Senate Republicans passed a comprehensive environment and natural resources bill Tuesday, April 23 on a bipartisan vote of 35-32.
The omnibus budget bill, authored by Senator Bill Ingebrigtsen, R-Alexandria, continues to place an emphasis on funding Minnesota's critical environment priorities with efforts to tackle both Aquatic Invasive Species and Chronic Wasting Disease. It also calls for increased access and continued funding for state parks.
"This legislation focuses on addressing Minnesotans' shared environment and natural resource priorities while encouraging participation and expanding access to Minnesota's great outdoors," said Ingebrigtsen, chair of the Senate Environment and Natural Resource Finance Committee. "We all want Minnesota's environment to be clean and accessible for generations to come and we can accomplish that with a budget that lives within its means without forcing any unnecessary taxes, regulations, or fees on its residents."
The bill increases funding to combat the spread of AIS with additional investments in a new AIS detection system that will allow Minnesota to make better enforcement choices.
It also addresses CWD, providing resources for surveillance, research, and preventive measures to protect Minnesota's deer populations.
The omnibus bill also includes a significant investment to improve Minnesota's wastewater infrastructure as well as a new initiative that could allow the state to generate energy from dormant landfill facilities.
The legislation also offers Minnesota residents free admission to state parks and the Minnesota Zoo on state holidays.
"Access is a key priority of this bill," said Ingebrigtsen. "We want to celebrate Minnesota's rich and diverse environment by getting as many Minnesotans as we can into state parks, the zoo, and out on our great waters, but I don't know how that would be possible if we continued to force Minnesotans to pay significantly more in fees."
Additional provisions bring the environment and outdoors a little closer to the classroom, allowing schools to teach gun safety and provide hunting and angling training through schools' physical education programs. There is also increased funding to support the growth of Minnesota's high school fishing league.
"These provisions allow us to teach Minnesota's kids about the importance of hunting and fishing in our state, getting them engaged and involved early on," said Ingebrigtsen. "In these environments, kids will have the opportunity to have fun and learn to be good stewards of our lands while promoting active lifestyles and increasing participation in our state's heritage."
In total, the bill spends $276 million out of the general fund over the next biennium funding the Pollution Control Agency, Department of Natural Resources, Minnesota Zoo, Minnesota Board of Soil and Water Resources, Explore Minnesota, Met Parks, Conservation Corps, the Minnesota Science Museum, and the Legislative-Citizen Commission on Minnesota Resources.