Omnibus state government finance bill proposes new spending, numerous elections changes
By Mike Cook
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.
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.
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.
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;
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.
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: