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Legislative News and Views - Rep. Michael Nelson (DFL)

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House Committee approves investments in modern, responsive, and transparent State Government

Thursday, April 7, 2022

St. Paul, MN - Today, the House State Government Finance and Elections Committee approved its bill, made up of proposals from legislators to finance a variety of state agencies, boards, and constitutional offices. Also included in the legislation are provisions to continue and strengthen Minnesota’s exemplary record of free, fair, and accessible elections. 

“The State of Minnesota has an opportunity this session to capitalize on this moment, not only to meaningfully build upon investments and modernize our government, but to also double down on the elections system that has consistently made our state a leader in voter turnout,” said. Rep. Michael V. Nelson (DFL - Brooklyn Park), chair of the committee. “Minnesotans deserve a modern, responsive, and transparent state government, and that’s what our committee delivered.”

Some of the most significant investments in the committee’s bill are dedicated to expenditures necessary for the modernization and security of the state’s software and IT systems, including $12 million to the Revisor’s Office to upgrade software, $12.4 million to MNIT to improve the resilience of state technology, $10.18 million for cybersecurity, and $7.28 million to stabilize and sustain the state’s enterprise resource planning systems.

“Our State Government budget invests in modernizing technology to better serve all Minnesotans,” said Rep. Andrew Carlson (DFL-Bloomington), vice chair of the committee. “We take security seriously and this bill puts resources where they are needed most; to protect our elections and improve Minnesota’s technological infrastructure now and into the future.” 

The investments related to elections provide a $200,000 appropriation, which is required to secure an additional $1 million in federal Help America Vote Act (HAVA) election funds allocated to Minnesota by Congress this year. Other elections provisions include updates to expand the security and integrity of absentee ballots while also allowing them to be counted 14 days prior to an election rather than the current 7, and protections for election officials, who have faced unprecedented levels of threats and hostility during recent cycles. 

Other notable components in the legislation focus on government transparency and accessibility, including a ban on lobbyist social clubs and updates to campaign financial disclosures. There is also $250,000 to support accessible technology, $150,00 for enterprise language access services, and the establishment of the Office of Enterprise Translation Services to make legislative materials more accessible. 

Additional policy components of the legislation include a study of the Minnesota Statutes to determine compliance with the federal Equal Rights Amendment, adding Juneteenth as an annual state holiday, and establishing a commission to develop, design, and recommend to the legislature a new official state flag and seal. The existing flag and seal would be retired May 11, 2023.

On a party-line vote of 8-5, the bill was referred to Ways and Means. A summary of the bill can be found here, and a spreadsheet of appropriations can be found here. Video of this week’s committee hearings can be found on the House Public Information YouTube channel, and additional information is available on the committee’s webpage