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Hockey Day is coming to Bemidji; 13th annual event set for winter 2019

House votes to speed up permitting

ST. PAUL -- Minnesota representatives voted Thursday night to speed up the state environmental permitting process in an attempt to attract more business and help existing businesses to expand.

On an 82-42 vote, the House decided to establish a 150-day goal for the Department of Natural Resources and Pollution Control Agency to issue permits. Those permits are needed for businesses to take actions such as digging a well and discharging waste.

Republicans and Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton agreed that the action is needed, and Dayton last month issued an executive order that also sets the 150-day goal.

The bill, written by Rep. Dan Fabian, R-Roseau, also would allow permit applicants to hire firms to conduct environment impact statements. Now, such environmental studies are conducted by the government.

The measure also sends environmental permits disputes go directly to the state Appeals Court instead of a district court.

A similar bill authored by Sen. Bill Ingebrigtsen, R-Alexandria, awaits a full Senate vote.

Fabian said a radio commercial bought by Sioux Falls, S.D., illustrates the need for his bill. "We have less red tape," the commercial said.

"We need to have less red tape," Fabian said.

Rep. Dean Urdahl, R-Grove City, said the bill could mean more jobs for his western Minnesota area. Iron Range lawmakers also praised the bill because it could lead to new and expanded mines opening quicker.

However, Rep. Andrew Falk, DFL-Murdock, said he fears that if the bill becomes law that rural residents will have a harder time dealing with the St. Paul-based Appeals Court rather than local district courts.

"It is taking away voices of rural people," he said.

State freeze OK'd

A House committee approved a state employee pay freeze.

On a 9-6 vote, the committee backed the measure that also would begin a study comparing state salaries to those in private business. The study would lead to a new way to pay state workers.

There is no similar bill in the Senate.

Keep the deer?

Rep. David Dill's bill to allow motorists who hit and kill deer to keep the animal is being considered for inclusion in an overall game and fish bill.

Now, law enforcement officials have lists of people who want road-kill deer, but the Crane Lake Democrat's bill would give a driver the right to keep the carcass.

Don Davis works for Forum Communications Co., which owns the Bemidji Pioneer.