School districts, cities and counties that propose spending-related referendums to voters could be required to hold all special elections on a common date across the state.
But several school districts and administrators who oppose the measure say such a change would take away the flexibility that school districts currently have to time special elections in line with capital project needs that are dependent on seasonal construction.
HF922, sponsored by Rep. Steve Drazkowski (R-Mazeppa), would specifically target the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November as the only date a local unit of government could hold certain types of special elections or referendum elections that ask voters for spending increases.
School districts seeking to levy for a capital project or hold a special election on a ballot question and cities seeking to acquire property for public utilities would be held to the requirement. An exception would be made for referendums that seek to levy property taxes for emergency or disaster relief.
The House Education Finance Committee approved the bill Thursday and referred it to the House Taxes Committee. Its companion, SF1711, sponsored by Sen. Mary Kiffmeyer (R-Big Lake), awaits action by the Senate Rules and Administration Committee.
Tying certain special elections to one common date would accomplish the dual-purpose of increasing voter turnout and bringing more predictability to voters in terms of knowing when such elections would be held, Drazkowski said.
“(The proposed legislation) is the right way to go,” said Rep. Paul Marquart (DFL-Dilworth). “It saves costs on Election Day, but more importantly you get more voters there.”
“If timing were limited to once a year, an entire construction season or favorable interest rate can be lost,” said Patricia Magnuson, executive director of finance and operations for Osseo Area Schools.
“We would really ask you to trust your local boards enough to allow them flexibility on these capital project referendums,” said Grace Keliher, director of government relations for the Minnesota School Boards Association. “Schools are the only (local government units) who have to go to the voters for approval.”