Session Overview



Session Ends With Many Arts Wins:

1. Arts Appropriation Gets Significant Increase

2. Constitutional Amendment Not Finished, But Will Pass Next Year

3. A Poet Laureate For Minnesota and Percent for Arts Program Restored

4. Statewide Smoking Ban Exempts Theater Performances

5. Nonprofits Can Sell Wine at Silent Auctions

6. $750,000 For State Sesquicentennial Means Grant Funds Available


1. Arts Appropriation Gets Significant Increase…

Last night at midnight the legislative session finally ended. Although Gov. Pawlenty may veto some bills there is a general sense today that he will not call them back into special session, although that could change by the end of the week. The bill that included arts funding, HF122, passed both houses easily and is not controversial so is expected to be signed. Arts funding, formerly at $8.593 million per year, will be increased by $1.743 million to $10.336 million per year. As I’ve said before, this bill was MCA’s #1 priority and we are very pleased so far at the outcome. If the bill passes as it now stands, it means that starting with the state’s next fiscal year, more grant funds will be available from the Minnesota State Arts Board (MSAB) and Regional Arts Councils in every Minnesota county. …Congratulations for all of your calls and letters helping to make this a reality!


2. Constitutional Amendment Not Finished, But Will Pass Next Year

The conference committee on the Arts and Outdoors sales tax dedication met, efficiently came to agreement and sent the bill to the floors in plenty of time to be passed before session would end at midnight. Unfortunately, the bill was not passed by the House due to some last minute wrangling over the gas tax that would have funded transportation. Some legislators disagreed with an attempted veto override and filibustered, filling up the remaining floor time and shutting out time needed to pass this bill.

But all is not lost! The bill is still alive and a motion can be made in the first week of the next legislative session (probably in Feb., 2008), to rename conferees and pass it again. When the House and Senate conferees agreed to a compromise bill, there was cheering in the room, and afterwards out in the hallway all of the bill’s participants came together, congratulated each other and pledged to work together to pass in on the ballot in November, 2008.

You may recall that the bill would ask voters in 2008 to raise the state’s sales tax and dedicate the new money for fish and wildlife habitat, water preservation and the arts. It would add 3/8ths of one percent of the sales tax and generate about $291 million a year for 25 years. It says that “19.75 percent shall be deposited in the arts and cultural heritage fund and may be spent only for arts, arts education, and arts access and to preserve Minnesota’s history and cultural heritage.” With this language it would dedicate $58 million dollars annually to these items.

If passed by the voters, this will be a historic and nationally significant change in how Minnesota supports the arts and culture. Here’s the language that will appear on the ballot:

“Shall the Minnesota Constitution be amended to dedicate funding to protect our drinking water sources; to protect, enhance, and restore our wetlands, prairies, forests, and fish, game, and wildlife habitat; to preserve our arts and cultural heritage; to support our parks and trails; and to protect, enhance, and restore our lakes, rivers, streams, and groundwater by increasing the sales and use tax rate beginning July 1, 2009, by three-eighths of one percent on taxable sales until the year 2034? Yes ……. No …….”


3. A Poet Laureate For Minnesota…Percent for Arts Program Restored..

Thank you to Rep. Phyllis Kahn (D- Mpls.), who is responsible for the passage of these two important bills:

Minnesota has a Poet Laureate! The question is, will the Governor appoint one? He vetoed it the last time it was passed. Here’s the language from the bill:

“POET LAUREATE. (a) The position of poet laureate of the state of Minnesota is established. The Minnesota Humanities Commission must solicit nominations for the poet laureate appointment and must make recommendations to the governor. After receiving recommendations from the Minnesota Humanities Commission, the governor shall appoint a state poet laureate and conduct appropriate ceremonies to honor the person appointed. The person appointed as poet laureate continues to serve in this position until the governor appoints another person. (b) State agencies and officers are encouraged to use the services of the poet laureate for appropriate ceremonies and celebrations.”

