House passes omnibus environment, natural resources and agriculture bill

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Despite charges of wasteful spending and unnecessary fee increases, the House passed the omnibus environment, natural resources and agriculture finance and policy bill 69-61 Thursday evening after four-plus hours of floor debate.

Of the more than $830 million that would be appropriated by HF976 during the coming biennium, more than $750 million would be used to fund environment and natural resources programs and initiatives, while the remaining dollars would be dedicated to agriculture.

The bill’s proposed fee increases provoked much of the floor debate.

A bump in the fee for water usage caused some of that concern, as did an increase in the fee lakefront homeowners would pay for permits to control rooted aquatic plants.

HF976 had proposed to increase the fee from $35 to $90 and remove the $750 cap lake associations pay when submitting permitting applications as a single entity. However, an amendment was narrowly adopted to keep the fee at $35, while also removing the cap.

What’s in the bill?

The following are selected bills that have been incorporated in part or in whole into the omnibus environment, natural resources and agriculture finance and policy bill:

Rep. Jean Wagenius (DFL-Mpls), the bill’s sponsor, said it wasn’t an exciting but it was “solid,” and moved away from the “gimmicks” of the past. However, Rep. Denny McNamara (R-Hastings) called HF976 “a gargantuan growth of a budget” and said it was so bad it needed “to go back and start over.”

Some of the other issues debated during the floor session include:

The bill now goes to the Senate, where Sen. David Tomassoni (DFL-Chisholm) is the sponsor.