlawik introduced HF 3376, a complete ban on the chemical, and in the Senate, Sen. Chamberlain introduced a less rigorous bill that does not ban the chemical, but gently encourages businesses to discontinue use. MCEA supports Rep. Wazlawik’s full ban on TCE (for more information click here). If you’d like to get involved, follow this link to email your House Representative and Senator.
Tuesday, the Senate Environment Finance Committee discussed a federal grant program administered by MPCA called “Get the Lead Out,” a three-year campaign to reduce loon exposure to lead in fishing tackle. MCEA provided the following fact sheets to committee members and the public, highlighting the dangers of lead tackle exposure to loons and the water they live in.
Chair Bill Ingebrigtsen had placed a legislative hold on a $1.3 million grant from the BP oil spill settlement to the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency to pay for the program, but he lifted that hold after Tuesday's hearing. Now the program can go forward. There are a number of legislative efforts to reduce the use of lead in fishing tackle and ammunition this session, including tackle buyback grants and restrictions on lead shot use in state wildlife management areas.
Know your legislature! You might hear about "committee deadlines" at the Minnesota Legislature, and you might notice that as we get close to these deadlines that the activity level at the Capitol picks up. Here are the 2020 deadlines to keep in mind.
The 1st Deadline - March 20th, 2020 - is for policy committees to act favorably on bills in the house of origin. In other words, if you want your bill to move forward, you need a favorable vote in one committee by this deadline.
The 2nd Deadline - March 27th, 2020 - is for committees to act favorably on bills, or companions of bills, that met the first deadline in the other house. Bills need to pass the House and Senate, and by this deadline you need favorable votes in a House and Senate committee by this date.
The 3rd Deadline - April 3rd, 2020 - is for committees to act favorably on major appropriation and finance bills.
Of course, the people who make the rules can change the rules, so if a bill doesn't meet these deadline it's not completely dead, just mostly dead. A vote of the House or Senate Rules Committee can revive an otherwise "dead" bill.
Meet the MCEA Legislative Team
Kara Josephson, Legislative Director
Kara worked for seven years in the Minnesota Senate, including as committee administrator to the State and Local Government Committee for Senators Pappas and Torres Ray. Before coming to MCEA in 2018, Kara was a legislative coordinator and lobbyist for the Sierra Club and served as Government Relations Manager for the Friends of the Boundary Waters Wilderness. While working at MCEA, Kara has been earning credits toward her law degree at Mitchell Hamline School of Law. She graduated with a B.A. and political science and global studies from the University of Minnesota
Dr. Kate Knuth, Climate Policy Advisor
Dr. Kate Knuth brings legislative and policy experience on a range of climate issues to MCEA. Kate was the first chief resilience officer for the City of Minneapolis and founding director of the Boreas Leadership Program at the University of Minnesota's Institute on the Environment. She served six years in the Minnesota House of Representatives (2007-2012), where she championed clean energy and climate policy. Kate earned her PhD in conservation from the University of Minnesota. She also holds a MSc in biodiversity conservation from Oxford University, and a BA in biology and philosophy from the University of Chicago.
Andrea Lovoll, Legislative Associate
Andrea joined MCEA in January as our Legislative Associate. Andrea most recently served as campaign manager to Senator Richard Cohen (District 64) before he decided to retire, and worked on legislative arts advocacy at Minnesota Citizens for the Arts. She is excited to use her advocacy skills to protect our environment on a legislative level. She graduated from Metropolitan State with a Master's in Advocacy and Political Leadership (MAPL) in 2017, and also holds a Master's in Communication Studies from the University of North Texas earned in 2013.
MCEA is proud to host In'am Al-Hammouri for her 2020 Capitol Pathways internship. Capitol Pathways is a program of the Citizens League that connects students of color interested in legislative work with lobbying firms, nonprofit advocacy groups and other organizations at the Capitol. In'am is a senior at Augsburg College in Minneapolis, and is planning to attend law school after graduation.