News Categories: General News

23 Apr
By: Steve Fenske 0

2018 Session Update Week 9

Here we go, straight, no chaser …

Transportation: The House and Senate Transportation Committees both passed their versions of supplemental transportation funding bills, HF 4160 and SF 3806. Both bills provide $2 million of supplemental funding to the Town Road Account. This is the same amount appropriated into the Town Road account last year.

Environment: The Legacy Funding Finance Committee heard HF 4167 on Monday 4/16, a bill that as drafted, requires DNR to provide notice 30 days before the date of closing of land acquisition, to counties. MAT worked with Representatives Torkelson and Fabian to offer an oral amendment to include townships in the 30-day notification requirement to the closing of the land acquisition.

Payment in Lieu of Taxes: Representative Layman and Senator Eichorn presented a new approach to the problem of non-taxable land this week. HF4412 and SF3987 would prohibit the appraised values of PILT property from dropping below the taxable value as of 2010. Currently, the PILT program holds the appraised property values at the same amount for about 5 years, but then the value is reassessed, and it often decreases, which decreases the amount of PILT paid on the property. The bill would require an additional appropriation to be effective.

Broadband: We were excited to see that both the House and Senate offered a supplemental $15 million to fund the State’s Border-to-Border Broadband program for 2019. (HF 3527 / SF 2787). The program was not funded for 2019, so this money is needed to keep the program moving forward. However, the House version of the bill was amended in committee to set-aside $750,000 of the funding for the use of satellite broadband providers. Our concern is that the program has never picked winners and losers among the different technologies. Of further concern is that the satellite providers do not have to meet the same speed goals as the other technologies and that they do not require any additional infrastructure development to deploy their technology. Instead, they must provide 25 mbps download and 3 mbps upload, but unlike all other technologies, they are not required to eventually increase their speeds to 100 down/20 up. In other words, they appear to have less potential than other technologies but have money carved-out for them in the appropriation. There is considerable disagreement about the effectiveness of satellite services, so please share your experiences on these services if you have tried them.

Annexation: The Senate Local Government committee will hear our Orderly Annexation clarification bill in an informational hearing on Tuesday, April 24. After the disappointing Court of Appeals decision concerning Midway Township, Senator Bruce Anderson quickly offered a new draft of the bill that would address the ambiguities found by the Court of Appeals. The new bill, SF 4020, is nearly identical to SF 1749. The hearing offers a chance to explain why this issue is so important to townships. MAT thanks Senator Anderson for his work and support on this issue.

Elections: Secretary of State Steve Simon has been busy, as the State of Minnesota received money from the Federal Government to update our HAVA (Help America Vote Act) system and be proactive with cyber security as authorized by the Federal Government. The State of Minnesota is required to match the Federal funding with State funding. SOS Simon came before the State Government Finance & Policy & Elections committee to ask for $1.5 million (SF3764 amendment) to be used to update those programs. That has been included in the Elections Omnibus Bill.

Contracting Law: HF 3841 passed the House Floor on Monday April 16. This bill allows the threshold for sealed bids to go from 100,000 to 175,000. The Senate will approve it with the language from the House, it is now in the Senate.

 

 

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14 Apr
By: MAT Staff 0

2018 Session Update Week 8

And we’re back … We are sorry for the delay in our Weekly Updates. We expect to return to weekly updates now that our staff has returned from our Short Courses.

Annexation – We’ve seen two developments in Annexation matters in the last few weeks. First, the Senate Local Government Committee pulled the hearing scheduled for our Orderly Annexation clarification bill, Senate File 1749. The Committee Leadership declined to move forward with the bill based on their concern the House Local Government Committee would not have heard the bill at all. It is not clear if that is the case, but we were looking forward to presenting the case for the bill, offering testimony from Midway Township officers, and passing the bill out of the Committee and to the Senate Floor. We are discussing an informational hearing on the bill and other annexation issues later this session.

Second, the dispute between Midway Township and the City of Proctor took a negative turn this week. The Minnesota Court of Appeals released its decision in the case, deciding the orderly annexation agreement between Midway and Duluth did not prevent Proctor from annexing property subject to the contract. Unless this decision is appealed to the Supreme Court or the legislature fixes the law, these agreements can no longer be relied upon when more than one city borders a township.

