News Categories: General News

10 Aug
By: MAT Staff 0

Notice: Voter Assistance Law Change

Following an order from a State District Court last week, election judges are temporarily prohibited from enforcing two laws that limit how many people an individual may assist in voting. For the sake of simplicity, the current law and rule is this: Election judges should allow a voter to receive help in marking his or her ballot, or in returning an absentee ballot, from any person the voter chooses, except for the voter’s employer, an agent or employee of the voter’s employer, or an officer or agent of the voter’s union. There is no limit on the number of voters an individual may assist in marking a ballot or returning absentee ballots.

The Plaintiffs in the court case DSCC v. Simon, challenge two statutes (Minn. Stat. § 204C.15, subd. 1 and Minn. Stat. § 203B.08, subd. 1) as unconstitutional limits on voting. Because the Judge believes there is a reasonable chance of the Plaintiff’s winning the case, the Judge issued the temporary injunction concerning these two statutes. Since this case is not yet resolved, the rule could change again.

The two statutes at issue limit the number of voters an individual may assist in voting. One of the statutes, Minn. Stat. § 204C.15, subd. 1, says in relevant part, “The person who assists the voter shall, unaccompanied by an election judge, retire with that voter to a booth and mark the ballot as directed by the voter. No person who assists another voter as provided in the preceding sentence shall mark the ballots of more than three voters at one election.” This statute indicates that an individual, other than an election judge, is allowed to help up to three people in marking their ballots during an election. Election judges were and continue to be allowed to assist voters in marking their ballots upon the voter’s request.

The second statute, Minn. Stat. § 203B.08, subd. 1, says in relevant part, “An agent may deliver or mail the return envelopes of not more than three voters in any election.” This statute allowed an individual to help up to three people in marking or returning their absentee ballots in an election.

For now, election judges should not apply the prohibitions described above. There are other rules in both statutes that remain in effect – the injunction affects only small parts of the statutes.

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10 Aug
By: MAT Staff 0

Free MPCA Smart Salting Online Certification Trainings

Sign up now!

All MPCA Smart Salting Certification Trainings are now available online. All online trainings are open to anyone, providing more access to the different types of trainings that best fit your work. You may find it advantageous to sign up for one hosted by a local organization near you, providing the chance to connect to local partners, advocates and businesses.

Does training really make a difference?  Yes, it does! In Dakota County, the MPCA and its partners tracked effectiveness of Smart Salting training through two winters. Fourteen months after the county’s snow plow drivers took the course, the evaluation showed measurable improvements. In the first season after the training, the county used 14,175 tons of salt for 35 snow events (average: 405 tons per event). In the next season, the county used 9,585 tons of salt for 27 events (average: 355 tons per event).

All participants must pass the online test to get certified. Certificates are sent electronically. Sign up below for Smart Salting trainings that meet your needs: Parking Lots & Sidewalks, Property Management, Roads, or Turfgrass Maintenance Certifications, or visit the MPCA Smart Salting training calendar for specifics. General questions can be directed to smartsalting.pca@state.mn.us.

MPCA Smart Salting for Parking Lots & Sidewalks

Audience: For those who maintain or contract with private or public professionals that manage parking lots, walkways, sidewalks, service roads and more.

August 14 – Hosted by City of Plymouth. Register here.

August 20 – Hosted by Rice Creek Watershed District. Register here.

August 26 – Hosted by Koochiching Soil & Water Conservation District. Email host to register.

August 27 – Hosted by City of Rochester. Email host to register.

September 2 – Hosted by Nine Mile Creek Watershed. Register here.

September 15 – Hosted by Mississippi Watershed Management Organization. Register here.

September 16 – Hosted by City of Hutchinson. Email host to register.

MPCA Smart Salting for Property Management

Audience: For those who manage properties, influence winter maintenance activities or want high-level information to make more informed decisions

August 26 – Hosted by City of Rochester. Email host to register.

August 28 – Hosted by Crow Wing Soil & Water Conservation District. Email host to register.

MPCA Smart Salting for Roads

Audience: For those who maintain high and low speed roads

August 13 – Hosted by Anoka Conservation District. Register here.

August 18 – Hosted City of Bloomington. Email host to register.

August 19 – Hosted by Stearns County Soil & Water Conservation District. Email host to register.

August 25 – Hosted by Koochiching Soil & Water Conservation District. Email host to register.

August 27 – Hosted by Crow Wing Soil & Water Conservation District. Email host to register.

