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Election financing, filing modifications OK'd for Hennepin County

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Consistent election filings in Hennepin County and greater transparency are aims of a bill heading to the House Floor.

Sponsored by Rep. Mike Freiberg (DFL-Golden Valley), HF396 would make straightforward where candidates file and transfer oversight of campaign finance reporting requirements for political groups engaged in campaign activity for certain elected offices and ballot questions in the county.

It was approved Thursday by the House State Government Finance and Elections Committee. There is no Senate companion.

"Several of the laws governing campaign finance in Hennepin County are unique to the county and are outdated, or in some cases conflict with state law," Freiberg said.

House State Government Finance and Elections Committee 02/11/21

Changes called for in the bill, Freiberg said, should provide more clarity to candidates, political action committees and citizens, while ensuring more timely and appropriate disclosure of campaign finance information.

Currently, candidates running for local office in Hennepin County cities with a population of at least 75,000, or for the Minneapolis school board, file to run with the county. Under the bill, candidates running for county office would continue filing with the county, but local race candidates would file with the local entity for which they are running. "Just like everywhere else in the state," Freiberg said.

Political action committees can now choose whether they file with Hennepin County or the state campaign board, said Hennepin County Elections Manager Ginny Gelms.

This bill would instead require some reports to be filed with the Campaign Finance and Public Disclosure Board, and some be filed with the political subdivision.

"Committees that have filed with the state are not subject to a reporting schedule that has them reporting on their activities in a local election year. What we saw, for example, in the 2017 Minneapolis elections is those committees that happen to have been filed with the state did not have to report on the activities until after the Minneapolis election had already occurred," Gelms said.

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