— UPDATED at 2:03 a.m. June 30 after Senate vote
In a bit of irony, one of the last bills heading to the governor that would prevent a partial state government shutdown is the omnibus state government finance and policy bill.
And the COVID-19 peacetime emergency declared by the governor in March 2020 would end July 1.
Sponsored by Rep. Michael Nelson (DFL-Brooklyn Park) and Sen. Mary Kiffmeyer (R-Big Lake), SSHF12/SSSF2* would provide funding — and some increases — for various agencies, boards and commissions. It also contains a handful of elections provisions, including a process for absentee ballot drop boxes, and policy issues related to veterans.
It was passed 70-63 by the House, as amended, early Wednesday morning and 54-12 by the Senate about an hour later. It is expected to be acted upon by Gov. Tim Walz later in the day.
When passed by the Senate June 25, the bill included an end to all of Walz’s current peacetime emergency declarations on July 1.
While the discussion was occurring, the governor announced he plans to end the peacetime emergency after reaching a deal with the federal government to protect emergency food payments.
“The peacetime emergency also made Minnesotans eligible for federal hunger-relief funding for 15 months. Our agreement with our federal partners to extend those benefits for Minnesotans, coupled with the thoughtful plan outlined in the House Democrats’ amendment to wind down the emergency response in state government, means that we can close this chapter of our history and celebrate the brighter days ahead,” Walz said in a statement.
The bill calls for nearly $1.25 billion in General Fund spending in the 2022-23 biennium, a $78.5 million increase over the current biennium.
[MORE: View the spreadsheet]
Among its increases, the Office of the Attorney General is to receive $7.86 million: nearly $5 million for investments in critical litigation technology resources necessary in modern litigation for a public law office, $1.03 million for security upgrades, $700,000 for wage theft enforcement, $600,000 to help maintain experienced staff and $578,000 for enhanced antitrust resources.
Other changes include an $11.03 million increase for the Department of Revenue, mainly for an operating adjustment; $4.52 million for Minnesota Management and Budget; $4.38 million for MN.IT, mostly to implement recommendations from the Governor’s Blue Ribbon Council on Information Technology; $4.25 million for the Office of the Secretary of State, with $2 million for local grants for ballot drop boxes and $1.5 million for election equipment grants; $2.8 million for the state auditor’s office, including almost $1.49 million to create a School Finance Accountability team; and $2.39 million more for the Administration Department. Many smaller agencies would receive slight operating adjustments.
The Market Bucks program, which matches Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program spending dollar-for-dollar (up to $10) at participating farmers markets, would again be funded at $650,000 for the biennium. Funding for the program that helps low-income residents to make more purchases at farmers’ markets was formerly funded in the agriculture bill.
Plenty of proposed elections changes did not make the final product such as reinstating voting rights for convicted felons upon release from incarceration; letting 16 and 17 year olds pre-register to vote; expanding voter intimidation, interference and deceptive protections; and voters could join a permanent absentee voter list for automatic delivery of an absentee ballot.
However, the bill would formalize a process for a municipality or county to use absentee ballot drop boxes, including language about locations, security, signage and monitoring of such boxes. For example, a box would need to be affixed to a building or bolted to a concrete pad, be recorded at all times, ballots would need to be secured against unauthorized access or weather damage and the drop box must be emptied daily.
Other policy provisions include: