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Changes to legislative day, lifting of salary cap on local officials among changes in state government policy bill

House members could meet in session more often and start a few days later, homeowners’ yards could become a managed natural landscape, and local government officials could get paid more.

All are included in HF1826.

Sponsored by Rep. Ginny Klevorn (DFL-Plymouth), the omnibus state and local government policy bill contains myriad provisions affecting governmental operations across Minnesota.

It was passed, as amended, 71-58 by the House late Tuesday and sent to the Senate.

Legislative day, session start

The bill would change a session start date to “the first Tuesday after the second Monday in January of each odd-numbered year.”

Per the state constitution, the Legislature can meet in biennial session for 120 legislative days; however, a legislative day is not defined. In statute, created in 1973, a legislative day is described as “a day when either house of the legislature is called to order.” So, for example, a brief session where members do nothing more than moving bills along in the committee process now uses a day.

A legislative day, under the bill, would be redefined as when either body “gives any bill a third reading, adopts a rule of procedure or organization, elects a university regent, confirms a gubernatorial appointment, or votes to override a gubernatorial veto.” That could result in more floor session gatherings, without counting against the legislative day limit. As amended, it would take effect with the 2025 session.

Klevorn previously said the change would free legislatures, no matter which side of the aisle is in control, from current scheduling constraints and allow legislatures to adopt whatever schedule they believe would work best. Skeptics say it just provides the controlling party more time to push through its agenda.

State government changes

The Senate has authority to confirm or reject folks appointed by the governor to head state agencies, but there is no time limit. The bill would require automatic confirmation if the Senate has not acted to reject an appointment within 60 legislative days after receipt of the appointment letter. Rep. Danny Nadeau (R-Rogers) sought to remove this provision, but his amendment was unsuccessful.

The state’s “Ban the Box” law would be expanded to state board and commission appointments. It prohibits employers from inquiring into, or considering, an employment applicant’s criminal history until the applicant has been selected for an interview or before a conditional offer of employment is made.

Other proposed changes include:

  • creating an Office of Enterprise Sustainability to assist state agencies in “reducing the impact on the environment, controlling unnecessary waste of natural resources and public funds, and spurring innovation”;
  • creating an Office of Collaboration and Dispute Resolution to “assist state agencies; offices of the executive, legislative, and judicial branches; tribal governments; and units of local government in improving collaboration, dispute resolution, and public engagement”;
  • changing the effective date of a Juneteenth law enacted earlier this session to June 19, 2023;
  • transitioning from Christopher Columbus Day to Indigenous Peoples Day;
  • adopting some recommendations from a January 2021 report of the Advisory Task Force on State Employment and Retention of Employees with Disabilities;
  • allowing notaries licensed in Minnesota to register to perform marriages and allow past and current elected officials in Minnesota to perform marriages;
  • designating the Bill and Bonnie Daniels Fire Hall and Museum in Minneapolis as the state fire museum; and
  • expanding types of collateral that the state’s Executive Council may approve as sufficient to secure state funds.

An amendment seeking an annual report to the Legislature on executive branch cloud computing adoption was successfully added to the bill.

[MORE: Details of state, local government changes]

Local government changes

When it comes to local officials, a salary cap would be removed; deleting the state of emergency requirement so members of certain public bodies could participate remotely up to three times a year due to medical concerns; and a city could allow a private property owner, authorized agent, or occupant to install and maintain a managed natural landscape. Plants and grasses more than 8 inches tall that have gone to seed would be permitted; noxious weeds would not.

Other local government changes proposed include:

  • expanding the eligibility of counties and cities that can use certain long-term equity investments:
  • to control behavior and protect public safety, hotels operating within a city may need to licensed by the local municipality;
  • providing procedures for a municipality to award a contract to a construction manager at risk;
  • dissolution of the Municipal Building Commission in Minneapolis; and
  • requiring a city with a population of at least 20,000 people to provide the state fire marshal with a list of certain residential buildings, such as those as least 75 feet above the lowest level of fire department vehicle access, not yet retrofitted with a sprinkler system.

Other unsuccessfully offered Republican amendments include: the governor’s residence must not be used by the governor or a family member to establish a permanent address for any private transaction, such as a driver’s license or voter registration; and the state “must not invest in assets that intentionally exclude Minnesota-based energy or natural resources companies or Minnesota-based agricultural or livestock companies to further the asset's environmental-, social-, or governance-based grade or rating.”

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