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No county office appointments

Published (4/10/2009)
By Nick Busse
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A House committee defeated a bill that would allow counties to make certain offices appointed rather than elected.

HF1278, sponsored by Rep. Phil Sterner (DFL-Rosemount), would allow counties to make the positions of auditor, recorder, treasurer and auditor-treasurer appointed. Currently, this can only be done if county voters approve a referendum to authorize the change; the bill would eliminate the referendum requirement.

Under the bills provisions, a vote of 80 percent of the county board members would be required for the change to take place, and the board would have to give public notice. Residents would have 60 days to file a petition for a reverse referendum to oppose the change.

Supporters said the practice has become more common over time, as job duties for these offices have become more specialized and complex. They point out that lawmakers have passed similar legislation many times in the past for individual counties.

Youve heard similar legislation before on a county-by-county basis. What were looking for is a uniform authority for all counties to go through an open and transparent process by which they could make these positions appointed rather than elected, said Joe Mathews, policy analyst for the Association of Minnesota Counties.

Opponents argued the change would be anti-democratic.

I just think when you are taking a voting-right away from a person changing an elected position into an appointive one that should be the people deciding on a referendum, said Rep. Paul Marquart (DFL-Dilworth).

The bill was defeated 9-7 on April 7 by members of 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 Rules and Administration Committee.

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