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County offices appointed

Published (3/13/2009)
By Nick Busse
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Its become an almost perennial issue at the Legislature: whether to let counties appoint, rather than elect, certain offices.

Specifically, county auditors, treasurers and recorders could be appointed rather than elected, under the provisions of HF1278. Sponsored by Rep. Phil Sterner (DFL-Rosemount), the bill was approved March 9 by the House Local Government Division.

It would allow counties to make the positions appointed by a vote of at least 80 percent of the county board members; however, the boards would have to give public notice of the change, and residents would have 60 days to file a petition for a reverse referendum to keep the positions elected.

Supporters say many counties have trouble finding qualified candidates for the positions who are willing to run for office. They point out that numerous counties have already received permission from the Legislature to make the positions appointed.

What were really trying to do is just kind of put this issue to rest, so that future counties, if they decide to go down this route, dont have to seek special legislation; they can just go through the local process, said Joe Mathews, policy analyst for the Association of Minnesota Counties.

Opponents to the bill worry local governments would be less accountable to voters, and that it ignores differences between counties.

Im always hesitant when we take a situation and find a solution thats just kind of a blanket solution that really takes the rights away from a lot of voters, said Rep. Rob Eastlund (R-Isanti).

The bill now goes to the House State and Local Government Operations Reform, Technology and Elections Committee. Sen. Sandy Pappas (DFL-St. Paul) sponsors the companion, SF1125, which awaits action by the Senate State and Local Government Operations and Oversight Committee.

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