Mandate relief bills approved


It’s a distinct possibility that local governments will get less aid money from the state this year. To help ease their budget pressures, lawmakers might also give them fewer mandates to carry out.

The House Government Operations and Elections Committee approved a pair of bills that would modify or repeal various mandates the state places on local units of government.

Sponsored by Rep. Steve Drazkowski (R-Mazeppa), HF7 covers everything from animal control laws to health insurance for public employees. He described it as an “abbreviated approach” to a larger effort to eliminate costly mandates.

“There appears to be … a dysfunction in which state government places all of these mandates on local units of government and then tries to compensate them with local government aid,” he said.

Selected provisions include:

  • permitting counties to use private accounting firms to do their audits;
  • eliminating requirements related to impounding and selling seized animals; and
  • removing requirements to publish certain public notices more than once.

One controversial provision would strike a requirement that local governments not reduce the aggregate benefits of public employees’ health insurance plans. Supporters say the law limits the ability for local officials to make insurance changes that could benefit employees and save taxpayer money, but opponents argue it violates collective bargaining rights.

Meanwhile, Rep. Roger Crawford (R-Mora) sponsors HF705, which includes many of the same or similar provisions as Drazkowski’s bill. In addition, it strikes certain reporting requirements for local governments.

Both bills were approved by the committee, and now go to the House Judiciary Policy and Finance Committee.

Sen. John Carlson (R-Bemidji) sponsors SF159, the companion to Drazkowski’s bill, which awaits action by the Senate Local Government and Elections Committee. Sen. Benjamin Kruse (R-Brooklyn Park) sponsors SF1260, the companion to Crawford’s bill, which awaits action by the Senate Local Government and Elections Committee.