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RELEASE: Minnesota House Expected to Approve State Government, Elections, Veterans Budget

Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Minnesota House Expected to Approve State Government, Elections, Veterans Budget

St. Paul, Minn. - Today, the Minnesota House is expected to approve the State Government budget bill, which includes provisions from the Elections and Veterans & Military Affairs committees. The bill includes measures to make it easier to vote and appropriates the full $6.6 million in Federal Help America Vote Act (HAVA) funding to secure Minnesota’s elections. The budget also includes provisions to restore the right to vote to those who have completed prison sentences, and to end veteran homelessness.

“Minnesotans deserve effective state government and our budget delivers,” said House Speaker Melissa Hortman. “The Minnesota House DFL makes needed investments in consumer protection and cyber-security initiatives.”

“Minnesota leads the country in voter participation, and we need to be a leader in caring for our veterans. Our budget will ensure that continues into the future,” said House Majority Leader Ryan Winkler. “While Republicans drag their feet on election security and aim to restrict access to the ballot, House DFLers are protecting and enhancing our nation-leading election system. Our budget also supports and respects our veterans, in recognition of our obligation to them for their incredible service to our state and nation.”

Minnesota is increasingly likely to see attacks on its election systems. Included in the budget is State Government Chair Michael Nelson’s provision to unlock $6.6 million in federal funding to support state efforts in securing election infrastructure against cyber threats. Senate leadership has been unwilling to consider appropriating the full funding, though all 49 other states have already done so.

“We should hand the microphone over to Minnesotans during our elections,” said Rep. Nelson (DFL - Brooklyn Park). “Minnesota stands on a long history of high voter participation and civic engagement. Rather than using the foundation of our democratic process as political football, our state government should make an unwavering commitment to election accessibility and security.”

Minnesota would become the 15th state to restore voting rights under Rep. Raymond Dehn’s provision to reinstate voting rights to those who have completed prison sentences. The bill would impact the 52,000 Minnesotans who are ineligible to vote because they are on probation, parole, or supervised release.

“Minnesotans place a great deal of value in our elections, and this budget reflects that,” said Rep. Raymond Dehn (DFL - Minneapolis), Chair of the House Subcommittee on Elections. “We’re investing in our election security, supporting Minnesotans on Election Day by offering free public transportation options, and restoring the voting rights of those who have paid their debt to society. This bill also innovates the elections process in Minnesota by automatically registering eligible voters when they apply for a driver’s license or state ID, streamlining the presidential nomination primaries, and giving jurisdictions the opportunity to utilize ranked choice voting if they so choose.”

Governor Tim Walz has committed to becoming the fourth state to end veteran homelessness by the end of the year, and provisions in the Veterans & Military Affairs budget would work to reach that goal. The budget also includes new restorative justice sentencing recommendations for veterans who have experienced PTSD and other service-related disorders to refer veterans to treatment for substance abuse or mental health problems, rather than jail or prison.

“The brave Minnesotans who’ve put on the uniform have made tremendous sacrifices, and when they return home, they deserve basic dignities like a place to live and a place to work, plus the care and services they’ve earned,” said Rep. Rob Ecklund (DFL – International Falls), Chair of the House Veterans and Military Affairs Division. “I’m proud of the investments in our budget to end veterans homelessness, expand restorative justice, provide funding for reintegration programming and other efforts to ensure veterans can live excellent lives here in Minnesota.”

The budget also includes provisions to:

  • Establish an “opt out” voter registration process for Minnesota driver’s license, state identification card, or instruction permit applicants; Applicants who do not decline would be automatically registered following a review by the secretary of state to determine the applicant’s eligibility to vote

  • Reduce the influence of dark money and improve accountability to the public in electioneering communications by requiring campaign finance reports for campaign communications, even if they don’t use “magic words,” such as “vote for,” or “vote against”

  • Provide free public transportation on Election Day

  • Keep voters’ political party private when voting in a presidential primary

  • Establish a politically-balanced Redistricting Advisory Commission to draw and recommend new congressional and legislative district boundaries after each Census

  • Provide a one-time appropriation of $2 million to fund the Census 2020 Mobilization program and gives Census workers access to multi-unit residential facilities, ensuring an accurate Census count

  • Provide $20 million for MN.IT statewide cybersecurity initiatives

  • Work toward ending veteran homelessness with an expansion of the Counseling and Case Management, Outreach, Referral and Education (CORE) program

  • Upgrade the veteran center at the Minneapolis-St. Paul Airport