ST. PAUL -- Senators and representatives were busy presenting legislation at the Capitol last week. Bills addressing bear hunting, tourism and homeless shelters were heard.
Game and fish
Going on a bear hunt? Members of the Senate Environment and Natural Resources Committee say you can't hunt with dogs.
Sen. Tom Saxhaug, DFL-Grand Rapids, created the Senate game and fish omnibus bill. The legislation included 34 provisions -- one allowing the use of dogs to hunt bear was removed by the committee after testimony was heard.
Donna Phalen, board member of the North American Bear Center in Ely, and the director of the bear interest group of Minneapolis, was opposed to hunting bears with hounds. "Minnesota doesn't need hounds to manage (the) bear population."
Phalen showed a video to the committee. The footage was originally confiscated by Oregon authorities during a hunting investigation, but later made public. It showed the end of a hunt, with dogs chasing a bear up a tree. Opponents of the amendment thought the video didn't fairly portray the sport.
Tim Goble has hunted bear for 24 years, "This is absolutely ridiculous. We haven't even had a chance to hunt and right away we are being categorized."
Goble explained that most hunts are family-oriented and nothing like what was shown on the video. He added, "It is pretty easy to pick out one bad example of hunting and lay it out for everyone to see."
The legislation would have allowed the DNR to develop rules for bear hunts with hounds. If the provision had passed, Deputy Commissioner Mark Holstein said a pilot project would have been set up.
Despite its exclusion, Saxhaug though the provision was important. "The DNR agreed with it because they think they might need it to manage the bear population."
The game and fish omnibus bill passed out of committee Wednesday and now goes before the Senate Environment Finance Committee. Other provisions of the bill could grant rights to youth hunters, permit hunting of mourning doves, and change duck hunter opening hours to 9 a.m.
Saxhaug thought the bill should pass the Senate, but the floor may have some concern about the provision allowing mourning doves to be hunted.
This provision barely passed committee after testimony was heard.
Tourism is a $9 billion industry in the state, and creates 233,000 jobs.
Presently, the Minnesota office of tourism is housed in the Department of Employment and Economic Development, Employment Division.
"Our division of tourism is a pretty small ant in this big agency of a couple thousand employees," Sen. Tom Bakk, DFL-Cook, said to the Senate Jobs, Energy and Community Development Committee Wednesday.
Bakk authored legislation to remove tourism from DEED and make it a stand alone department. The bill also would create a new Explore Minnesota tourism council, to attract visitors.
In the past four years, the tourism department has lost revenue with state budget cuts. Jobs also had to be cut; the department went from 70 employees to 48. Overall, Minnesota tourism receives less funding than neighboring states to promote tourism.
John Edman, director of the Minnesota Office of Tourism, said, "We may be don't have the resources of other states, but partnerships and collaborations really are key to our future. We feel this approach will allow us to keep tourism strong."
Robert Buntz, co-chair of the Minnesota tourism alliance, and co-owner of Blue Fin Bay on Lake Superior, agreed. "Tourism is an important part of Minnesota's economy. (This legislation) heightens the awareness of tourism in the state."
Committee member Sen. Carrie Ruud, R-Breezy Point, has many tourist attractions and lots of lodging in her district. She said, "I want to commend you for bringing this forward. I believe this is a real, real exciting bill for the state of Minnesota."
The committee passed the bill and sent it to the Senate floor.
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