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Minnesota Legislature

With some changes, House passes environment and natural resources omnibus bill

Rep. Rick Hansen, chair of the House Environment and Natural Resources Finance Division, presents the omnibus environment and natural resources finance bill on the House Floor April 30. Photo by Andrew VonBank

It all started with an air of cooperation. Early amendments from both sides of the aisle found favor on the House Floor Tuesday as the omnibus environment and natural resources finance bill was debated.

In the end, it was a largely partisan vote that approved HF2209/SF2314* on a 73-60 vote. The bill now heads back to the Senate.

Sponsored by Rep. Rick Hansen (DFL-South St. Paul) and Sen. Bill Ingebrigtsen (R-Alexandria), the bill, as amended to include the House language, would appropriate $1.75 billion in the 2020-21 biennium, providing:

  • $636.8 million for the Department of Natural Resources;
  • $208 million for the Pollution Control Agency;
  • $38.89 million for the Board of Water and Soil Resources;
  • $28.98 million for the Explore Minnesota Tourism
  • $20.39 million for the Minnesota Zoo
  • $9.14 million for the Metropolitan Council for metropolitan area regional parks;
  • $1.08 million for the Science Museum of Minnesota; and
  • $945,000 for the Conservation Corps Minnesota.

 

Working across the aisle

An amendment was successfully offered at the outset by House Majority Leader Ryan Winkler (DFL-Golden Valley) to address concerns brought by several Republican members during earlier committee hearings. The issue was over bringing politics into naming state parks.

That concern centered on a provision in the bill to rename St. Croix State Park after former U.S. Senator and Vice-President Walter F. Mondale.

Rep. Dan Fabian presents an amendment to the omnibus environment and natural resources finance bill on the House Floor April 30. Photo by Andrew VonBank

Winkler’s amendment would instead rename a segment of the St. Croix Water Trail, a scenic overlook and trail in Interstate Park, a day use area in William O’Brien State Park, and visitor centers in both Wild River and St. Croix State Parks after Mondale.

That amendment made moot five amendments Rep. Dan Fabian (R-Roseau) had planned as alternatives for renaming St. Croix State Park. The dropped proposals would have offered Lake Bemidji State Park, Gateway Trail State park, Buffalo River State Park, Clifton E. French Regional Park, and Theodore Wirth Regional Park, respectively, as options for honoring Mondale.

 

A room divided

But an amendment to ban wolf hunting divided lawmakers much more sharply.

Adopted on a 66-65 vote, amendment sponsor Rep. Peter Fischer (DFL-Maplewood) cited two studies indicating a link between packs disrupted by wolf hunting and increased livestock predation.

“We should be protecting the wolves in a very disciplined manner,” he stated.

That provoked quick opposition from some northern representatives, with Rep. Dale Lueck (R-Aitkin) questioning the studies he characterized as failing to mirror the direct experience of cattle farmers in wolf country.

Rep. Jim Nash (R-Waconia) took it a step further, offering an amendment to create an urban wolf re-establishment program. Calling his amendment “thinking creatively,” he suggested Fort Snelling as a perfect site for a wolf pack, offering plenty of prey and no livestock pressure, before withdrawing his motion.

 

Budget contingencies

If the Gov. Tim Walz’s proposed motor fuels tax increase makes it into law and provisions in the omnibus bill are retained, DNR water recreation, forest roads, and ATV/ORV accounts would receive additional appropriations of $8.9 million.

Likewise, a proposed solid waste management tax increase provides an additional $14.7 million for the PCA.

Bill provisions

In addition to the fiscal components, the amended omnibus environment and natural resources finance bill would:

  • create a provisional firearms safety certificate for those unable to pass the exam due to a physical disability, and allow those hunters to be assisted by another licensed hunter when retrieving a wounded animal;
  • create a  voluntary youth ages 6-9 safety training program for off-road vehicles;
  • modify PCA loan conditions for small companies;
  • require a risk assessment confirmation before requiring beet storage sites to install engineered liners for stormwater runoff ponds;
  • establish the rusty patched bumble bee as the official state bee;
  • establish a carpet product stewardship program;
  • ban the use of PFAS flame retardants in furniture and restrict the sale or distribution of firefighting foam formulated with PFAS to oil refineries, oil and petroleum terminals, and airports;
  • establish an adopt-a-dumpster program for deer carcasses in areas with chronic wasting disease;
  • increase the amount allocated from deer, bear and lifetime hunting license sales to the deer management account and remove emergency deer feeding from the list fund uses;
  • prohibit the use of neonicotinoid insecticides on wildlife management areas;
  • create a voluntary certification program for salt applicators;
  • establish the Minnesota Outdoor Recreation Office;
  • require 40 percent of money recovered from pollution violations be distributed to community health boards when the amount is $250,000 or more;
  • increase the reimbursement rate for meat processors handling venison donated to charity;
  • prohibit the sale of teeth, tusks, and horns (whole or pieces) from any species of elephant, hippopotamus, mammoth, mastodon, walrus, whale, narwhal, or rhinoceros, with some exceptions;
  • create a No Child Left Inside program;
  • create an aquatic invasive species research account funded through a watercraft surcharge;
  • establish a goal to plant 1 million trees each year for the next four fiscal years;
  • modify the decorative materials buyer’s license;
  • increase cross-country-ski pass fees;
  • modify the hunting walk-in access program and remove the donation option when purchasing a hunting license;
  • allow the use of leashed dogs to track big game;
  • prohibit the sale of turtles taken from the wild;
  • disallow state funding for projects using plastic in streambank stabilization when alternatives are identified;
  • require $13.9 million of any future state budget surplus to be transferred to the metropolitan landfill contingency action trust account; and
  • reinstate the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency Citizens’ Board.

 


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