December Legislative Update

by Deb Swackhamer

After a long election season, we now have certainty in some things, uncertainty in others, and considerable change on the horizon. We now have certainty as to the President and the leadership of the Congress, and now hope to see decisions on the budget. The Water Institutes are still operating under a continuing resolution. That uncertainty, and the added uncertainty of the “fiscal cliff” negotiations and outcomes, continues to complicate things. While it is nice to be in the current budget, we would like to be able to do our work with a final appropriation. The elections brought much change to the state. The state Senate and House both changed majority parties, and will now both be led by the DFL party. New committee chairs have been announced, and it promises to be a different conversation at the Capitol when the new session starts next month. We will watch with great interest as the legislative agendas unfold. The Clean Water Council (CWC), of which Deb Swackhamer is a member, has made its final recommendations to the Governor and the Legislature as to how approximately $185 million of the Clean Water Fund should be spent in the next biennium (2014-15). Recommendations generally follow the trajectory set forth in the past four years. The Council recommends $22.6 million for monitoring and assessment, $22.5 for restoration and protection activities, $23 million for groundwater and drinking water protection, $105 million for implementation activities, including investments in infrastructure, $11 million in research and tool development. The CWC is a strong advocate of education and civic engagement, and has urged the agencies that receive these funds to ensure that such activities are fully integrated into all programs. These recommendations will be revised as necessary in January when the next state budget forecast is released. The draft report from the CWC is posted on the PCA website: www.pca.state.mn.us/.