UPDATE: Conference committee to tackle license fee increase tonight

The fate of a measure to raise the price of hunting and fishing licenses in Minnesota now rests in the hands of a House-Senate conference committee in the Minnesota Legislature.

The conference committee is scheduled to meet at 7 p.m. tonight.

The House had requested the conference committee Tuesday after refusing to concur with Senate amendments to HF2171, the Omnibus Game and Fish Bill. One of those amendments was a modest increase in hunting and fishing license fees. The House version of the bill, a broad-based package of outdoors legislation, didn’t include the fee hike.

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources and Gov. Mark Dayton have requested the increase in hunting and fishing license fees to bolster the Game and Fish Fund, which is projected to go into the red by June 2013 without additional funding. Fed mostly by hunting and fishing licenses, the Game and Fish Fund pays for a variety of fisheries, wildlife and enforcement programs. License fees haven’t increased since 2001, and raising the prices requires legislative approval.

Several groups representing hunters and anglers have supported the fee hike, saying the quality of hunting and fishing opportunities in the state will decline without additional funding. About 75 people gathered Monday in the Capitol Rotunda to rally in support of the fee hike.

Members of the conference committee in the House are Rep. Tom Hackbarth, R-Cedar; Rep. Mark Buesgens, R-Savage; Rep. Tony Cornish, R-Vernon Center; Rep. Denny McNamara, R-Hastings; and Rep. David Dill, DFL-Crane Lake.  Senate conference committee members are Sen. Bill Ingebrigtsen, R-Alexandria; Sen. Paul Gazelka, R-Brainerd; Sen. John Carlson, R-Bemidji; Sen. Kari Dziedzic, DFL-Minneapolis; and Sen. Jeremy Miller, R-Winona.

During a stop at the Herald a couple of weeks ago, Ingebrigtsen, who chairs the Senate Environment and Natural Resources Committee, said he was optimistic a conference committee could reach an agreement on a license fee hike. We’ll know more after tonight.

For more information on HF2171, click here:

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