Despite their spotty overall track record, Gov. Mark Dayton and Republican leaders have had success in coming together on environmental legislation over the past two years.
Building on that success, Dayton signed legislation on Monday that streamlines environmental permitting applications for Minnesota’s businesses, a move he and Republican lawmakers praised at an afternoon bill-signing ceremony.
Sen. Bill Ingebrigtsen, the measure’s chief author in the Senate, said he’s been getting one question frequently: “Why don’t you guys get along down there in St. Paul?”
“Two years in a row now, we have shown we can actually work in a bipartisan fashion for all businesses in Minnesota,” he added.
Also this session, Dayton and Ingebrigtsen are likely to come together on a bill that would increase fishing fees.
“Not taxes, but fees,” Ingebrigtsen joked at the light-hearted bill signing. “Let me be clear.”
The new environmental permitting legislation implements a 150-day limit for a decision to grant or deny a permit application. It also creates a permit official in the Department of Employment and Economic Development and implements a pilot project that aims to limit how long environmental reviews take for certain, well-defined projects.
“We want to make sure that the businesses see the state as an ally, not an adversary,” Dayton said.
While Republicans touted the positive effect streamlined permitting will produce for Minnesota’s businesses, the governor’s state agencies also reassured the public that the legislation keeps excellent environmental protection measures in place.
Neither Dayton nor state officials, however, couldn’t point to the specific number of businesses that streamlined permitting would help.
Paul Aasen, commissioner of the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, said the “real wild card” will be new players attempting to start businesses in Minnesota.
“I’m hoping going forward that an awful lot of businesses will be affected by this,” he said.
Moving forward, Ingebrigtsen, an assistant majority leader, and the governor said they hope to work together with more bipartisanship on issues like a new Vikings stadium and a bonding bill.
“I see some cooperation there, absolutely,” Ingebrigtsen said, joking that now that he’s a leader, he has to learn to speak for the entire Republican caucus.