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Some state government, elections changes get House, Senate approval

— UPDATED at 4:09 p.m. to include Senate vote

Something is better than nothing.

Such is the case with what the state government finance conference committee was able to approve Monday morning.

Operating without a budget target, conferees approved a number of mostly technical and conforming policy provisions that address elections and campaign finance, information technology and state government operations.

The conference committee report on HF1952 was passed 133-1 by the House and unanimously by the Senate in the afternoon. It now awaits action by the governor.

Financial matters are to be addressed in an upcoming special session. Other policy issues could too.

Conference Committee on HF1952 (Nelson, M./Kiffmeyer) Omnibus state government finance bill

“Even if we had gotten (a budget target) yesterday there would have been no way to do the appropriations pieces of this,” said Rep. Michael Nelson (DFL-Brooklyn Park), who co-chaired the conference committee with Sen. Mary Kiffmeyer (R-Big Lake).

Included in the report are technical changes that relate to the reorganization and renaming of the Office of MN.IT Services to the Department of Information Technology Services or Minnesota IT Services.

Numerous technical and conforming changes for the Office of the Secretary of State are also part of the report, such as special election ballots must include space for a write-in candidate, order of things on a ballot, election judges can assume sealed pre-packaged blank ballots contain the amount stated on the packaging, and special elections cannot be held on or during the four days before or after a holiday.

A campaign would be able to spend up to $3,000 annually for specific security-related expenses for a candidate, “including home security hardware, maintenance of home security hardware, identity theft monitoring services, and credit monitoring services” and report them as non-campaign disbursements.

A Capitol flag program would be established to “make a Minnesota state flag and an American flag that were flown over the Minnesota State Capitol available to the family members of a public safety officer killed in the line of duty or a member of the United States armed forces who died while in active service.”

Other proposed changes in the bill include:

  • transferring of campaign finance reporting requirements for certain Hennepin County elections and Minneapolis school district elections from the county to the Campaign Finance and Public Disclosure Board;
  • adding the chancellor and members of the Board of Trustees of the Minnesota State system to the public official definition;
  • allowing the state to access federal funds received for construction of veterans homes in Preston, Montevideo and Bemidji;
  • handlers can take ownership of a state service dog after the canine retires;
  • the Legislative Reference Library is to receive copies of state documents at no cost to the Legislature or library;
  • modifications to the list of buildings for which the Administration Department is responsible; and
  • members of the Gambling Control Board can remain in their position until a successor is appointed.

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