Because of these two developments, MAT needs town officers to contact their legislators and advocate for a legislative change, such as that offered in Senate File 1749 and House File 1995. In good news, we hear more legislators express frustration or concern with the status quo in annexation law. The more they hear your stories of annexation, the more they understand the need for reforms.

Broadband – Broadband Day on the Hill 2018 was held on Thursday 4/12/18, with another successful showing of the support for Broadband. That day, the House Job Growth and Energy Affordability Committee heard House File 3527, authored by Rep. Sandy Layman, which would provide funding to the State’s Broadband Grant Program for 2019. During our Spring Short Courses, we heard many members complaint that they know fiber optic cable is in the ground near their homes, but have not been able to access the infrastructure. Others expressed stories of frustration or success with wireless technologies. We need your stories to bring to legislators. Please write them down and send them to us and we can make sure they get into the right hands.

Transportation – There was a hearing on constitutionally dedicating the auto parts sales tax to transportation. This would be in addition to the transportation funds we already receive. The breakdown that the townships would receive is 3.25%. This passed out of the Senate committee at an 8-7 vote. We should be seeing this on the ballot this fall.

Not Net Gain/30 Year Plan – Our success in this issue has been in educating legislators and finding a surprising amount of support on the issue. We have found more support as legislators learn how much public land (non-taxable land) there is in some counties, that the remaining landowners are paying more each year to cover the losses, and that Payment in Lieu of Taxes (PILT) has not resolved the problems. There has been no movement on our No Net Gain or 30 Year Plan bills in the House or Senate this year, but we hare expected to receive an informational hearing in the upcoming weeks.

Elections – There are a few bills MAT staff have been following on elections. The House heard File 4104 this week, which would extend the mail balloting ability to towns in the Twin Cities metro area. MAT supports HF 4104 because of the greater opportunity it offers to metro-area townships that are often the same or similar size as some non-metro towns that can use mail-in balloting. Metro towns have been placed at a disadvantage in this matter merely because of their proximity to Minneapolis and St. Paul. HF 4104 resolves that problem. We have been in close contact with Secretary of State Steve Simon’s office on some new funding opportunities that have given to the state to keep our elections safe from cyber attaches.

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24 Mar
By: MAT Staff 0

Minnesota Roadway Maintenance Training and Demo Day

This one-day event, which replaced the Spring Maintenance Training Expo in 2012, focuses exclusively on education and technology exchange through classroom sessions and outdoor demonstrations. Attendees learn about the latest practices, innovations, and research related to Minnesota’s roadway maintenance operations.

Date and Location

The next event is scheduled for Thursday, May 17, 2018, at the Beltrami County Fairgrounds, 7223 Fairgrounds Rd NW, in Bemidji, MN.

Registration

Topics Covered

  • CDL updates & driving requirements
  • Cargo securement device procedures & inspection
  • Gravel road maintenance & design
  • Gravel quantity computations
  • Blading techniques & proper equipment
  • Culvert management & ditch maintenance
  • Surveying techniques & drainage
  • Gravel field surveying & assessment
  • Methods to identifying existing grades & drainage issues
  • Home-grown Minnesota equipment innovations on display

Who Should Attend

Maintenance operators, supervisors, and transportation and research implementation personnel from township, tribal, city, county, and state agencies who are seeking continued education and knowledge-building opportunities.

 

More Info: http://www.mnltap.umn.edu/training/roadway/index.html

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14 Mar
By: Ruth Simpson 0

Township Day News Stories

Three stories covered Township Day in Minnesota.

Minnesota Public Radio did a story on Township Day that featured Taylor Township in Beltrami County.

The Mankato Free Press had a story on Township Day that quoted MAT District Director Sandy Hooker from Medo Township in Blue Earth County.

The Detroit Lakes Online discusses Township Day with Roger Winter, who currently chairs the Becker County Township Association.

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13 Mar
By: Ruth Simpson 0

MPR: Mark your calendar: Tuesday is Minnesota Township Day

All of Minnesota’s nearly 1,800 townships will hold their annual meetings Tuesday in a grassroots display of democracy known as Township Day.