August 31 – Hosted by City of Cloquet. Email host to register.

August 31 – Hosted by Dakota County and Vermillion River Watershed. Email host to register.

MPCA Turfgrass Maintenance Certification

Audience: Winter maintenance professionals are also often in charge of maintaining turfgrass and other landscape plants, another source of chloride pollution.

August 13 – Hosted by Rice Creek Watershed District. Email host to register.

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03 Aug
By: MAT Staff 0

Guidance on MN Driver’s Licenses & Identification Cards

As the primary election nears, I want to provide you with information regarding the expiration dates of Minnesota driver’s licenses and identification cards. The Minnesota legislature extended the expiration dates of driver’s licenses and identification cards in response to the peacetime emergency.

Effective March 29, the expiration date for driver’s licenses and identification cards that expire during the peacetime public health emergency or anytime in the month the emergency ends are extended. The expiration dates are extended two months after the month the peacetime emergency ends. Because the current peacetime emergency ends on Aug. 12, credentials that expire between March 13, and Aug. 31, are valid until Oct. 31.

Memo to the SOS about DL and ID extensions

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03 Aug
By: MAT Staff 0

Fall Nitrogen Fertilizer Restrictions begin September 1, 2020

MDA is providing this as a reminder that the fall nitrogen fertilizer restrictions begin September 1, 2020 as part of the Groundwater Protection Rule. Below are resources to help explain where the restrictions apply and the exceptions to the rule. Please let me know if you have any questions and feel free to share this message with your staff or local contacts.

Where does the restriction apply?
The application of nitrogen fertilizer in the fall and on frozen soil will be restricted in areas vulnerable to groundwater contamination. This will also apply to Drinking Water Supply Management Areas (DWSMAs) with elevated nitrate levels. Vulnerable groundwater areas include coarse textured soils, karst geology, and shallow bedrock. Approximately 12 to 13 percent of Minnesota’s cropland is vulnerable to groundwater contamination. View a map showing the vulnerable groundwater areas as well as a list of exceptions to the restrictions.

Prerecorded Presentation or Live Webinar
We’ve prepared a presentation to explain the purpose of the Groundwater Protection Rule, where the nitrogen fertilizer restrictions apply, and the exceptions to the rule. View the prerecorded presentation or join us for a live webinar through WebEx on August 12, 2020 from 10:00 to 11:00. The video and webinar details are available online.

Thanks in advance for your help to share this information and please don’t hesitate to reach out for more information.

Note that several counties are not subject to the Groundwater Protection Rule.  These are:

Climate Exclusion Less than 3% cropland exclusion
Beltrami Cook
Clay Itasca
Clearwater Koochiching
Kittson Lake
Lake of the Woods Ramsey
Mahnomen St. Louis
Marshall  
Norman  
Pennington  
Polk  
Red Lake  
Roseau  
Wilkin (only 1/2 the county)  
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28 Jul
By: MAT Staff 0

Border to Border Broadband Grant Applications

The Office of Broadband Development (OBD) is soliciting applications for Border to Border Broadband grant funding of broadband infrastructure projects.

Submission Deadlines and Requirements

The deadline for the applications is 4:00 p.m. on Wednesday, September 30, 2020.

Application proposals must be mailed to:
Office of Broadband Development
MN Department of Employment and Economic Development
First National Bank Building
332 Minnesota Street, Suite E200
St. Paul, MN 55101-1351

No paper copies of the application are required for this grant round.  Application submittals must be via electronic documents in Microsoft Word and PDF formats on a USB drive. Applications must be received by the deadline to be considered for funding.

Contact Information

For questions regarding this application process, please contact OBD Staff at 651-259-7610 or deed.broadband@state.mn.us

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28 Jul
By: MAT Staff 0

Minnesotans Receive Mystery Seeds Possibly from China

Recipients of seed packages should contact the MDA

St. Paul, MN: The Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA) has been receiving reports of residents receiving unsolicited packages of seeds appearing to come from China. Officials in other states, including Louisiana, Utah, Virginia, and Washington, have reported similar situations. Any Minnesotan receiving a package of seeds they did not order should not plant the seeds and contact the MDA.

“We’re uncertain what these seeds may be and why people are receiving these unsolicited packages,” said Denise Thiede, MDA’s Seed Unit Supervisor. “Until we know more, we encourage people to contact us because of the risk they may pose to Minnesota agriculture and our natural landscapes.”

