There will need to be a lot of compromising about elections changes before conferees cast their votes.
Also to be resolved are spending and policy dissimilarities throughout state government, a few local government issues and some potential military and veterans affairs changes.
Conferees began their work Monday with the traditional fiscal and policy overview of each proposal. Some public testimony was also taken. The group plans to meet at 9 a.m. Tuesday for additional public testimony.
Rep. Michael Nelson (DFL-Brooklyn Park) and Sen. Mary Kiffmeyer (R-Big Lake), the bill sponsors, note conferees will need a budgetary target from legislative leaders before financial resolutions begin.
The House version checks in at nearly $1.22 billion for the 2022-23 biennium, $96.4 million below the Senate proposal.
Among the fiscal differences is the House provides small operating adjustments for many state agencies, boards and councils; the Senate reduces base appropriations for most agencies and keeps board and council funding at current levels.
The House bill has 13 elections provisions not in the Senate bill, and six Senate provisions are not in the House bill.
House-only provisions include:
“Changes like automatic voter registration and restoration take us forward,” said Secretary of State Steve Simon. “It’s my hope that members here today can agree on one thing, and that is that voting is a sacred and fundamental right that all eligible voters should be able to access regardless of race or ethnicity or economic circumstances or geographical location.”
Among the Senate provisions not in the House bill are: people who register to vote on Election Day would cast a provisional ballot, and if deemed eligible to vote when their registration is processed within a week, the vote will be accepted; requiring voters whose registration status is challenged to cast challenged ballots; a political subdivision could not adopt or use ranked-choice voting for local offices; and the secretary of state and public officials would be prohibited from spending public funds to promote or defeat a ballot question.
Both bills would allow a non-campaign disbursement for security expenses at a candidate’s address, but the spending cap differs as does whether immediate family members should be included.
State government policy
The House and Senate agree in general that a Legislative Commission on Cybersecurity should be established, Aug. 15 should annually be designated as “India Day,” users of electric vehicle charging stations in the Capitol Complex should pay for electricity consumed by the vehicle, and a Capitol Flag program should be established to provide a U.S. and Minnesota flag flown at the Capitol to families of public safety officers killed in the line of duty and military members who die in active service.
Among the House-only provisions are:
Senate-only provisions include:
Jim Schowalter, commissioner of Minnesota Management and Budget, raised several concerns with the Senate ideas, including the potential peacetime emergency change.
“The administration looks forward to working with the Legislature to develop thoughtful modifications, but simply limiting the governor’s ability to declare an emergency does not achieve that end.”
Other commissioners reiterated their desire for full support of the governor’s budget recommendations or, at worst, provide funding to maintain existing service levels.
There are no Senate comparables, but the House bill includes language that would:
Veterans and military affairs
Similarities between the bills include establishment of a veterans’ stable housing initiative; tweaks to Veterans and Suicide Prevention Awareness Day; and creation of an alternative-sentencing option for veterans with service-connected trauma, substance abuse or mental health conditions who commit certain crimes.
House-only provisions include allowing military attorneys who are not members of the state bar to practice law and serve as military judges under certain circumstances, and changes to military trial procedures, sentences and punishment.
[MORE: Side-by-side look at military and veterans affairs section]