Legislation prohibiting the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) from enforcing certain highway ditch mowing regulations cleared the full Senate for the final time on Thursday. The bill, Senate File 218, prevents MnDOT from requiring, issuing, or enforcing permits to mow or bale in state highway rights-of-way until April 30, 2018.
“I am pleased to have my colleagues from both sides of the aisle join me in passing this bill,” said Sen. Gary Dahms (R-Redwood Falls), the author of the bill. “This has been an issue that is really important to folks in rural Minnesota. A moratorium will give the stakeholders and MnDOT time to come together and discuss options.”
The legislation comes in response to swift criticism from rural Minnesotans following a surprise policy shift from MnDOT earlier this year that altered the requirements for the mowing and baling of state highway rights-of-way. The agency’s policy requires, among other things, landowners to apply for permits to mow state highway rights-of-way.
In addition, the bill requires MnDOT to work with agricultural and environmental groups in the coming months to develop recommendations on a permit or notification system for mowing and baling in the highway rights-of-way. These recommendations, which will be required to include landowner priority and ease of application, must be presented to the legislature early next year.
The bill awaits the signature of Gov. Mark Dayton.
“This is a step forward,” Sen. Dahms continued. “I am hopeful that the governor will sign this bill into law immediately; our friends and neighbors in rural Minnesota are counting on it.”
Sen. Dahms is in his third term representing Senate District 16, which includes communities in Brown, Lac qui Parle, Lyon, Redwood, Renville, and Yellow Medicine counties. He also serves as chair of the Senate Commerce and Consumer Protection Finance and Policy Committee and is an assistant majority leader.