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Meeting halfway

Published (8/11/2011)
By Nick Busse
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A new law splits the difference between Republican lawmakers’ and Gov. Mark Dayton’s respective spending proposals on environment and energy programs.

The omnibus environment, energy and natural resources finance law appropriates $237.9 million from the General Fund in the 2012-2013 biennium. That represents a nearly 19 percent cut from the forecasted base. Dayton called for $276.9 million and the Legislature originally proposed

$201.5 million.

“This is the environment bill that will get the state parks up and running and open,” said Rep. Denny McNamara (R-Hastings), who sponsors the law with Sen. Bill Ingebrigtsen (R-Alexandria).

The law provides funding for the Department of Natural Resources, the Pollution Control Agency, the Commerce Department and several other agencies. It also includes the policy provisions from the omnibus game and fish bill and appropriations recommended by the Legislative-Citizen Commission on Minnesota Resources.

To help balance the budget, the law relies on a number of one-time accounting transfers. These include a $13.7 million transfer to the General Fund from the workers’ compensation assigned risk plan and a $3.4 million transfer from the special revenue fund. For the PCA, a

$42 million transfer is authorized from the environmental fund to the remediation fund.

One of the session’s hot-button issues — the impact of sulfate pollution from mining on the state’s natural wild rice beds — is addressed through a study to be commissioned by the PCA. The law directs the agency to consult with stakeholder groups and then contract with “appropriate scientific experts” to determine whether current discharge limits should be modified. The PCA can then initiate a rulemaking process and enforce any new standards it sees fit to adopt.

Other studies authorized by the law include:

• a report on purpose, rates and adequacy of current funding for payment in lieu of taxes (PILT) for state natural resource lands;

• a report on a long-term plan to restructure the state’s tree nursery program; and

• a report on opportunities to streamline, strengthen and improve sustainable water management rules and statutes.

The law also establishes a 10-member advisory committee under the Office of Enterprise Technology to review technology accessibility standards and develop proposals to fund captioning of webcasts and other technologies. The goal is to make state government multimedia more accessible to persons with disabilities.

Game and fish

The law includes dozens of game and fish provisions, including some that were included in a vetoed game and fish omnibus bill from 2010. Selected provisions include:

• allowing disabled and combat-wounded veterans to receive preference in receiving hunting and fishing licenses and permits;

• giving drivers whose vehicles have collided with and killed a deer on a public road priority to receive a permit to keep the deer;

• allowing private landowners to use drums to bait bears on their own land;

• requiring that frozen or dead fish bait be certified as disease-free;

• requiring certain fish farms to complete an annual health inspection to test for viral hemorrhagic septicemia (VHS);

• allowing ice fishing without a license in state parks;

• making pastures and fences eligible for compensation due to damage by elk;

• adding sandhill cranes, gray wolves and Eurasian collared doves to the list of animals defined as game and unprotected species in statute;

• making hunting big game while prohibited from obtaining a license a gross misdemeanor;

• increasing the penalty to owners of dogs that mortally wound big game to $500;

• allowing someone to transfer a hunting or fishing license to a person with a severe disability or critical illness under certain conditions;

• adding certified nurse practitioners and certified physician assistants to the list of those eligible to verify medical evidence for the purpose of granting certain hunting permits; and

• removing height restrictions for permanent deer stands.

2011 Special Session: HF5/ SF3*/CH2

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