IRRRB is set; so is the drama

If you hadn’t heard, the Iron Range Resources and Rehabilitation Board is now set with appointments from Gov. Mark Dayton, House Speaker Kurt Zellers and the special Senate committee led by the majority with influence from Republican Majority leader Sen. Amy Koch.

A variety of policies, rules and traditions influence the selection of these members, which includes 10 elected legislators and three citizen appointees. The board mostly advises IRRRB Commissioner Tony Sertich, who now carries the sword Excalibur (otherwise known as executive authority over the agency’s function); however there are a few key areas where the board has the power to allocate funding and influence the commissioner. And then there are the matters of the boundaries of the Taconite Tax Relief Area and how they relate to the output of mined ore and … wait for it … long tons. Also, more. Much more. This thing is truly a work of art, similar to a chamber of commerce run by a Canadian provincial parliament. It’s often criticized, but performs an important role in allocating revenue to local governments paid by mining companies in lieu of property taxes. Mines do not pay property taxes.

Boiling all of that down, we’ve now got a 7-6 DFL to GOP majority on the board. This is the closest it’s been in quite a while, not that party stripes are necessarily the best way to predict the board’s behavior. Indeed, the board is generally obstinate regardless of prevailing political winds. That said, the board is capable of functioning in a nonpartisan way and one can imagine that most decisions will play out in such a fashion. One can imagine many things.

Notable factoids here include how for the first time in many years there are no Duluth lawmakers on the board. They were passed over for Republicans south and west of the Range. And there is only one woman on the board, State Rep. Carolyn McElfatrick (R-Grand Rapids), which is down from the already low two who were on the board last year.

Not included in this equation is the upcoming Feb. 15 special election to replace Sertich. If memory serves, 5B is one of the districts granted an automatic seat by statute on account of it being majority Taconite TRA. So, if you’re still reading, you probably would care about that.

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