I’ve recently started work at the Walker as its grassroots coordinator, advocating for the Minneapolis Park & Recreation Board’s legislative bonding request to restore and preserve the 22-year-old Minneapolis Sculpture Garden. (If you have yet to show your support for the project, please visit http://garden.walkerart.org/bonding to learn more and to write your legislator.) As part of this effort, I’ve been keeping close track of goings-on at the Capitol — which are especially fascinating this year — and also, of course, tracking where the Sculpture Garden bonding request fits within the overall legislative process.
Which bonding projects are being funded?
Bonding projects, in part, are being selected this year because of the jobs they will create both for the project and following its completion, as well as the “shovel readiness” of the effort. The Sculpture Garden renovation is one such project: most of the work would be completed in 2010; it would generate 170 construction and landscaping jobs (90%+ being union labor); and preserve one of Minnesota’s iconic tourist destinations (45% of visitors are tourists, who bring $16 million in direct tourist spending into the economy each year). (Read more details in this previous blog post.)
So, in an effort to get bonding projects underway and get folks back to work as soon as possible, the ordinary legislative process for introducing a bonding bill started quite early, and has been put on a fast track.
What does “fast-track” mean when it comes to the state legislature?
A legislative process that normally takes months is being compressed into just a few weeks—which makes public input and action all the more crucial. This past week was an important one, as both the House and Senate Capital Investment committees submitted their bills. The good news is that the Sculpture Garden renovation is in both bills; the bad news is that the commitments to the project so far are well below what is necessary to preserve our Minnesota landmark. The Sculpture Garden renovation’s full request was $8.5 million; the House and Senate submitted bills with bonding support at $200,000 and $2 million respectively.
So what happens now?
In the next week a 10-member House-Senate conference committee will be assembled that will likely begin convening on Tuesday, February 16. This conference committee reports back to the floors of both the House and Senate within a couple days with their recommendations on how to reconcile the two proposals. The entire legislature then votes on the bill and sends it to the Governor.
In the end, the process for a bonding bill is like a “Which Way” Book: It’s nearly impossible to predict the outcome. That said, during critical junctures—like the coming weeks—the chances of success at the legislature are increased dramatically when constituents from all over the state weigh in.
Show Your Support!
It’s especially important to make your voice heard—now—regarding the bonding measure to restore the Sculpture Garden. The legislative process is hard, but advocacy is easy. Write your legislators today! It will only take a minute using our online email tool, but that minute could make all the difference in the bonding approval process. We need to preserve our iconic Minnesota garden with a cherry on top!