Following his autocratic removal of Representative Jean Wagenius (DFL-Minneapolis) not just a minority lead on the Environment and Natural Resources Policy and Finance Committee, but as a member of the committee itself, Minnesota House Speaker Kurt Daudt (R-Crown) has replaced Rep. Rick Hansen (DFL – South St. Paul) on the Lessard-Sams Outdoor Heritage Council.
Minority Leader Paul Thissen had recommended both lawmakers for the respective bodies. Minnesota House custom has allowed minority caucuses to pick leads on committees.
Hansen, a thorn in the side of special interests, was replaced by David Dill (DFL-Crane Lake) according to our sources. Dill's page on the House's website does not yet reflect the appointment, but Dill's appointment and that of Denny McNamara (R-Hastings) are included on the list of members on the Council's website.
It's not the first time the Republicans have sought to banish Hansen, a frequent critic of special interests who also farms and hunts, from the Council. In 2011 the Star Tribune reported in Hansen booted from Lessard Sams Council:
The ax has fallen on Rick Hansen, the legislator who had been a critic of Legacy money spending.
Hansen, a DFLer from South St. Paul, has been removed from the Lessard Sams Outdoor Heritage Council, which recommends spending from the so-called Legacy constitutional amendment for outdoors projects.
Although he was to serve until 2013, Hansen said last month that subtle changes in the law were made to shorten his term. On Tuesday, Hansen was replaced by House leaders.
A letter signed by House Speaker Kurt Zellers announced the changes. Hansen said he was informed by a fellow legislator of the move. “Rep. [Leon] Lillie told me,” said Hansen, referring to the Lillie, a DFLer from North St. Paul who was appointed to the council.
Hansen had complained that the legislative changes that shortened his term amounted to a “get rid of Rick Hansen amendment.” Council members who at times were at odds with Hansen denied there was an attempt to remove the DFLer, and one said that “Rick needs to just kind of put his paranoia to rest.”
But said Hansen of the council: “There’s not a strong tolerance for dissent.” Hansen had cast the only “no” vote during the past three years on the council’s funding recommendations.
Given that the Republicans have repeated their 2011 decision, Daudt's action suggests that it's not "paranoia" on Hansen's part, as the brave anonodem asserted at the time.
Bluestem has to wonder exactly what Daudt thinks he's achieving here, other than handing over more goodies to a Range DFLer to distribute to good old boys in exchange for a solid vote for trashing the state's environment. Certainly the corporate interests that funded the independent expenditure attacks on defeated rural DFLers in the 2014 elections will be getting their money's worth.
The last time this happened, Hansen told the Mendota Heights Patch:
. . .“I think there are many outdoor groups, and some individuals who worked on the campaign (to establish the Outdoor Heritage Fund), who see this money as their money, rather than the people’s money,” said Hansen. “And I see it as the people’s money, and I believe there needs to be more accountability, transparency and effectiveness regarding the recommendations and use of these funds.”
. . .Although his time on the council is finished, Hansen said that he will continue working on conservation issues. “Whether I’m on the council or not, I still have a voice here at the capitol and want to make sure this (the use of money from the heritage fund) is done right,” said Hansen.
The Star Tribune editorial board responded at the time in Keep watchful eyes on Legacy spending; Lessard Council needs transparency, accountability and wisdom:
Passage of the Legacy Amendment also showed that Minnesotans take seriously their responsibility to our state's greatest assets.
Similarly, those who serve as stewards of the Legacy funds have an exceptional responsibility to spend the money with maximum transparency, accountability and wisdom.
Rep. Rick Hansen, DFL-South St. Paul, took this task seriously.
So much so that he became a controversial member of the Lessard-Sams Outdoor Heritage Council, which recommends expenditures for the portion of the fund dedicated to "restore, protect and enhance Minnesota's wetlands, prairies, forests and habitat for fish, game and wildlife."
Hansen asked the hard and uncomfortable questions about priorities and processes.
He clashed with some fellow board members over his perception that those who were instrumental in pushing for passage of the amendment were too influential in lobbying for its funds.
His skepticism was reflected in his Lessard Council voting record as well: He voted against the board's recommendations twice, and abstained once, over the three years there has been a vote.
No other member has opposed a funding recommendation during that period.
Last week Speaker of the House Kurt Zellers, R-Maple Grove, replaced Hansen on the board.
