On Earth Day, the omnibus environment and natural resources bill was voted for by the House.
Sponsored by Rep. Rick Hansen (DFL-South St. Paul) and Sen. Bill Ingebrigtsen (R-Alexandria), HF1076/SF959* was passed, as amended, 70-63 Thursday and returned to the Senate, where that body's version was passed 37-29 Monday. A conference committee is expected to work out the differences.
DFLers say the bill would protect the state's air, water and wildlife, help mitigate the impacts of climate change and create stable funding for soil and water conservation districts and an aquatic invasive species research center.
Specifically, they praise proposals to address aquatic invasive species, emerald ash borer, soil health, water quality and chronic wasting disease, and the disproportionate impact of pollution on communities of color.
"This is a good bill that deals with a number of long-term problems that have either been ignored or not recognized or not confronted," Hansen said, calling the package a "problem-solving bill."
Republicans praised the funding for aquatic invasive species, state parks and relief for loggers, but said proposed fee increases are unnecessary. Rep. Josh Heintzeman (R-Nisswa) said the bill would not hold the Pollution Control Agency accountable after a recent Office of Legislative Auditor report found the agency should have done more to properly regulate Water Gremlin.
The bill would allocate $1.7 billion to state programs, departments and agencies in the next biennium, including about $960 million to the Department of Natural Resources. About $373.3 million of the spending would come from the General Fund.
It includes the 2020 and 2021 bills to fund projects using the Environment and Natural Resources Trust Fund and funding for the Minnesota Zoo and the Science Museum of Minnesota, among other agencies.
The bill would:
Soil and water conservation district fees
The bill would require any county that contains a soil and water conservation district to impose an additional $25 fee on mortgage and deed recordings and registrations subject to the mortgage registration or deed taxes.
Counties without an SWCD, but that carry out duties of a district, would also be required to impose the fee.
Hansen said the fee is an effort to ensure districts have stable funding when Legacy Amendment funding expires in 2034.
Republicans unsuccessfully proposed amendments to void any rules the PCA might implement requiring lower greenhouse gas emissions in cars.
Rep. Tama Theis (R-St. Cloud) successfully offered an amendment to require Environment and Natural Resources Trust Fund grant recipients who work with children to conduct background checks on employees.