Minnesotans should do the following if they have received unsolicited packages of seeds.

  • Do not throw away the package or its contents.
  • Do not plant the seeds.
  • Contact Arrest the Pest line at 1-888-545-6684 or arrest.the.pest@state.mn.us and provide your name, contact information, and the date the package was received.

Officials will coordinate shipping the packaging and contents to the MDA Seed Program.

The MDA is working with the United States Department of Agriculture’s Smuggling Interdiction and Trade Compliance Program on identification and destruction of the seeds.

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22 Jul
By: MAT Staff 0

Statewide Indoor/Public Mask Mandate begins 7/25

Beginning July 25, 2020, all Minnesotans are to wear facemasks while in public places, businesses, and working outdoors where social distancing cannot be maintained. These rules apply unless the person is alone or an exception applies. This is directed by Executive Order 20-81, being called the Mask Up Minnesota order, signed on July 22, 2020 by Governor Walz.  The Order will remain effective until it is revoked by the Governor or the state public health emergency expires.

General Rule: The Executive Order directs that a mask must always be worn unless a person falls under an exemption. Exemptions likely to apply for townships include:

  • Working outdoors: If a person is working outdoors, a mask is not required if social distancing can be maintained.
  • Open meetings: A mask may be temporarily removed while speaking at an open meeting. However, when not speaking or presenting, the mask must be worn.
  • Working in-person, at the town hall: Masks are not required if working at the town hall, you have an office or a cubicle and able to maintain social distancing. However, once you leave your office/cubicle, you would have to put on your mask.
  • Children: Children under 5 years of age are not required to wear masks.
  • In your own home: Masks are not required.
  • Communication with those with Disabilities: if needed or helpful to a person with a communication disability, a person may remove his or her mask to communicate with that person.

Types of Facemasks: Facemasks can be paper, whether disposable or reusable, or cloth. Neck gaiters, scarfs, bandanas, or religious-related face coverings are acceptable. N-95 grade masks are not required and generally it is recommended that N-95 compliant masks should be reserved for use by hospitals, first responders, and others working in high-risk environments.

Penalty: If an individual breaks Mask Up Minnesota, they can be liable for a petty misdemeanor, which is a $100 fine. If a business owner, manager, or supervisor violated the Order, the person or persons could be liable for the full force of a misdemeanor, which includes a $1,000 fine and 90 days in jail. The Executive Order also allows the Attorney General to pursue a $25,000 civil. For local governments, this order may consider town supervisors as business owners, managers, or supervisors, so a supervisor should follow these guidelines.

 

Some Questions Likely to Arise from this Order:

Can Towns hold in-person meetings? Yes, townships may hold in-person meetings, but given the difficulties of holding in-person meetings wearing masks and of enforcing the mask mandate, MAT strongly recommends town adopt or return to telephonic meetings.

Can a town hold an outdoor meeting to avoid wearing masks? Possibly, if those at the meeting could maintain minimum social distancing among all those present. However, the more practical problem is in ensuring all people attending the meeting can hear and be heard over a large and open area. Likewise, masks will almost certainly be needed for any part of a meeting in which a person needs to interact with another person at the meeting, such as while getting the public packet of materials.

Are towns exempt from the mask mandate? No, there is no municipal or township exception to this Order so all township officers, employees, and members of the public must abide by the order during any township business or use of town property. There is only a limited exception for public meetings, and that exception allows a person to remove a mask only while speaking to the board.

What is MAT’s recommendation right now? Given these restrictions and the likely difficulties of enforcing mask requirements at any public place, MAT strongly recommends all townships hold telephonic meetings. Town officers and employees may continue to perform their duties, subject to the requirements they wear masks and maintain social distance. Remember towns that need help starting or holding telephone meetings may contact MAT for assistance and that the cost of such service may be reimbursable by CARES Act funds.

How should the town respond to individuals who refuse to wear a mask?  Since the township board controls both its property and the town’s employees, the board has a duty to enforce this order on town property and among the town’s employees and officers. Employees should be directed that a mask is required, subject to the few exceptions described here and in the Executive Order. The board should require that all town officers abide by the order or refrain from entering town property. If town property or buildings are to remain open to the public, the board must inform the public of the mask rule and direct that officers and employees ask those entering the building to wear a mask or leave the building. Unfortunately, towns may need the help of law enforcement if a person refuses to wear a mask and refuses to leave town property after being directed to leave.

