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House, Senate negotiators begin work on reconciling state government and elections bill

Monday afternoon was kind of like preparing to go to the polling place for 10 legislators.

Conferees for the omnibus state and local government and elections finance bill became better informed about the House and Senate provisions as a predecessor for ultimately deciding in the next few days or weeks which way they will cast their vote on the final product.

Sponsored by Rep. Ginny Klevorn (DFL-Plymouth) and Sen. Jim Carlson (DFL-Eagan) sponsor HF1830/SF1424. Conferees may reconvene Tuesday to review more provisions, including state government policy changes.

Elections funding

The House bill calls for net General Fund spending of almost $24.62 million in fiscal years 2023-25; the Senate a shade over $24.6 million. For the current fiscal year both bills would allocate $495,000 for litigation fees associated with redistricting and $14,000 for felon voting rights that were signed into law earlier this session. The Senate also includes $461,000 for a Help America Vote state match; the House funds that in fiscal year 2024.

[MORE: Proposed elections appropriations, change items]

Both bills call for the establishment of a small donor state match campaign program in fiscal year 2025. The Senate allocates $3.9 million, $917,000 more than the House.

While the totals are very close there are some are the larger differences are:

  • $2.58 million transferred from the General Fund to the voting operations, technology, and election resources account in a special revenue fund. Monies would be appropriated to counties for election-related expenses, including equipment, cybersecurity, staffing, and as a local match for federal funds (House);
  • $800,000 for counties and municipalities to improve polling place access for individuals with a disability (Senate);
  • $489,000 for a Ranked Choice Voting and Voter Engagement Advisory Task Force (Senate); and
  • $200,000 for a campaign about restoration of felon voting rights (Senate).

Elections-related policy

Many of the high-profile elections policy changes — automatic voter registration; pre-registration to vote for 16- and 17-year-olds; voters could sign up for automatic delivery of an absentee ballot — are in HF3 that is headed to the governor. 

But policy differences between the House and Senate remain, including:

  • definition of a major political party would change whereby a party’s candidate in a state general election must receive at least 10% (currently 5%) of the votes at the most recent state general election, or submit signatures of a number of members equal to 10% of the total number of individuals voting at the most recent state general election (House):
  • establishment of a Secretary of State Voting Task Force to look at voter engagement, education, and other voting system improvements (Senate);
  • prohibiting certain forms of incentive-based compensation for the collection of absentee ballot applications (House);
  • modification of boundaries in Senate Districts 9 and 12 and House Districts 9B and 12B (House);
  • access to multi-unit residence facilities by U.S. Census employees (House);
  • a principal campaign committee, political committee, political fund, or party unit may accept a monetary contribution using a mobile payment service or platform (Senate);
  • a political party or party unit cannot use the image of a candidate or promote the attendance of a candidate at an event to solicit contributions during the legislative session (Senate); and
  • lobbying provisions expanded to include all political subdivisions (Senate).

[MORE: View elections administration, campaign finance differences]

State government funding

The bodies agree on total General Fund spending for fiscal years 2023-25; however, current fiscal year spending in the House bill contains $1 million to update the design framework plan for Capitol Mall, whereas Senate funding would be next fiscal year. Both agree on spending $196,000 now to fund an Office of Administrative Hearings shortfall due to increased demand.

Also, $58.14 million set aside for COVID-19 management is cancelled and can be used in the forthcoming biennium.

Among differences between the two bills are:

  • $18.96 million in historic sites asset preservation (Senate);
  • $8.34 million in overall funding for Minnesota Management and Budget (Senate);
  • $5 million in civility and cultural awareness programs and grants (House);
  • $2.5 million for enhanced anti-trust, nonprofit oversight by the Office of the Attorney General (House);
  • $2.5 million for executive branch digital media services (Senate);
  • $1.19 million to establish and support The Council on LGBTQIA Minnesotans (Senate);
  • $1.03 million to establish a Youth Advisory Council to “work for the implementation of
    economic, social, legal, and political equality for the youth community” (Senate);
  • $1 million for Legislative Coordinating Commission translation services (House);
  • $1 million for a study of the St. Anthony Falls cutoff wall (House); and
  • $800,000 for an Office of the Secretary of State content management system upgrade (Senate).

[MORE: Proposed state government appropriations, change items]

Other policy differences include:

  • an annual report to the Legislature on executive branch cloud computing adoption (House);
  • a city could allow a private property owner, authorized agent, or occupant to install and maintain a managed natural landscape (House);
  • 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 (House);
  • providing procedures for a municipality to award a contract to a construction manager at risk (House);
  • expand the authority to create, expand, or enlarge special service districts (Senate);
  • St. Paul may solicit and award a design-build contract for the East Side Skate Park project at Eastside Heritage Park based on a best value selection process (Senate); 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 (House).

[MORE: View differences in IT and cybersecurity , local government]


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