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Legislative News and Views - Rep. John Burkel (R)

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Legislative Update from Rep. John Burkel

Friday, April 19, 2024

Hello from the State Capitol,


Today is our third legislative deadline. This means a committee must act favorably on a finance bill by today in order for it to continue moving forward this legislative session. 


I serve on both the environment and agriculture committees in the Minnesota House, and those committees moved both of these omnibus finance bill proposals forward this week. The environment bill is especially troubling.



The provision in this bill formerly known as HF945 is very concerning to water trappers and other sports persons alike. The plan would make it extremely difficult for both trappers and law enforcement to know where the property lines are in many waters, especially since some have multiple owners and the property lines aren't square. Plus, it would likely require permission to trap on large paper company lands, like Potlatch, that are currently open to outdoor activities like hunting and trapping.


While I was very supportive of the provision providing trail funding from the dedicated ATV account, there are a number of unnecessary changes regarding designated and mapped trails. 


Currently the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources can classify DNR forest lands as either closed, limited, or managed regarding the use of off highway vehicles. HF3911 includes troubling language for operation of ATVs on state forest land north of U.S. Highway 2, which would include twenty-six forests. Of those twenty-six, only twelve are currently classified as Managed; eleven are completely or largely classified as Limited; and the remaining two are classified as Closed. The tools currently exist to manage these lands to restrict off highway operation in those forests where use is significant to warrant that level of management.


Also disappointing is that the proposal only includes limited provisions for the looming feral hog problem possibly on the horizon in northwestern Minnesota, and it does not include any initiatives for wolf management. In fact, the committee chairman refused to even give a legislative hearing to my wolf hunting bill.



The House agriculture committee finished up its work on Thursday, and I was glad to see a couple of troubling provisions taken out of the final bill. 


Last year the ag bill included a grain indemnity program to help farmers harmed in the event of a grain elevator failure. Farmers are unlikely to ever be fully compensated for delivered grain if an elevator declares bankruptcy before paying for that grain. That’s because it will first be used to pay back creditors who have collateral with the elevator. After those creditors are paid, there’s often not enough money remaining to make farmers even partially whole. The idea of the indemnity fund is to limit those significant losses by ensuring there are funds available to compensate farmers.  

There was an attempt to add a provision in this year’s ag bill to divert the interest earned on the grain indemnity funds to debt reduction for farmer’s markets that was thankfully amended out of the final product.  


Also taken out of the bill was language banning the hatching of birds in schools, which was a provision I highlighted in a previous update. This is not a serious ag policy, and I was glad to see common sense finally prevail.



The broadband portion of the bill (Article 4) allows the Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED) to transfer up to $5 million between these three programs: the border-to-border broadband program, low density population broadband program, and the broadband line extension program. This provision also requires DEED to apply for the federal Digital Equity Capacity Grant Funding. 



A pair of local school groups were in St. Paul this week. I was pleased to meet with 6th graders from Lancaster.



And I was also able to see 6th graders from Kittson Central.



Thanks for stopping by!