Does the town need to enforce the mask mandate on business and people in the township? No, and the township should not be acting as an enforcement agency unless the town has a law enforcement department. Towns should report concerns about individuals or businesses to the county sheriff for enforcement.

Are facemasks effective in reducing the spread of COVID-19? Public health organizations, (including Mn Dept. of Health, World Health Org., and Centers for Disease Control), as well as federal agencies (Occupational Safety and Health Agency (OSHA), and the US Dept. of Defense) have recommend or required wearing of masks as an effective means of reducing the spread of disease for several months. As MAT is not a medical provider or have any expertise in this area, we take the findings and recommendations of those organizations who are experts in this field. Regardless of any individual’s beliefs on the effectiveness of masks, the Executive Order requires the use of masks and cites the findings of health professionals in support of its requirements.

Can the town provide masks to the public? Yes, the town can provide masks to those entering town buildings as a courtesy and attempt to allow those without a mask to remain in the building to conduct their business.

Should the town provide masks to employees and officers? Yes, the town should provide masks or any other necessary personal protective equipment to employees and officers who will be entering town property with any expectation that they will interact with other people. This should include election judges for the upcoming statewide primary election and general election.

Can the town use CARES Act funds for expenses related to carrying out this mask mandate? Yes, many expenses towns encounter as part of their COVID-19 response are likely eligible for reimbursement by the Federal CARES Act funding. For more information on the CARES Act, please refer to MAT’s resources on that topic.

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20 Jul
By: MAT Staff 0

SeminarWeb Courses

Due to COVID-19 and the uncertainty it brings regarding in-person meetings, MAT has been working on providing remote trainings and presentations. For the past several months, MAT has been building a course catalogue for town officers to access. Some of these courses include:

  • MAT New Officer Training, Parts 1 – 3;
  • Managing Trees in the Right-of-Way;
  • Frequently Asked Questions About Township Elections;
  • 2020 Head Election Judge Training;
  • Clerks: Postings, Publishing and Meetings;
  • Clerk Basics – Statutory Duties; and
  • Treasurers: Election Judge Payroll.

All SeminarWeb classes can be found HERE or at the top of our website in the BLUE BAR (click on SeminarWeb).

Please Note: Some of the Courses are “live courses” meaning that you would be watching a live presentation of the course and able to ask questions throughout the presentation. For “self-paced courses” you can watch the seminar at your own pace, for instance you can rewind and re-watch sections.

If you have any questions on how to register for SeminarWeb, please look at Document Number GI4000, which can be found here.

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08 Jul
By: MAT Staff 0

Help America Vote Act CARES Act Grants

What is the Help America Vote Act CARES Act Grant?

When passed, the CARES Act included $400 million in new Help America Vote Act (HAVA) emergency funds. These HAVA funds are distributed to the states by the Elections Administration Commission (EAC) after a secretary of state has applied for these funds. 

Two primary qualifications must be met for a State to utilize these funds. First, distributions made to states include a 20% matching requirement by a State receiving the funds, which means that a State, receiving these funds must also spend 20% of the HAVA money used to secure the HAVA Grant. Second, HAVA requires ‘projects’ to exist for at least two years to receive the funds. However, the CARES act requires all money to be used or planned to be used by the end of 2020. To solve this potential contradiction, the extra money from HAVA is only used for the 2020 elections, and the subsequent care of materials, such as ballots.

How does a Town receive this Grant?

The EAC provides the money to the states through their secretary of state’s office, so long as they apply for them. For Minnesota specifically, the Minnesota Secretary of State’s office provides the money to Minnesota municipalities through the counties. The counties and jurisdictions within each county must come to a “fair, equitable, and mutually agreeable” agreement. If not able to agree, the Secretary of State’s office will provide the money using their formula.

If the town has any questions on how to acquire the money for the upcoming elections, it would be best to first work with the county, and then contact the Secretary of State’s office if the county is unable to provide the answers.

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07 Jul
By: MAT Staff 0

Grade Crossing Safety Program – Section 130 Funding

From the Department of Transportation, Office of Freight and Commercial Vehicle Operations:

In our continuing efforts to involve local road authorities in improving railroad-highway grade crossing safety, MnDOT’s Office of Freight and Commercial Vehicle Operations (OFCVO), Railroad Safety and Coordination Unit is requesting local participation in funding railroad crossing projects. Up to $4,500,000 is available for state fiscal year 2023 (July 1, 2022 – June 30, 2023) for railroad crossing projects.

Please read the full PDF for more information on this program.

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