2016 Legislative Update from Executive Director of Minnesota Lakes and Rivers (MLR)

NOTE: Because of their singular focus on the issues important to lake home and cabin owners, and by extension lake associations and COLA groups, and because of their success, MLR has quickly become the largest lake association group in the state. The LMPA is a member of and financial contributor to this group. Many LMPA members are also individual members. If you’d like to join or for more information, click HERE

Dear Lake Lover,

Happy Memorial Day – the first official day of summer in Minnesota no matter what Paul Douglas says. I know that many of the Lake Associations in the state will be holding their annual meetings this weekend, and so I wanted to get you a legislative update for you to share at the meeting.

This was a short and highly politicized session. MLR began the year with low expectations and we were not disappointed. It ended in chaos as time ran out and a number of important pieces of legislation simply died because the clock ran out.

But perhaps the biggest thing I have to report to you is the change in tone at the legislature with regard to lake associations and lake shore residents.

In the 1990s and early 2000s, there was a narrative at the legislature that lake home and cabin owners were wealthy complainers, that lake shore property owners felt they owned the lakes and just wanted to shut the public off of them. There are some special interest groups who still promote this false narrative, mostly because it serves their political ends.

But this session we turned a corner and Legislators from both parties told a different story. They recognized the huge commitment and service lake associations provide to the state. They recognized the intelligence, the hard work, the generous financial support and the remarkable experience that lake association members are bringing to lake protection work and local communities, whether it be AIS, sport fishing, shoreline protection, development issues or footing the bill for July 4th firework displays.

So, as you ramp your summer activities, think about how you can reinforce the positive narrative that is emerging with regard to the work you do. We must continue to tell stories that are a truer and more accurate reflection of lake association values and priorities. And we should tell these stories to the policy makers.

Some potential actions you can take:

1. Invite the legislators from your area, and candidates to your annual meeting, or even a board meeting. Thank them for the work they have done on your behalf – and if they have not been an ally find out why. Give legislators a chance to address your group and present their agenda and make a pitch to the membership. If they are a strong supporter of lake issues, encourage your members to make a contribution or to volunteer on their campaigns. If they have not been a strong supporter, give them a chance to explain why they have not. Challenge them respectfully and intelligently. Convince them that you, like them, are interested in working for the public good. Let them know the specific problems you are experiencing and ask for their ideas on potential solutions.

2. Make sure legislators and the larger community hear about the volunteer programs you are doing, the boat ramp inspectors, invasive weed removal and fish stocking programs you are funding voluntarily, the lake data you are collecting, the loon counts, water analysis and secci disc readings, the lake management plans you have written and implemented.

3. Find a few great spokesperson’s from your group, someone who knows your issues and has an even demeanor well suited to urging action on and issue. Have this small group (2 or 3) invite each candidate to share a cup of coffee so that you can ask them their views on lake issues in greater detail.

Now, during an election, is the time to develop a relationship with these men and women who will be making decisions that will impact our lakes and rivers. If you find a candidate that is particularly strong, consider volunteering as an individual to their campaign or making a contribution to their campaign. Elected officials are uniquely approachable during a campaign.

2016 Session Legislative Update – What Happened Anyway?

Despite being so short, this was an incredibly active session. The key provisions that MLR was working to advance, changes to AIS laws, increased funding for MN DNR AIS planners, and restoration of the AIS Inspection/Education/Plant Management grants to Lake Associations all made it through the process and await either a veto of Governor Dayton’s signature.

However, given that there were no bonding or transportation bills passed, both key priorities of governor Dayton, there is a good chance he may veto everything and call the Legislature back to finish their work.

You can get much greater detail by clicking HERE.

Jeff Forester
MLR Executive Director

Minnesota Lakes and Rivers Advocates’ mission is to protect Minnesota’s lake and river heritage for current and future generations by forging powerful links between lakes, lake advocates, and policy makers.

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