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Omnibus state government finance bill proposes new spending, numerous elections changes

House Photography file photo

Election changes aplenty, some increased spending and how state and local governments operate have been unveiled.

Rep. Michael Nelson (DFL-Brooklyn Park) sponsors HF1952, as amended, the omnibus state government finance and elections bill. It calls for a nearly $999.76 million in net General Fund spending in the upcoming biennium that begins July 1, 2021.

It amounts to a $34.5 million increase over current base level and $500,000 more than the budget proposed by Gov. Tim Walz for the 2022-23 biennium.

The House State Government Finance and Elections Committee, which Nelson chairs, received a bill walkthrough and heard from representatives of some affected parties Tuesday. Public testimony is scheduled to continue at 8:30 a.m. Wednesday before the committee reconvenes at 6 p.m. to consider amendments and hopefully vote on the bill.

“By the latest at 10 a.m. Thursday, this bill will be passed out to (the House Ways and Means Committee),” Nelson said. “This is the hard work of the committee.”

Sponsored by Sen. Mary Kiffmeyer (R-Big Lake), the Senate omnibus bill, SF1831, was introduced Tuesday and awaits action by the Senate State Government Finance and Policy and Elections Committee.

Finances

Among its increases, the House bill calls for an $11.76 million bump for the Office of the Attorney General, including $4.95 million to make further investments in critical litigation technology resources necessary in modern litigation. Another $3.14 million increase would be to further provide legal services to rural county attorneys and prosecute crimes that unfairly harm consumers and businesses.

[MORE: View the detailed spreadsheet and change items]

The state auditor’s office would see a $3 million increase, of which $1.25 million would be to staff a School Finance Accountability Team to conduct school district audits and review the work of private firms who conduct school district audits. A similar amount would be an operating adjustment for the office.

Other changes include a 3.2% operating increase ($8.3 million) for the Department of Revenue, including $2.2 million “to coordinate, facilitate, encourage, and aid in the provision of taxpayer assistance services”; nearly $4.5 million more for the Administration Department; $4.15 million for MN.IT to implement recommendations from the Governor’s Blue Ribbon Council on Information Technology; $4.1 million for Minnesota Management and Budget; a $2.65 million operating adjustment for the House of Representatives; an additional $1.85 million for the Office of the Secretary of State, including $500,000 to recruit bilingual election judges and bilingual trainee election judges; and $370,000 for the Legislative Coordinating Commission to hire a diversity and inclusion officer.

The state's four ethnic councils — Minnesotans of African Heritage, Latino Affairs, Asian Pacific Minnesotans and Indian Affairs — would receive an additional $116,000 combined, with operating adjustments ranging from 1.6% to 3%.

Elections changes

Rep. Emma Greenman (DFL-Mpls) sponsors HF9, an all-encompassing elections bill that she said in January contains plenty of “common-sense solutions.” Many are in the omnibus bill, as are some standalone proposals.

Included in the bill are provisions that would:

  • establish procedures for automatic voter registration when applying for a driver’s license or state identification card;
  • provide civil and criminal remedies for voter intimidation, interference and deceptive practices;
  • restore the right to vote to individuals convicted of a felony once they are released from incarceration;
  • eliminate the three-person limit on the number of voters a person can assist on Election Day;
  • allow a medical bill to serve as proof of residence for Election Day registration;
  • allow a school board to grant academic credit to students serving as a trainee election judge;
  • require a disclaimer on independent expenditures to list the top three contributors responsible for funding the expenditure;
  • require the secretary of state’s office to prepare voting instructions in languages other than English for in-person absentee voters;
  • permit a candidate to request that their residential address be protected from public disclosure if they have a reasonable fear for their safety or their family; and
  • authorize a political campaign to pay for specified security-related expenses at a candidate’s home and report it as a “non-campaign disbursement.”

State government operations

The bill proposes to make changes in the way state government operates in myriad areas including:

  • creation of a Legislative Commission on Cybersecurity;
  • establishing an Office of Enterprise Sustainability;
  • establishing a working group to develop recommendations for a racial equity note for proposed legislation;
  • codify an existing executive order that directs certain state agencies to implement tribal consultation policies to guide their work and interactions with tribal nations;
  • creating a background check procedure to comply with requirements related to accessing federal tax information by agency employees and others with access to the information;
  • authorizing Minnesota Management and Budget to establish a virtual payments program to allow state payments to vendors be made through an electronic credit rather than a traditional check;
  • permitting the state’s ownership of a dog retired from state service to be transferred to the handler who trained and worked with the dog while it was in service;
  • establishment of a Capitol flag program for families of military service members and first responders who die in the line of duty;
  • designating the Bill and Bonnie Daniels Firefighters Hall and Museum in Minneapolis as the state fire museum;
  • repealing the state employee gainsharing program; and
  • providing funds for sensory accessibility accommodation modifications for public spaces.

Local government changes

A number of bills heard by the House Local Government Division are in the omnibus bill, including provisions that would:

  • allow the Metropolitan Council and local governing entities to establish inflow and infiltration prevention programs to make loans or grants to private property owners;
  • repeal the compensation limit for political subdivision employees:
  • increase from $250,000 to $750,000 the amount of county contracts that can be made by sealed bids or direct negotiation with county-certified small-business enterprises or state-certified small businesses that are majority-owned and operated by a veteran or a service-disabled veteran;
  • allow a city or town to adopt an ordinance requiring hotels to have a municipal hotel license — maximum of $100 — which requires compliance with state and local laws;
  • let Duluth and Rochester require a park dedication fee on new housing units and new commercial and industrial development or a "reasonable portion of land" be dedicated to the public for public parks;
  • permit the Seaway Port Authority of Duluth to create a nonprofit corporation; and
  • update Duluth Entertainment and Convention Center statutory verbiage to better reflect current business practice and facility operations.

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What's in the bill?

The following are selected bills that have been incorporated in part or in whole into the omnibus state government finance and elections bill:

 


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