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Conservation groups close to losing spot on advisory board

BISMARCK -- Three conservation groups that helped craft the state's Outdoor Heritage Fund may not have any input into where the funding goes.

House lawmakers passed Senate Bill 2242 on Tuesday with an amendment that removes Ducks Unlimited of North Dakota, the North Dakota Natural Resources Trust and the North Dakota chapter of Pheasants Forever from the 12-person advisory board created to give advice to the Industrial Commission, which will allocate funding through the heritage fund.

If the bill becomes law, the governor will be able to appoint four members to the board from a general pool of conservation groups.

The bill was sent back to the Senate, which must agree to the changes or send it to a conference committee where members from both chambers will hash out the changes.

The groups were removed after the sponsor of the heritage fund bill, which has already been signed into law, became disgruntled with the groups he believes were trying to keep the fund from passing.

Rep. Peter Silbernagel, R-Casselton, carried the bill to the floor Tuesday.

"It's imperative the Outdoor Heritage Fund be successfully launched and those groups are supportive of the mission," he said. "Conservationists around the state have expectations a solid foundation be built for the fund."

Rep. Scot Kelsh, D-Fargo, said the groups only tried to strengthen the bill throughout the session, offering amendments to increase the amount of money in the fund.

The amendment to remove the groups "takes a focus away from the important issue, and that is to preserve our heritage and legacy here in North Dakota," he said. "This is an attempt to go around the public eye and ultimately hurts people's faith in this process and weakens the conservation voice."

Workforce Safety and Insurance

Human pain would not be enough proof to show the worsening of a pre-existing injury or disease for Workforce Safety and Insurance claims, under a bill heading to Gov. Jack Dalrymple.

House Bill 1163 passed Tuesday, with the House agreeing to the Senate changes that say pain is a symptom and may be considered in determining whether there is a substantial acceleration or worsening of a pre-existing injury, disease, or other condition, but pain alone is not a substantial acceleration or a substantial worsening.

The measure passed 65-28 and will be sent to Dalrymple for his signature.

Another bill related to Workforce Safety and Insurance is being debated in a conference committee.

Senate Bill 2298 would change the current process for claiming employee benefits after an injury, proposing to give less credibility to a physician's opinion.