Quick work by a conference committee to reconcile the annual appropriations from the Environment and Natural Resources Trust Fund took another step late Saturday when the House repassed the bill.
“It restored the merit-based approach for the cream-of-the-crop projects,” said Rep. Rick Hansen (DFL-South St. Paul), who sponsors the bill with Sen. Torrey Westrom (R-Elbow Lake). “Those projects that scored over 70 on the Legislative-Citizen Commission on Minnesota Resources, those were retained with the House position, they were fully funded at that House position based on the scoring, based on the merit of the members, whether they were citizens or legislators on the commission.”
The bill had been passed 72-60 by the House April 21, but not without debate on merit. The bill was based on the set of recommendations that received the highest score of the commission, though the commission failed to reach a supermajority for a formal recommendation.
Hansen said the conference committee report would fully fund 36 House projects for a total of $38.81 million and increase funding to 16 other House projects with $4.08 million. There are also 21 Senate-only projects that would be funded at a total of $14 million.
The total appropriation is $70.88 million.
[MORE: View the spreadsheet]
“This bill has, I would argue, improved significantly since it left the chamber,” said Rep. Josh Heintzeman (R-Nisswa). “There’s still a few things I have concerns with, but I want to thank our Senate counterparts for a strong negotiation and my red vote is now green.”
Hansen noted what he felt were three important aspects of the final committee report.
A total of $6.4 million would be dedicated to research on aquatic and terrestrial invasive species. The University of Minnesota would receive $6.23 million to support the university’s Invasive Terrestrial Plants and Pests Center.
“This center is known for its work in helping solve problems around the country, whether it’s in the farm, the field, around the factories, in our neighborhoods, working on problem solving terrestrial invasive species,” Hansen said.
The bill would establish a center for prion research and outreach with $3.88 million going to the university for help in solving chronic wasting disease.
It would also fund increased diversity in conservation careers.
“It reflects a changing Minnesota and makes aggressive outreach to try to involve more Minnesotans in the outdoors both in enjoying the outdoors but also conservation,” Hansen said.