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Iron Range resources board could become advisory-only commission

It’s not a constitutional crisis – yet.

But the Iron Range Resources and Rehabilitation Board, as currently structured, may run afoul of the state constitution, according to a 2016 report by the Office of the Legislative Auditor.

The board, consisting of five House members and four senators, is an executive branch agency. That leaves it open to challenge under the constitution’s separation-of-powers provision as well as its ban on legislators holding a second public office, the report said. 

HF1643, sponsored by Rep. Sandy Layman (R-Cohasset), would defuse that potential problem by replacing the board with an advisory commission and moving it to the legislative branch. The bill would also make changes to the board’s budget, planning and evaluation processes.

Layman, now in her first House term, served as commissioner of the IRRRB from 2003­-11.

On Wednesday, the House Government Operations and Elections Policy Committee approved the bill as amended and sent it to the House Job Growth and Energy Affordability Policy and Finance Committee.

Senate Minority Leader Tom Bakk (DFL-Cook) sponsors the companion, SF1394, which awaits action by the Senate Jobs and Economic Growth Finance and Policy Committee.

Rep. Julie Sandstede (DFL-Hibbing), who like Layman and Bakk is a current board member, praised Layman’s bill, calling it “almost an A-to-Z change.” 

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