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Hunting, fishing fees and Vikings talk begins legislative week

ST. PAUL - What could be the last week of the 2012 Minnesota legislative session began this morning with 75 people rallying for a modest hunting and license fee increase and 50 others urging lawmakers to approve a Vikings stadium.

There was no immediate indication when any action may happen on a stadium, but senators were due to discuss hunting and fishing fees increase plans this afternoon.

While legislative leaders say they hope to adjourn by a week from today, many lawmakers said they thought they could go home a little earlier.

"We need to come down here to convince our legislators to raise the game and fish fees," said Greg Kvale of Baxter, one of those in a modest rally in the Capitol rotunda.

With fishing rods topped with signs demanding "raise hunting and fishing fees now," the anglers made up a rare gathering of people who asked government to raise how much they pay.

Sen. Bill Ingebrigtsen, R-Alexandria, broke away from a GOP Senate meeting on the topic to discuss the issue with the rallying anglers. He said the issue was to come up this afternoon as part of Senate game and fish debate.

"We then will gel it up with the House," he said.

Rep. Denny McNamara, R-Hastings, said he hoped the Senate did increase fees, something the House did not approve in its game and fish bill. He said it should survive negotiations to reconcile the two bills.

However, with adjournment coming soon, McNamara said he and other fee increase supporters have their work cut out to convince representatives, especially Republicans, that the action is a good thing.

McNamara urged anglers at the rally to encourage average hunters and anglers to contact their legislators and ask for their support.

"We still haven't got contacts from the rank and file," he said.

The most publicized issue of the session, a stadium construction bill, remained in limbo this morning.

A plan for a $975 million stadium, with $398 million state backing, was not scheduled for further hearings this morning. It passed a Senate committee Friday, but faces further hearings.

It lost a week ago in a House committee. The stadium plan is expected to come back up for debate, but it was not clear how that would happen.

Also expected to be debated soon are plans to fund public works projects around the state, including renovating the state Capitol building. And Republicans want to lower statewide business property taxes.

The Legislature can meet until May 21, but Republican leaders say they want to be done April 30.