It’s a time for residents to voice their concerns about local issues.

“Usually the elected officers provide a budget of what they’d like to see,” said Steve Fenske, an attorney with the Minnesota Association of Townships. “And then the voters sit and talk about whether they want to provide what’s in the proposed budget or whether they want to cut back.”

The meetings often tackle topics like road maintenance, tax levies and planning and zoning. The number of townships assuming that responsibility has grown over the last decade.

“It kind of changes over time, but [that happens] usually when they get frustrated and they want to see something different,” said Fenske. “Ten to 15 years ago, there was a big push [for townships to take over planning and zoning] because there were feedlot issues. Within the last couple of years there’s been issues about solar gardens and where are they placed.”

Townships also lobby at the state Legislature. State money for roads and broadband expansion are key issues this year.

Many of the state’s townships will also hold their elections Tuesday.

Read full story.

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08 Mar
By: Steve Fenske 0

2018 Session Update Week 3

Legislative committees are in full-swing this week, finishing updates from last year but also hearing bills. District 1 town officers joined us in St. Paul for their Lobby Day on Tuesday, with a great showing of legislators to meet them.

Broadband: Representative Sandy Layman, along with a bi-partisan group of 28 co-sponsors, introduced a bill to provide $51,480,000 to the State’s Boarder-to-Border Grant Program. This amount follows the recommendations of the Governor’s Broadband Taskforce. It represents a serious attempt to provide new broadband infrastructure to rural Minnesota. The bill contains no policy changes to maintain good momentum in the Broadband grant program. We are expecting an identical bill in the Senate next week.

Transportation: In a good sign, we continue to hear talk about money in the bonding bill for local roads. The District 1 officers asked legislators why a gas tax increase couldn’t get done. The response from GOP members has been that they believe there is something else that will work better. The problem is that we rarely hear an idea of what “something else” is. There is continued talk of making the auto parts dedication permanent, but we would like to hear the other proposals to serve town needs. We also continue to hear about the problem electric vehicles will pose to the transportation funding structure, but last year the legislature began addressing the problem with a tab surcharge to makeup for the gas tax money lost to electric vehicles.

Annexation: MAT expects a hearing on our Orderly Annexation clarification bill, SF 1749, in the coming weeks. Legislators have understood our message that towns and cities need to be able to rely on annexation agreements, or they are not worth anything and we will see more contested annexation cases.

No Net Gain / 30-Year Plan: Cari continues to take meetings on these topics, and found the most opposition in the Senate, where a small number of Senators appears to oppose any limitation that could limit the growth or public hunting land. We need the help of members on this issue. In particular, we need Senators to hear your stories of public land acquisition, the problems you are having with the PILT program, and your support of either of these bills. No Net Gain bills are House File 143 and Senate File 372. The 30 Year Plan bills are HF 586 and SF 1005.

Elections: Cari attended a hearing on election equipment, hearing from Secretary of State Steve Simon on the distribution of grant funds. Secretary Simon pointed out that, as most of us know the state was founded in 1858, and that is exactly the funding amount ($1,858) that went out to each prescient in the state. Cari addressed the committee on behalf of MAT and as a Head Election Judge for Harris Township. She received great feedback from the committee members, and built on the valuable partnership we have with the Secretary of State and his office.

On a final note, Senator Andrew Mathews and Representative Sondra Erickson moved out of committee a bill authorizing town boards to contribute town funds to food shelves. The bill would place towns in the same position as cities and counties regarding this power. It is not a controversial bill and is expected to pass easily.

2018 Bill Log

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02 Mar
By: Steve Fenske 0

2018 Session Update Week 2

Legislative Session 2018 – Week 2

The 2018 Session began February 20, with the House and Senate focusing on tax conformity (matching Minnesota state taxes to the federal system), securing funding for the legislature, and sexual harassment training. Committee hearings started but were mostly reviews and updates of events since the close of the 2017 session. The biggest news since then has been the new budget projection, showing a $329 million surplus – a very healthy Minnesota economy. Legislators are already talking about supplemental budgets if the tax conformity bill doesn’t eat up the surplus. This a ‘short’ session, meaning the legislature has about a month less to work. They are less interested in hearing controversial matters because they don’t have as much committee time available. This limits our expectations for the session.

