State Government

State Government Omnibus Budget Bill

The departments ofRevenue, MMB, MN.IT, and Admin were spared operating budgets as proposed by the Senate. Most state agencies and boards are provided their requested operating budget increases to continue to provide the high-quality services Minnesotans expect from their government. However, the Historical Society is only provided just over half of its operating budget request and the Board of Cosmetology is not provided an operating increase. (SF 2)

Notable items in SF 2 include:

Governor’s emergency powers ended

The House, Senate, and Governor Walz agreed to end the emergency powers declared last March due to the COVID -19 pandemic on July 1. Gov. Walz issued numerous executive orders based on this declaration to help protect Minnesotans, streamline the distribution of PPE, procure testing and vaccinations for Minnesotans, and facilitate federal benefits. Several executive orders were extended until August 1. (See the tax bill for more info, HF 9)

Market Bucks Program

$650,000 more for the biennium is appropriated to the Minnesota Humanities Center for the Market Bucks Program. Market Bucks, also known as the Healthy Eating Here at Home Program, incentivizes low-income Minnesotans to use federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits for healthy purchases at local farmers’ markets.

Absentee ballots drop boxes

The bill defines drop boxes for absentee ballots and requires drop boxes to be securely fastened to a building, remain under continuous surveillance during elections, and requires ballots to be collected at least once per day during the absentee voting period. Local officials must provide a list of drop box locations to the Secretary of State and must be published on their website. The new language will also prohibit electioneering within 100 feet of a drop box.

Safe at Home Program expanded

The Safe at Home program allows survivors of domestic abuse to benefit from an anonymous and unlisted P.O. Box free of charge to prevent abusers from locating survivors. The Secretary of State manages the program and has testified that demand for the program has grown.

Department of Revenue VITA funds

Expands the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program administered by the Department of Revenue that assists low-income residents with tax preparation and other financial services.

Pensions Omnibus Budget Bill

The omnibus pension bill is mostly comprised of administrative and technical provisions. It extends a grandfather provision for more favorable annuity calculations for Minnesota State Retirement System (MSRS) Unclassified legislative employees, includes special legislation for one individual formerly employed by the St. Peter Hospital, extends the timeline for purchasing service credit for periods of military service leave, and removes an exclusion of certain US visa holders who are eligible for MSRS plan coverage but who are currently excluded for their first three years of employment, counter to federal law.

Three plan funding changes include a reduction in COLAs (cost of living adjustments) for the MSRS Judges Plan to conform with other plans, the removal of a Judges Plan COLA trigger because other COLA triggers have been removed, and delays by one year a .25% increase in employee contributions for St. Paul Teachers Retirement Fund Association members. A 911 telecommunicators working group is established to consider compensation and benefit parity among first responders and another State Auditor working group to study fire relief associations is established. (SF 1712)

Lottery winner names kept private

A bill was signed into law to expand privacy protections for Minnesota Lottery winners. Prior to the passage of this law, the addresses and phone numbers of winners were private data, but their names could be used for promotional purposes at the Lottery. Proponents argue this legislation helps protect winners’ identities from exploitation, especially in the event of larger payouts. (SF 151)

Voter ID

Senate Republicans failed to impose a controversial voter suppression bill that would have reduced turnout in Minnesota elections by tens of thousands of voters. The proposal required all voters to possess either a driver’s license, Minnesota identification card, or voter identification card in order to vote.

Minnesotans rejected onerous voter ID restrictions in 2012 by voting down a Republican-supported constitutional amendment, with 52% of Minnesotans voting against the proposal. Voter ID is predicated on the same unsubstantiated and dangerous claims of voter fraud that led to the January 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, which left five people dead.

Minnesota prides itself on consistently having the highest rate of voter turnout in the nation. This proposal would have put that distinction in jeopardy and would have disenfranchised many voters. Voter ID laws have also been found to disproportionately disenfranchise minorities because voters of color are less likely to possess a photo ID and the required documents to obtain an ID.

Burdensome voter ID laws across the country are a solution in search of a problem and a cynical attempt by Republicans to suppress voter turnout. The Senate DFL was successful in rejecting these efforts to undermine the right to vote and will continue to fight to increase access to the polls. (SF 173)

Other controversial Republican-proposed election bills not passed:

  • Creating a second-class system of provisional and challenged voter ballots to weaponize the ability for anyone to challenge the eligibility of a voter and keep their vote from counting. This language will effectively abolish same day voter registration as we know it. (SF 1422)
  • Allowing red congressional districts to send their presidential electors to a Republican presidential candidate regardless of the statewide presidential ballot tally. (SF 429)
  • Restricting early voting locations by prohibiting mobile polling locations and making it less convenient to vote before election day. (SF 651)
  • Making private data on volunteer election judges public for political parties to use for partisan and electioneering purposes. (SF 652)
  • Eliminating the ability for local governments and citizens to choose whether to implement ranked choice voting and repeal RCV for the cities that have already adopted it. (SF 708)
  • Appropriating additional taxpayer dollars to legislative candidates whose opponents opt to spend additional private funds over optional campaign spending limits. (SF 1907)

Redistricting legislation

Redistricting legislation to redraw district boundaries based on population information provided through the 2020 Census did not pass this legislative session. The Minnesota constitution provides the Legislature with the authority to draw congressional and legislative districts, but it has been the courts who have historical drawn them due to an inability to pass a bipartisan agreement. The Legislature likely has until February of 2021 to come to a deal on new district boundaries before the courts step in again.

Controversial State Government policy bills

  • Arbitrarily reduce state agency and public college budget assumptions by 5%. (SF 3)
  • Restrict the ability of the governor to continue peacetime emergencies by giving each body of the Legislature veto power. (SF 4)
  • Prevent state agencies from using federal COVID-19 funds by requiring approval by the Legislature. (SF 8)
  • Prohibit licensing agencies from enforcing executive orders related to business violations of COVID-19 safety and sanitation protocols. (SF 213)
  • Privatize the administration of road exams for driver’s licenses and creating a system rife with conflicts of interest. (SF 276)
  • Restrict the ability for state agencies to respond to the needs of Minnesotans by tying state employment numbers to the overall population of the state. (SF 299)
  • Punish state agencies that are unable to hire difficult-to-fill positions because of a lack of qualified candidates by reducing the appropriation to the agency by a corresponding amount. (SF 411)
  • Lay off one public employee at the Board of Cosmetology by transferring all of the duties of the board to the Department of Health except that one position. (SF 691)
  • Upend the rulemaking process for state agencies, which would bring regulations across all of state government that keep Minnesotans safe to a standstill. (SF 714)
  • Prevent the administrative expertise at state agencies to make final determinations on rules. (SF 993)
  • Create ambiguity in the ability of elected officials to speak in favor of or opposition to ballot questions (SF 995)
  • Restrict the ability of the state to negotiate in good faith with public employee unions by allowing the Legislature to restrict negotiations to the parameters of appropriations the Legislature sets. (SF 1256)
  • Prevent the ability of state agencies to use federal funds by giving the Legislative Advisory Commission the ability to hold up the money, which is typically accompanied with extensive requirements from the federal government. (SF 1564)
  • Allow either body of the Legislature to circumvent the legal representation of the state by the Attorney General, which would result in competing legislative claims in court at extensive additional costs to taxpayers. (SF 1688)
  • Require the state to sell a building currently used to store PPE and other COVID-19 related supplies. (SF 1836)
  • Require the state to replace the Christopher Columbus statue at a cost to taxpayers of over $100,000. (SF 1913)