State Rep. Todd Porter told me in an interview that he didn’t feel a bill to create a state conservation board, funded with oil tax dollars and empowered to make grants to local governments and non-profits to promote conservation, wasn’t a response to a similar measure that would have been on the statewide ballot in November were it not for petition fraud, but he did point out ways in which the legislative proposal is better.
Porter makes salient points about the legislative version of this idea being superior to the ballot version. The legislative would cap funding for the board at $30 million per biennium, whereas the the petition version would have allowed potentially hundreds of millions of dollars in revenues flow to the board. The legislature allows the governor, and the State Industrial Commission, to exercise oversight over the grants made whereas the petition version wouldn’t have allowed any oversight from any elected officials. The legislative bill would prevent funds from being used to encumber land use for more than 20 years, and wouldn’t allow any funds to be used for lobbying whereas the petition version contained no such limitations.
Porter pointed out, specifically, that the measure creating the state tobacco prevention board in 2008 gave that government organization free rein to lobby and engage in other political activities. Porter and his co-sponsors on this bill don’t want that to happen with conservation.
Those are all good things, but when I asked Porter if he was afraid about the legislature giving away its spending authority to a board of bureaucrats, he seemed unconcerned. “We’ve already given away our spending authority lots of times,” he told me.
But does that really mean the legislature should keep doing it?