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With amendments added, committee advances omnibus environment bill

After six amendments were debated, the $1.7 billion omnibus environment and natural resources bill was approved Thursday.

Voting along party lines, the House Environment and Natural Resources Finance and Policy Committee approved HF1076, sponsored by Rep. Rick Hansen (DFL-South St. Paul), as amended, and referred it to the House Ways and Means Committee.

Its companion, SF959, is sponsored by Sen. Bill Ingebrigtsen (R-Alexandria) and was approved Wednesday by the Senate Environment and Natural Resources Finance Committee.

"We are in unprecedented times," Hansen said. "These are very challenging situations, but the problems that we have faced before and new problems that have arisen have not gone away during this COVID period."

Rep. Josh Heintzeman (R-Nisswa) said the bill is problematic for many organizations and constituents represented by Republicans.

[MORE: Invasive species, diseases prioritized in omnibus environment and natural resources bill]

Thursday's discussion centered around the amendments to the delete-all amendment.

The A1 amendment, sponsored by Rep. Rob Ecklund (DFL-International Falls), would allocate $250,000 for a statewide all-terrain vehicle trails master plan. It was approved on a voice vote.

The A3 amendment, sponsored by Rep. Jamie Becker-Finn (DFL-Roseville), would change the classification of gar fish from game to rough fish to limit how many can be possessed. Anglers can possess as many rough fish as they want but are limited in how many game fish they can take.

DNR Assistant Commissioner Bob Meier said the department does not have a great handle around the gar population but is concerned about its status.

The amendment was approved along party lines, with Republicans wanting to see more research before acting.

The A8 amendment, sponsored by Hansen, would change how dry cleaner registration fees are calculated. It was approved on a voice vote.

Sponsored by Rep. Todd Lippert (DFL-Northfield), the A11 amendment would set a goal of having 30% of Minnesota's privately owned farmland using soil-health practices, such as cover crops or managed rotational grazing, by 2030. It was approved along party lines, with Republicans saying the goal would be used in the future to impose more regulation on farmers, a claim Lippert disputed.

"This isn't a mandate," he said. "It's a measuring stick."

The A12 amendment, sponsored by Hansen, would require the Pollution Control Agency to make rules for the disposal of pesticide-coated seeds, providing the agency with $133,000 to do so. It was approved by a voice vote.

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