Although the legislative session began last week, MAT’s government relations team has been busy for months. Our newest member, Cari Ann Alleman, has been arranging and taking meetings with legislators in their home districts, which has offered us much more time and attention than we are able to get in St. Paul. MAT has already seen success in contacts with legislators. Our Legislative and Research (L&R) meeting was held February 20 and 21. Over those two days, L&R members met with over 50 legislators, up from 18 last year. MAT members and District Directors have also held three District/County lobby days at the capitol. Its been a great showing of town officers.

MAT’s Legislative Priorities are based on work started last year, and updates on some issues are below.

Transportation: We heard from House Capital Investment Chair Dean Urdahl yesterday that he expects funding for local roads and bridges to be included in the bonding bill. This is great news for towns because last year’s transportation bill largely left out towns. We’ve also had discussion and good feedback regarding more dedicated town road funding or grant programs that will be available for local road and bridge repairs.

Broadband: A new Senate broadband bill, SF 2787, was introduced this week to appropriate $51,480,000, from the General Fund to the State’s Border-to-Border Broadband program. A companion bill is expected from the House soon. While there is good support for broadband, there continues to be disagreement about the reliability of wireless interest solutions in rural areas. Your legislators need to hear about your experiences with wireless because right now, they are hearing that wireless can completely solve the broadband issue in rural Minnesota. We have heard differently, but legislators need your voice.

No Net Gain / 30-Year Plan: What we thought was going to be a more controversial issue has turned more positive than we expected. Legislators throughout the state are concerned with the loss of tax base to local governments, the loss of productive land, and the increasing amount of State-owned land. The opposition to the bill has come from outdoor sporting groups that want more public land for hunting. To be clear, MAT does not oppose more land available for recreation, but it cannot come at the expense of the town residents whose taxes increase whenever land becomes non-taxable. While No Net Gain would stop the bleeding, the 30-Year Plan would allow more recreation land while keeping the town whole.

As always, we need your help. Please contact your legislators about the issues that matter to you and your town. Your voice goes much farther than ours can.

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06 Feb
By: MAT Staff 0

Beware – Email Phishing Scams Sent to Towns!

MAT has received several reports of fraudulent emails asking the recipient to transfer money from the town’s account. The emails appear to be from another town officer but were not sent by the officer listed in the sender line. Town officers should verify email requests for money transfers, passwords, or other private information in-person or by phone with the alleged sender of the email, if ever faced with such a request. Remember, the information in an email, such as the person listed as the sender, can be misrepresented – just like the return address on a letter can be misrepresented.

“Phishing” is the practice of sending fraudulent emails to induce the recipient to reveal private information, like passwords, or to take an action that will harm the recipient. For more information, see Federal Trade Commission’s webpage on the subject, and the FBI’s information on computer security. Unfortunately, no amount of computer security can relieve us from remaining cautious and careful when using online resources, including emails that appear to be legitimate.

MAT’s 2018 Spring Short Course presentation for Clerks & Treasurers will also include basic information about computer and internet security.

 

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01 Feb
By: MAT Staff 0

Poison Hemlock now added to Updated 2018 Noxious Weeds List

See the commissioner’s order on this page approving NWAC’s recommendation for poison hemlock.  It is now a Prohibited Noxious Weed on the Eradicate List.  CAI’s, townships and cities make sure you let your constituents know about this change to the weed list.  State agencies should also pass this information to their field offices.  Also, remember that the 25 varieties of Japanese Barberry that were Specially Regulated are now Restricted Noxious Weeds.

Commissioner Order Noxious Weed List 2018_Signed

2018 MN Noxious Weed List Fact Sheet

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23 Jan
By: MAT Staff 0

No Town Meetings Feb. 6, 2018, after 6 pm!

February 6 is precinct caucus night in Minnesota. By law, local governments may not hold meetings on precinct caucus night after 6 pm. (Minn. Stat. 202A.19). Towns with meetings for that time may post notice of a meeting cancellation and reschedule the meeting as a special meeting if needed.

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