School land trust reform passes House

ECM Capitol Reporter

The House passed school trust land legislation Monday, March 19 that would take away management of the state’s more than two million acres of school trust land from the Department of Natural Resources and give it to a new board.

The bill passed the House on a 104 to 26 votes, Republican and Democratic  members praising Rep. Denise Dittrich, DFL-Champlin, and the Republican bill author for long overdue reform.

House Education Reform Committee Chairwoman Sondra Erickson, R-Princeton, thanked Dittrich — whom one education official dubbed the “Godmother” of the school trust lands — for showing persistence and courage in her five-year quest for reform.

The fact lawmakers are actually talking about trust land reform on the House floor is historic, Erickson argued.

Dittrich, and other reform advocates, argue the trust lands are financially under performing and that Minnesota school children are being cheated out of funding legacy given to them by the Founders of the Republic.

“This is no fault of the DNR,” said Dittrich of a perceived conflict of interest existing within the agency.

Still, Dittrich argued the current system leav “no authentic oversight” of the trust lands.

House Education Finance Committee Chairman Pat Garofalo, R-Farmington, spoke of the legislation bringing badly needed sunshine onto trust land management.

“We’re actually getting this done,” he said of passing a bipartisan bill.

For the full story, see the Thursday, March 22 print edition of the Times.