The DFL-controlled Minnesota House passed an expansive, 473-page environment and natural resources bill that would increase spending in this area by $670 million while raising fees on outdoor activities like fishing and boating.
With about a month remaining in the legislative session, omnibus policy and spending bills are making their way to the floor, including HF2310, which passed late Monday night.
Bill author Rep. Rick Hansen, DFL-South St. Paul, said the bill provides the “largest investment into protecting our environment in our state’s history.”
“This is a problem-solving bill that rights past wrongs and lays a foundation for protecting Minnesota’s land, air, water, and wildlife into the future,” he said in a press release.
Hansen said his bill includes $93 million for replanting trees and responding to emerald ash borer, $6.6 million to address aquatic invasive species, and a comprehensive package to slow the spread of chronic wasting disease in Minnesota’s deer populations.
According to Minnesota Session Daily, it also includes $356 million to fund primarily renewable energy programs and establishes new greenhouse gas emissions goals for the state.
“Every decision the state makes related to energy policy should be through the lens of providing greater affordability, reliability and safety,” said House Republican energy lead Rep. Chris Swedzinski, R-Ghent. “This bill does the opposite, with mandates to drive up energy costs, unnecessary or complicated regulations and subsidies for the richest Minnesotans to purchase expensive electric vehicles.”
The bill increases fees on outdoor activities to fund this new spending. The cost of a lifetime fishing license would increase from $574 to $689, registration fees for large boats would jump from $90 to $209, and one-day state park passes would increase from $7 to $10, Minnesota Session Daily reported.
“It is unnecessary and harmful for Democrats to raise $36 million in new fees at a time when Minnesota has a record surplus,” said House Republican environment lead Rep. Josh Heintzeman, R-Nisswa. “Raising fees for fishing, boating, and more will make it that much more difficult for Minnesotans to enjoy the great outdoors.”
Republicans said the House rejected one of their amendments to prohibit governments from banning gas appliances, gas-powered lawn mowers, and water bottles.
They were also highly critical of a provision in the bill that would establish a new “energy benchmarking” program, which Swedzinski described as “green shaming.” In essence, it would require owners of buildings that are 50,000 square feet or more to report their energy use to the Department of Commerce. The department would then be required to publish this data on its website along with each building’s address and its “energy performance score.”
Rep. Larry Kraft, DFL-St. Louis Park, authored this provision and admitted during a committee hearing that businesses with low scores should face “social pressure.”
Rep. Larry Kraft presented a bill today that would require most businesses to publicly post a climate score.
During the presentation, Rep. Kraft said that businesses who don't have a high enough score should "absolutely" be publicly pressured and shamed. pic.twitter.com/TvoZUixZ6d
— MN House GOP War Room (@MNHRCWarRoom) March 21, 2023
“The millions of dollars in new taxes and fees included in this bill are completely unnecessary to balance our budget and only serve to make life unaffordable for everyday Minnesotans,” Swedzinski said. “It is unjustifiable for Democrats to want to raise energy costs at a time when the state has a historic surplus and Minnesota family budgets already are stretched thin by today’s higher prices.”
The bill now heads to the Senate.