The new legislative members are Rep. Denny McNamara, R-Hastings, and Rep. Leon Lillie, DFL-North St. Paul. Zellers gets to name two elected and two citizen representatives to the 12-member board, as does Senate Majority Leader Amy Koch, R-Buffalo.
Gov. Mark Dayton appoints four citizen representatives.
The elected officials play a critical, dual role because the Lessard Council's funding recommendations need to be approved by the Legislature and signed by the governor.
Unlike the citizen appointees and those lobbying the Lessard Council for specific projects, these legislators are directly accountable to the public.
As our voice, they should speak as aggressively as Hansen did -- and ask difficult questions in order to avoid the potential of groupthink that can creep into a process that by its very nature can become insular.
Minnesota exceptionalism can be seen in the natural and artistic worlds that the Legacy Amendment is meant to protect.
And it can be seen in Minnesota voters, who bucked the national tax-slashing trend in order to leave a legacy.
More than ever, that same quality needs to be reflected in those who are responsible for protecting the public's extraordinary investment in the state's future.
Bluestem sees nothing different in the GOP's repeat of the 2011 action, other than a lot more money invested in getting rid of rural Democrats serving in the Minnesota House.
There's another dimension to Hansen's removal as well. In discussion of grants requests, Hansen has also defended the rights of Native American bands to ban wolf hunting on their own lands; many Ojibwe people object to hunting wolves because of the cultural importance of the animal to their heritage.
During Hansen's absence of the Council in 2011-2012, it turned down a request by the Fond Du Lac Band of Chippewa because of sovereignty questions. Dave Orrick reported in the Pioneer Press:
The proposal -- the first request to use Minnesota Legacy Amendment tax dollars to protect natural habitat on sovereign land -- tapped into a litany of touchy issues surrounding tribal relations, from wolf hunting to how tribal members pay taxes. . . .
Several Outdoor Heritage Council members, including state Rep. Dennis McNamara, R-Hastings, objected to the fact that tribal members would retain their hunting and fishing treaty rights, which are not subject to state laws. Such sentiments prompted Diver to send a letter accusing the council of being "punitive and discriminatory."
On Tuesday, McNamara proposed that if additional money became available this year, the project should be funded -- a reversal of his position. "I wish I had been better informed the first time," McNamara said. . . .
Council member Ron Schara said the Indian sovereignty of the land was a concern.
"The issue for me was never hunting and fishing rights," Schara said. "The issue was buying land (to be placed in Indian trust). To illustrate my point, the Fond du Lac closed tribal lands to the wolf hunt. I don't think people who pay sales tax in Minnesota would want us to buy land that could be closed to hunting."
Diver said the decision to close tribe-owned land to wolf hunting -- because wolves are regarded as "our brothers" -- was unique.
"I know of no other species where this would be so disagreeable to us," she said. "Other species are meant to be taken." . . .
Given McNamara's praise for Winona LaDuke earlier this week as she testified in the House committee he now chairs, we'll hold him to his belated appreciation of indigenous people and their sovereignty on their own lands.
The Fond du Lac Band applied again in 2013 with greater success. Orrick reported in late 2013 that Minnesota Legislature won't battle over $109M Outdoor Heritage plan.
The Minority Leader's office issued a state in Leader Thissen disappointed in House GOP’s removal of Rep. Rick Hansen from Outdoor Heritage Council:
House DFL Leader Paul Thissen expressed his disappointment today in House Speaker Kurt Daudt’s decision to replace Representative Rick Hansen (DFL – South St. Paul) on the Lessard-Sams Outdoor Heritage Council. Leader Thissen recommended Rep. Hansen to serve as the DFL House member on the council. Republicans also replaced Hansen on the committee the last time they held the majority in 2011. Rep. Hansen is in his 6th term and has served on the Outdoor Heritage Council for 4 years.
The move also comes after Republicans removed Rep. Jean Wagenius from her position as designated minority lead on the House Environment and Natural Resources Committee prior to session.
Rep. Thissen released the following statement:
“I am disappointed that Republicans are again playing games with qualified appointees to committees and councils. Rep. Hansen was a co-author of the Legacy Amendment that led to the creation of the Outdoor Heritage Council, was one of the original members of the council, and is a state leader on outdoor and environmental issues.
“Republicans and Speaker Daudt have talked a lot about wanting to work together to find solutions, but their words don’t match their actions. House Republicans continue to say one thing and do another.”
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