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Environment committee moves omnibus bill forward with split-voice vote

The House Environment and Natural Resources Policy and Finance Committee voted Thursday to approve its omnibus bill. The proposal next goes to the House Ways and Means Committee. Photo by Andrew VonBank

The omnibus environment and natural resources finance bill cleared its first hurdle Thursday as the House Environment and Natural Resources Policy and Finance committee approved HF3502, including a delete-all amendment, after two days of discussion and testimony.

Sponsored by Rep. Dan Fabian (R-Roseau), the bill would make a number of policy changes and appropriate $750,000 to address chronic wasting disease. Several amendments were adopted before a split-voice vote to approve the package which next goes to the House Ways and Means Committee. The companion, SF3141, is sponsored by Sen. Bill Ingebrigtsen (R-Alexandria) and awaits action by the Senate Finance Committee.

Lobbyists and others grab amendments to the omnibus environment and natural resources finance bill Thursday morning prior to committee markup, and approval, of the bill. Photo by Andrew VonBank

An amendment to the delete-all amendment by Rep. Jason Metsa (DFL-Virginia) that would give hunters and anglers greater access to voter registration was unanimously approved.

It would require the Department of Natural Resources to alter the website where residents purchase hunting and fishing licenses to include voter registration eligibility requirements and a description of how to register to vote. Those measures, in addition to a voter registration application, would also be included in the department’s printed and digital hunting, fishing and trapping regulations.

Bob Meier, the department’s policy and government relations director, expressed support for the idea behind the provision, but opposes the amendment due to the costs associated with including cardstock voter registration forms in regulation books.

An amendment by Rep. Jamie Becker-Finn (DFL-Roseville) to remove the bill’s most divisive provision, which would require the Pollution Control Agency to adopt a new rice water sulfate standard, was rejected on a 16-8 vote.

Rep. John Poston (R-Lake Shore) pulled another controversial amendment from consideration that would allow professional guide services to license private land for guided turkey hunts. Rep. Dale Lueck (R-Aitkin) said the amendment would give guides the same opportunities individual hunters currently enjoy. Opponents argue the provision would commercialize the sport and reduce access for independent hunters.

In addition to concerns voiced by DNR’s Enforcement Division Director Rodmen Smith, the amendment was opposed by the Fish and Wildlife Legislative Alliance and the National Wild Turkey Federation.

Prior to voting on the omnibus bill itself, Rep. Rick Hansen (DFL-South St. Paul) criticized the policy-heavy bill and the process by which it was created.

“Many of the bills that are here I would refer to as almost ‘I know a guy’ bills – ‘I know a guy who’s got a problem, I know somebody who has an idea,’” Hansen said. “We all have constituents, but the [omnibus] bill is full of that ‘I know a guy’ stuff … I think we’re actually avoiding some of the large questions.”

Rep. Dan Fabian (R-Roseau), the committee chair, responded by pointing out DFL-sponsored provisions included in the bill.

“I think this is a good bill,” Fabian said. “I know a guy named Rep. Peter Fischer who’s got provisions in this bill that are very important to him, I know a guy named Clark Johnson who’s got provisions in this bill that’s important to him. I know a guy named Rob Ecklund who’s got provisions in this bill that are important to him. …. And there’s a whole host of people on the other side of this aisle who have provisions in here that are important to them; we represent the people of Minnesota as well.”


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