Elections changes, additional cybersecurity funding and a nearly $102.53 million spending increase over base are all part of the omnibus state government finance bill approved on a split-voice vote Tuesday night by the House State Government Finance Division.
Scheduled to be heard Friday by the House Ways and Means Committee, HF1935, as amended, would spend nearly $987.39 million from the General Fund in the 2020-21 biennium. Its proposed base increase is $13 million more than the budget proposed by Gov. Tim Walz.
“Every member around this table except one has a provision in this bill,” said Rep. Tony Albright (R-Prior Lake). He said the added amendments improved the final product.
Of the nearly 50 amendments offered to the bill Tuesday; 21 were approved, including:
Among its increases, the House bill calls for a $24.1 million more for MN.IT services, mostly for enhancements to cybersecurity across state government; $11.5 million more for the House of Representatives, largely due to member salary increases established by the Legislative Salary Council; $8.92 million more for Minnesota Management and Budget, of which $5.5 million would be for system security and risk management; and $2 million for Minnesota Census 2020 mobilization.
An extra $700,000 is included to create an Office of Public Engagement in the governor’s office. In his supplemental budget, Walz removed the funding, but Nelson said House Speaker Melissa Hortman (DFL-Brooklyn Park) wanted the appropriation back in the bill.
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With an aim of making state elections safer and more accessible to all Minnesotans, much of the omnibus elections bill has been rolled into the omnibus state government finance bill, including the restoration of voting rights to people who have been convicted of a felony once they complete their incarceration; a way for Minnesotans to be automatically registered to vote when applying for a Minnesota driver’s license, state identification card, or learner’s permit; appropriating $6 million in federal Help America Vote Act grant funding for election system security improvements; permitting all local governments to use ranked-choice voting for local officials; and establishing a Redistricting Advisory Commission to draw and recommend new congressional and legislative district boundaries after each census.
An amendment by Albright to remove the elections provisions went down on a party-line vote, as did another amendment offered by Albright to remove election sections that do not have bipartisan support.
State government operations
Proposed changes in the operation of state government include eliminating the Legislative Budget Office, which was established in 2017; establish a legislative employee working group to assist the Legislature in identifying accessibility needs related to its IT services; to provide a U.S. and Minnesota state flag flown over the State Capitol to families of public safety officers killed in the line of duty, and families of members of the military who died while in active service; and allowing small businesses to be certified by a nationally recognized certifying organization in order to participate in the state’s small business and small targeted group business programs.