Trust lands reform progresses

/ 25 April 2012 / jennifer

Erin Schmidtke, Session Daily, April 25, 2012 –

The conference committee report of a bill that seeks to overhaul management of school trust lands awaits gubernatorial action.

When it became a state, Minnesota received the lands from the federal government with the requirement of using, selling or leasing the land to fund education. Critics say that isn’t actually happening.

Sponsored by Rep. Tim O’Driscoll (R-Sartell) and Sen. Benjamin Kruse (R-Brooklyn Park), HF2244*/ SF1889would provide that responsibility of overseeing trust lands be removed from the Department of Natural Resources, which proponents say has missed opportunities to maximize profit for the schools.

The bill would transfer land oversight to a school trust lands director and a Permanent School Fund Commission, which would equally represent the minority and majority parties with members from the House and Senate. Along with the input of the commissioner of natural resources, the legislative commission and director would review bills related to the lands and ensure the lands are managed efficiently to increase economic returns.

Following the 110-21 House vote and 42-20 Senate vote, the bill now goes to the governor.

“It has been said over and over again, but it is so true: we can’t change the past, but we can change the future. We can return the inheritance of the trust lands back to the children through a director who can give undivided loyalty to the beneficiaries of the state,” said Rep. Denise Dittrich (DFL-Champlin).

The bill received criticism from Rep. Jean Wagenius (DFL-Mpls), who opposed a provision within the bill regarding lakeshore lands owned by the state.

“It is not necessary for the purposes of your bill to change the law to say the Legislature no longer has to approve the sale of lakeshore lands. It looks to me like there are other interests that are piggybacking on your bill,” she told O’Driscoll, who said that provision was added on the request of the Senate in the conference committee.

“I can tell you there an been a conspiracy for the 26 years I’ve been here, with DNR managing this land and taking money they don’t deserve to take,” responded Rep. Tom Rukavina (DFL-Virginia).

– Erin Schmidtke