ST. PAUL -- Sen. Carrie Ruud's bill to help DNR officers control the growing population of cormorants on Leech Lake was passed 59-2 by the Senate last week.
The estimated population of the birds, which eat up to one pound of fish a day, has grown to 5,000 -- up from 150 in 1998. Their preferred food is walleye.
"No one likes having to shoot these birds but it's necessary to ensure continued years of great fishing on Leech and Winnie, as well as the survival of several other species of birds in the area, including the bald eagle and the federally protected common tern," said Ruud, R-Breezy Point.
The bill authorizes officers to use silencer-equipped guns to kill the birds without startling others.
The Senate and House have slightly different versions of the bill, which will go to conference committee this week.
Ruud also said she voted to provide pregnant women with life-affirming choices by helping pass the Positive Alternative Act, which passed in the Senate 57-10. The legislation makes state funds available as grants to community organizations that help women who are pregnant carry their children to term.
Otremba will serve on Health Finance Conference Committee
ST. PAUL -- Rep. Mary Ellen Otremba, DFL-Long Prairie, will be one of five Minnesota House members on the Health Finance Conference Committee that will work out differences between the House and Senate versions of the bill.
She is the only House Democrat on the committee.
According to Otremba's statement, the governor's health-care plan and the House plan will leave as many as 30,000 people without MinnesotaCare health-care coverage.
Two Blaine bills included in House omnibus legislation
ST. PAUL -- Two bills authored by Rep. Greg Blaine, R-Little Falls, were included in various House committees' omnibus packages.
The Agriculture, Environment and Natural Resources Finance Committee's omnibus package included legislation that would create an agricultural loan program and change certain livestock zoning regulations.
Blaine said the legislation ensures local control and helps producers in the permit process.
The second piece of legislation that would exempt milk sold in vending machines from the state's sales tax was included in the Tax Committee's omnibus package. Blaine said the law would help steer students to healthier choices.
Gazelka supports House tax omnibus package
ST. PAUL -- Rep. Paul Gazelka, R-Brainerd, joined a majority in the House last week in supporting an omnibus tax bill that allows more Minnesotans to keep more of what they earn and also creates criteria allowing cities to impose a sales and use tax.
Gazelka said, in his statement, the local sales tax provision was good news for Baxter, which had lobbied him to author legislation to impose a sales and use tax, as well as issue general obligation bonds.
In Baxter, the additional .5 cent sales tax on taxable items purchased in the city would fund water and wastewater infrastructure projects, including a water treatment plant, an additional water tower and expanded wastewater treatment capacity. The tax on motor vehicle sales would be limited to a total tax of $20.
Last November Baxter passed a local option sales tax.
The House criteria requires voter approval in a referendum, restricts what sort of projects the money can be used for and defines what constitutes a regional project. It limits the tax to 12 years unless voters renew it.
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