Monday, February 6th, 2023
Monday, February 6th, 2023

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Sportsmen Since 1967

Dedicated funding debated in House

By Joe Albert Staff Writer

St. Paul – After several hours of debate and a multitude of
amendments on the House floor, the House passed on a 78-to-55 vote
a dedicated funding bill late Tuesday afternoon.

The House version dedicates 3/16 of 1 percent of the existing
sales tax and splits it four ways. The $135 million per year would
be split between fish and wildlife ($81 million), water clean-up
($40.5 million), parks and trails ($6.75 million), and arts and
humanities ($6.75 million).

The version that’s passed the Senate raises taxes by 3/8 of 1
percent. It would raise about $277 million per year and split it
into four pots: fish and wildlife ($94 million), water clean-up
($61 million), parks, trails, and zoos ($61 million), and arts and
humanities ($61 million).

The Senate is expected to reject the House bill, setting up a
conference committee that would be appointed to iron out the
differences between the two bills.

The passage of dedicated funding in the House highlights a week
that otherwise largely put conservation on the back burner.

Many proposals – the bonding bill, supplemental budget bills,
the Game and Fish bill – are in a hurry-up-and-wait mode, said Bob
Meier, DNR director of legislative affairs.

Other outdoors bills were largely idle in the run-up to the
Ducks, Wetlands and Clean Water Rally held Saturday on the steps of
the state Capitol.

‘There’s a lot of action behind the scenes, but nothing
official,’ said Gary Botzek of the Minnesota Environmental
Partnership.

Bonding bill

Discussions in a House-Senate conference committee to work out
differences between the two bodies’ bonding bills were expected to
begin this week.

The Senate’s total bill is for about $990 million, while the
House’s is about $950 million.

Major differences between the two bills include funding for
wildlife management areas ($17 million in the House; $10 million in
the Senate) and funding for the Conservation Reserve Enhancement
Program ($2.7 million in the House; $0 in the Senate).

Earlier this week, The Nature Conservancy sent out an alert
urging conservation groups to have their members contact
legislators.

TNC was urging groups to support fully funding the $22 million
that Sen. Dallas Sams, DFL-Staples, and Rep. Erik Paulsen, R-Eden
Prairie, had requested.

Game and Fish bills

The Senate’s version of the Game and Fish bill passed out of the
Environment, Agriculture and Economic Development Budget Division
and was sent to the full Finance Committee.

Meier hoped for a hearing on Thursday in that committee, its
last stop before the Senate floor. In the House, the Game and Fish
bill is in the Ways and Means Committee, where it’s been since the
beginning of April.

In the Senate bill, a provision brought by Gary Kubly,
DFL-Granite Falls, to allow counties to offer a bounty for coyotes
was attached and now it part of the bill. The amendment would allow
counties to offer a coyote bounty. Counties could allow coyotes to
be taken by any legal means in all or part of the county.

Like it was when a similar amendment was offered and ultimately
defeated last year, the DNR is opposed to the idea of coyote
bounties, Meier said.

‘We don’t see the value of it,’ he said. ‘There are better
management tools out there.’

Mercury reduction

Conservation groups including the Minnesota Environmental
Partnership and Izaak Walton League, are working with the power
utilities Xcel Energy and Minnesota Power, as well as the Minnesota
Chamber of Commerce to draft legislation aimed at reducing mercury
emissions in the state.

Bills aimed at doing so previously were discussed in the House
and Senate, but separate negotiations about a new bill were set to
be complete early this week.

‘I think we’re very close,’ said John Tuma of MEP. ‘It’s always
very tenuous. But we need to get it done now.’

Tuma said the two sides are putting the finishing touches on an
agreement that would reduce mercury emissions by 90 percent – part
by 2011, the rest by 2015.

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