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House panel approves omnibus bill that would make historic investment in environment

The largest one-time investment in the environment in the history of the state.

That is how the chair of the House Environment and Natural Resources Finance and Policy Committee, Rep. Rick Hansen (DFL-South St. Paul), characterizes the omnibus bill he sponsors.

With millions of dollars and scores of policy provisions that would address issues such as park access, the emerald ash borer, chronic wasting disease, neonicotinoid pesticides and aquatic invasive species, HF2310, as amended, was approved by the committee on a split voice vote Wednesday. The bill now moves to the House Ways and Means Committee.

Before the bill was approved, members adopted a delete-all amendment on a 9-7 vote, with Rep. Dave Lislegard (DFL-Aurora) joining Republican committee members in voting no.

That matched the 9-7 vote on one of several other amendments that were adopted. Offered by Rep. Sydney Jordan (DFL-Mpls), it would require nontoxic shot be used for small game in some wildlife management areas. The committee also adopted a Hansen amendment to alter the composition of the Legislative-Citizen Commission on Minnesota Resources to include 10 legislative and nine citizen members and reduce the vote total needed for a recommendation from 12 to 11.

The amended bill reaches a target of $1 billion for programs and projects in the Pollution Control Agency, Department of Natural Resources, Board of Water and Soil Resources and other organizations. Hansen couldn’t name in aggregate the exact percentage of new spending over base, but marveled at the opportunity offered in the 2024-25 budget.

“Last year we were talking about $10 million, this year it is $670 million,” he said. The budget reflects choices appropriate to one-time funding such as planting trees, investing in habitat, retiring debt and leveraging federal dollars.

Hansen noted additional millions targeted to DNR assets included in a bonding bill that easily passed the House earlier this session.

Rep. Josh Heintzeman (R-Nisswa) said lots of language in the bill is concerning and a lot of things are missing, such as money for boat landings, fish hatcheries or invasive carp barriers. He also questioned proposed price hikes for some licenses and permits.

“One thing I didn’t have an answer for is why there are fee increases when we have a [budget] surplus,” he said.

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