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Mandate relief bill approved

Published (3/13/2009)
By Nick Busse
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With the state facing an estimated $4.6 billion budget shortfall, cities and counties are likely to face another round of cuts in local government aid. A bill working its way through the House would help them by removing some costly mandates.

HF1195, sponsored by Rep. Morrie Lanning (R-Moorhead), represents the results of a House working group on local government mandate relief. Among other changes, the bill would:

• eliminate property tax levy limits;

• impose a two-year moratorium on new maintenance of effort (MOE) requirements on local governments;

• provide a mechanism for cities and counties to reduce their library spending MOE requirements; and

• eliminate truth-in-taxation public hearings and newspaper notice requirements.

The bill would also establish a Legislative Commission on Mandate Reform to make recommendations to the Legislature on reforming or eliminating other mandates on local governments. It would expire in 2013.

The bill was approved March 9 by the House Local Government Division and March 11 by the House State and Local Government Operations Reform, Technology and Elections Committee. It now goes to the House Taxes Committee. There is no Senate companion.

At the March 11 hearing, Lanning characterized the bill as the first step in a bipartisan effort to reduce mandates that have driven up the cost of local government over the years.

Opponents, however, took issue with several provisions.

Rep. Tom Emmer (R-Delano) questioned the necessity of the proposed commission, arguing that lawmakers already have the power to lift mandates.

“I don’t know how you create more efficiency in government by creating more government,” Emmer said.

Rep. Mary Kiffmeyer (R-Big Lake) expressed concern about the proposal to eliminate truth-in-taxation hearings. She said the hearings would be even more important if the Legislature were to repeal levy limits.

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