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2021-2022 Regular Session

State government, MN.IT, elections and campaign finance changes in new law

A new law contains numerous mostly technical and conforming policy provisions that address elections and campaign finance, information technology and state government operations.

Sponsored by Rep. Michael Nelson (DFL-Brooklyn Park) and Sen. Mary Kiffmeyer (R-Big Lake), it takes effect Aug. 1, 2021, unless otherwise noted.

HF1952*/SF1831/CH31

Information technology

The most public-facing change is the renaming of Office of MN.IT Services to the Department of Information Technology Services, conforming statutory references and listing the department among the state government cabinet level departments. (Art. 2, Secs. 1-5, 13-14, 16-17)

The current Technology Advisory Committee will be renamed Technology Advisory Council and the law adds nine new appointees to its membership for a total of 15. Of the new members, the governor shall select six “with private-sector or public-sector IT experience or experience in academia pertaining to IT.” Additionally, four legislators will be ex-officio nonvoting members. (Art. 2, Sec. 9)

Other IT changes include:

• allowing the chief information officer to appoint a delegate to approve a proposed technology project;

• eliminating certain requirements related to the development of data processing systems and how those systems are defined;

• eliminating a requirement that up to 10 percent of a proposed budget for a project may be spent until a risk assessment and risk mitigation plan is in place; and

• restructuring language regarding the method of encumbering appropriations for certain large IT projects. (Art. 2, Secs. 7-8, 10-11)

State Government Policy

A number of changes to the Office of the Legislative Auditor are included in the law. For example, the law provides statutory authorization to conduct a “special review,” and more clearly details the type of work conducted during a special review.

It also updates language and terminology regarding the office’s authority to conduct financial audits of executive branch and judicial branch agencies and offices; the authority to request inspection of an audit subject’s records and to require cooperation with the auditor’s requests; and it eliminates specific mandates related to audits of the Department of Human Services. (Art. 1, Secs. 3-8)

A Capitol flag program will be established to “make a Minnesota state flag and an American flag that were flown over the Minnesota State Capitol available to the family members of a public safety officer killed in the line of duty or a member of the United States armed forces who died while in active service.” This flag would be available for a free, or may require a fee, depending on the date of the death and the number of flags requested. (Art. 1, Sec. 11)

Other parts of the law will:

• allow the state to access federal funds received in fiscal years 2021-23 for construction of veterans homes in Preston, Montevideo and Bemidji;

• allow handlers to take ownership of a state service dog after the canine retires;

• ensure the Legislative Reference Library is entitled to receive a copy of all documents published by the state at no cost to the Legislature or library;

• authorize the Legislative Coordinating Commission to coordinate the activities of joint legislative commissions, committees, offices and task forces;

• eliminate an obsolete requirement to direct a portion of any surplus funds at the end of a biennium to be transferred to the clean water fund, up to a total of $22 million;

• eliminate references to the materials handling services and the state recycling center from the list of authorized uses of the general services revolving fund;

• define “passenger motor vehicle” in the law authorizing the commissioner of administration to manage a central fleet of vehicles for use by state agencies;

• change "central motor pool" to "enterprise fleet" in state statutes;

• allow inmate community work crew programs administered by the Department of Corrections to use unmarked state vehicles;

• update technical references related to state historic preservation; and

• Gambling Control Board members can remain in their position until a successor is appointed. (Art. 1, Secs. 1-2, 4, 9, 12-15, 17-27)

Elections

Most elections changes are numerous technical and conforming changes for the Office of the Secretary of State, but a few other changes are in the law.

Provisions in the law include:

• establishing thresholds for determining acceptable performance by a voting system, and requiring additional review of the election results if the thresholds are exceeded;

• effective May 26, 2021, a special election cannot be held on a holiday or during the four days before or after a holiday;

• a deadline for contesting a special primary election for a state legislative office is provided;

• a request a publicly funded recount may not be filed before a canvass of the election results is complete;

• expanding the definition of military for the state’s absentee voting laws;

• lists of people applying for an absentee ballot — and voters who have submitted absentee ballots that have not been accepted — must be made available to the public in the same manner as the public information lists;

• requiring ballots for a special election to include a space for write-in votes;

• candidates for president and vice president and candidates for governor and lieutenant governor must jointly file a request to have write-in votes counted;

• a town clerk and must notify the secretary of state if voting hours in the town will start later than required elsewhere;

• registered voters in an unorganized territory must present a petition for shorter polling place hours to the secretary of state at least 30 days before the election, in addition to the county auditor;

• authorizing election judges to presume that unopened, prepackaged ballots contain the number of ballots indicated by the package; and

• a person elected at a town special election must take the oath of office within 10 days after receiving a certificate of election or appointment. (Art. 3, Secs. 3, 7-11, 13, 16-17, 21, 26)

Campaign Finance

A campaign can spend up to $3,000 annually for specific security-related expenses for a candidate, “including home security hardware, maintenance of home security hardware, identity theft monitoring services, and credit monitoring services” and report them as non-campaign disbursements. This is effective May 26, 2021 and applies to payments made on or after Jan. 1, 2021. (Art. 4, Sec. 10)

Other changes in the law include:

• effective Aug. 1, 2021, a candidate, treasurer or chair can file alternate contact information with the Campaign Finance Board solely for the board to contact the candidate, treasurer or chair for administering campaign finance laws. The information is private data;

• effective Jan. 1, 2022, establishment of a reporting schedule for campaign expenditures related to local candidates and local ballot questions;

• effective Jan. 1, 2022, transferring campaign finance reporting requirements for certain Hennepin County elections and Minneapolis school district elections from the county to the Campaign Finance and Public Disclosure Board;

• adding the chancellor and members of the Board of Trustees of the Minnesota State system to the public official definition;

• updating language related to the annual statement of economic interest, including an increase from $50 to $250 in the threshold for requiring a report on an honorarium;

• references to local candidates are added in law governing political fund organizational requirements; and

• recodification of language related to the period of time required to be reported on a statement of economic interest. (Art. 4, Secs. 1-9, 11-13, 17-26, 32-33)


New Laws 2021

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HF1952* / SF1831 / CH31
House Chief Author: Nelson, M.
Senate Chief Author: Kiffmeyer
Effective Dates: See chapter summary in the file link above.
* The legislative bill marked with an asterisk denotes the file submitted to the governor.