The Restoration of the Percent for Art program also passed. The bill removed the $100,000 limit on arts projects funded through the program. The limit had been put on the program several years ago by an earlier legislature. The Percent for Art program acquires works of art to be exhibited in and around state buildings in areas regularly accessible to the general public. The program is administered by the Minnesota State Arts Board in cooperation with the Department of Administration. Percent for Art secures artwork in two ways: by purchasing existing work, or by commissioning artists to create new work especially for the state building or site.


4. Statewide Smoking Ban Exempts Theater Performances

The Statewide Smoking Ban, signed by the Governor and now law, includes a provision that exempts smoking on stage as a part of a theatrical performance as long as notice is given to the audience beforehand. Here’s an interesting perspective on this provision from MCA Board Member Ann Spencer:

” An example of MCA’s effectiveness vis-a-vis other places: Just got back from visiting my daughter in Chicago this weekend. That city has enacted a smoking ban that, by its terms, also bans smoking in theatrical productions. The arts community did not see it coming and therefore did not argue against it. Therefore, the arts community was reduced to asking the City Council to write in an exemption after the ban had been passed. The City Council said “no dice.” There is no umbrella group keeping an eye on these things and advocating for the interests of the arts as MCA does here. So, no smoking in Chicago plays for the foreseeable future!”


5. Nonprofits Can Sell Wine at Silent Auctions…

A provision to allow nonprofits to sell donated liquor at silent auctions passed as part of the Omnibus Liquor Bill and awaits the Governor’s signature. (Apparently, nonprofits that have been selling donated bottles of wine at silent auctions should have gotten a liquor permit. This will remove the need for a permit).


6. $750,000 For State Sesquicentennial Means Grant Funds Available

The Sesquicentennial received $750,000 in one-time funding to celebrate our state’s 150th birthday. Arts and community organizations may be able to access that funding for performances and activities related to the state’s Sesquicentennial. Here’s the scoop:

“Minnesota Sesquicentennial planning underway; website is

“Minnesota will celebrate its Statehood Sesquicentennial (May 11, 2008) with events, programs and a grant initiative throughout 2008. The Sesquicentennial is a unique opportunity to connect all Minnesotans in commemorating our past and can be a catalyst to help build a thriving, innovative future. Planning has been underway since last year led by a cross section of government, nonprofit and private sector organizations. To learn more, go to At the website, you can register your interest in the grant program, download the official logo,and register your community, organizational or business events and programs to help commemorate Minnesota’s 150th anniversary as a state. The website will also be a place to keep up-to-date on the progress towards the statewide events, such as Statehood Day, May 11, 2008 and a planned Minnesota Statehood Sesquicentennial Exposition later in May. There will be events and activities throughout the 2008 year, from January to December.”


Visit MCA’s new online store:
This spring, let everyone know that you love the arts. Designer Barbara Keith has created some cool new designs to help you show your arts support. Treat yourself to a great shirt or create the perfect gift for an artsy friend’s home or office. Every purchase will support MCA. It’s easy, personalized and affordable. In a matter of moments you can create and order something unique that says: “support the arts” “start seeing art” “got art?” “Arts Advocate” or “Support the Arts: Take Action Now.”

Check out MCA’s website:
Your frequently updated, one-stop site for: information about Minnesota Citizens for the Arts and how you can get involved, an Action Center called the Desktop Lobbyist where you can write a letter to your legislator, or even find out who your legislators are, facts about the arts in Minnesota, the latest on legislative and congressional action on arts issues and more!

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Things You Need To Know:
MCA values your privacy, and will not sell or distribute your personal information to anyone. MCA is a nonpartisan statewide arts advocacy organization whose mission is to ensure opportunity for all people to have access to and involvement in the arts. MCA organizes the arts community and lobbies the Minnesota State Legislature and Congress on issues pertaining to the nonprofit arts. If you are interested in learning more about how to advocate for the arts, or how to activate people in your arts organization or community to lobby for the arts, please call us at 651-251-0868 or e-mail State arts funding supports access to the arts for all Minnesotans. The state-funded Minnesota State Arts Board and eleven Regional Arts Councils provide grants and services in every Minnesota county for artists, arts organizations, arts projects and school artist residencies. For more information on regional or state grants, go to