News Categories: Legislative

16 Nov
By: MAT Staff 0

Designate Polling Place & Return to In-Person Voting

It’s time to designate the polling location for next year! By December 31 each year, townships must designate by ordinance or resolution a polling place for each precinct.

We are aware that townships may have chosen a ‘mail in’ procedure this election year due to COVID related circumstances. However, now is an opportunity for you to consider what your  township residents would like in future elections.

As stated in MAT policy, “The Minnesota Association of Townships believes it is important for townships to continue their right and privilege to hold elections at their local polling place. In-Person voting provides an opportunity to emphasize the importance of an ’election day’ for our youth and community.”

In addition the polling place secures voter integrity in part by: providing assurance that eligible voters are filling out the ballots; the ballot will reach its destination on time; guarantees your right to vote in private and the opportunity to correct your vote if a mistake was made.

Townships interested in changing their method of election should work with the county auditor as soon as possible to ensure you enough time to accommodate the change.

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10 Nov
By: MAT Staff 0

2020 Minnesota Election Update (Nov 10)

While there are still some uncertainties, it appears that the Minnesota State Senate will remain in control of the Republicans by a one or two vote margin. The State House will remain in DFL control, but by a tighter margin as Republicans gained four to six seats. DFL Governor Tim Walz was not up for re-election. He will be up for re-election in 2022.

 With the Minnesota state races, absentee ballots will be counted for up to 7 days after the election, if they are postmarked by election day. These ballots are being added to the official vote tally, but are also being physically separated in case of a legal challenge. Because of this process, final results will not be known until November 10 or possibly later in the week. This update is provided with the caveat that things could change as additional absentee ballots are added to the results.  

 

MN Senate

Before the Election: GOP Majority, 35 to 32.

After the Election: GOP Majority is likely to remain, but with a slimmer margin of 34 to 33.

The Minnesota Senate, prior to the election, was controlled by the GOP by three votes, with a flip in two seats necessary for the DFL to take control. A lot of attention and outside money was spent on targeted senate seats.  Redistricting will take place in 2021 and the re-drawing of district maps is controlled by the legislative majority. That fact made this election especially important. Because of redistricting, the Senators are only running for two-year terms this cycle. The entire Senate will be elected again in their new districts in 2022.

The DFL won two suburban seats held by the GOP—SD44 and SD56 – and one Greater Minnesota seat – SD14. These districts were targeted as the seats most likely to flip. SD44 was held by retiring Senator Paul Anderson who was Chair of the Higher Education Committee and SD56 was held by Senator Dan Hall, the Chair of the Local Government Committee. SD14, which includes St. Cloud and surrounding communities, was held by Sen. Jerry Relph. To maintain its majority, however, the GOP beat two targeted DFL incumbents—Senator Dan Sparks (SD27) from Austin, and Senator Matt Little from Lakeville (SD58). Other closely contested Senate GOP seats were Senator Warren Limmer (SD34) in Maple Grove and in Rochester against Senators Dave Senjem (SD25) and Carla Nelson (SD26). All three seats were retained by the GOP.

Even though the election results are not final, Senate caucuses have already met and re-elected their leaders for next year. This includes Sen. Paul Gazelka as Senate Majority Leader for the Republicans and Sen. Susan Kent, Minority Leader for the Senate DFLers. With two committee chairs leaving the Senate, there will likely be some reshuffling of committee chair positions in the Senate.

 

MN House

Before the election: DFL Majority 75 to 59

After the election: DFL Majority, but by a slimmer margin ranging from (71-63) to (69-65)

The Minnesota House has been controlled by the DFL 75 seats to 59 seats. The GOP needed to flip nine net seats to take control. The DFL had hoped to add to its majority, but they did not defeat any GOP incumbents and may have lost up to six DFL seats. The possible GOP pick-ups are a combination of rural seats and a couple of metro seats. The votes continue to change as absentee ballots are counted, so these results are tentative. Here are the seats that the GOP is most likely to win:

  • District 5A Rep. John Persell (DFL—Bemidji), the Chair of the Environment & Natural Resources Policy Committee is losing to former Rep. Matt Bliss (R) by 1,382 votes.
  • District 19A Rep. Jeff Brand (DFL—St. Peter) is trailing Susan Akland (R) by 112 votes.
  • District 27B Rep. Jeanne Poppe (DFL—Austin) is being challenged by Patricia Mueller (R) in southern Minnesota. She currently trails her challenger by 450 votes.
  • District 54A Rep. Anne Claflin (DFL—South St. Paul) is losing to former Rep. Keith Franke (R) by 695 votes.
  • District 55A Rep. Brad Tabke (DFL—Shakopee) is trailing Erik Mortensen (R) by 559 votes with Legal Marijuana Now candidate receiving 1,705 votes.

In addition to these seats, Rep. Amy Wazlawik (DFL—White Bear Lake) is holding onto her seat over her challenger Elliott Engen with a 97 vote lead. And just like the Senate, the House leadership has remained the same. Both caucuses met and re-elected Rep. Melissa Hortman as Speaker, Rep. Ryan Winkler at House Majority Leader and Rep. Kurt Daudt as the Republican Minority Leader. As for the committee structure and new committee chairs, that remains to be seen. Due to COVID and the retirement or defeat of four DFL committee chairs, Speaker Hortman has hinted at condensing committees.

We will update this information as votes are finalized later this week.

In the meantime, be ready for another special legislative session this week regarding the Governor’s COVID emergency powers.

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20 Oct
By: MAT Staff 0

Minnesota Legislature Passes a Bonding Bill on Oct 15

On October 15th, 2020, the Senate passed HF1, a comprehensive bill that includes bonding projects, tax conformity and a small amount of supplemental funding for a total of $1.9 billion. It passed the Senate  by a vote of 63-3 and it passed the House on October 14th (100-34) with broad bi-partisan support. After a delay of five months and five special legislative sessions, the passage of this bill in essence concludes the business of the legislature for the rest of the year. Any additional special legislative sessions will only be to address future extensions of COVID emergency powers (or some other emergency but let’s hope not!).

As it relates to townships, there were a number of items of interest in HF1 including:

  • Flood hazard mitigation funding for Round Lake Township (Jackson County) and Sioux Valley Township (Jackson County)
  • $1 million in Shade Tree Program grants for townships as well as cities, counties and particular park boards
  • $950 thousand for an ATV “Country Trail” to go through Kabetogama Township (St. Louis County)
  • $1.5 million for an I-35E interchange in White Bear Township
  • $500 thousand to White Bear Township for pedestrian trail improvements
  • A portion of $20.5 million will go to Becker Township for water infrastructure improvements to a business park
  • $7.5 million in water distribution infrastructure improvements for Twin Lakes Township

The final piece of funding in HF1 of interest to townships includes $5 million earmarked specifically in the Local Road Improvement Program (LRIP) to help towns upgrade their roads to 10-ton capacity. While on the surface, that is a success for townships. The intention is to have these $5 million added to what townships normally receive. However, MAT is concerned that MnDOT may misinterpret this allocation.

In the past, all townships combined have received up to $12 million in LRIP funds in one year. MAT’s intention with the legislation was the $5 million would be in addition to the average annual amount given to townships. With the passage of HF1, it is possible that MnDOT will misinterpret the intent of the bill and use the $5 million mark as funding threshold. MAT staff and Fredrikson & Byron lobbyists will be working with MnDOT and key legislators to clarify the intent to make sure that townships receive an adequate amount.

If you have any questions on these provisions, don’t hesitate to contact the MAT Offices.

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12 Oct
By: MAT Staff 0

CARES Act Resources & Frequently Asked Questions

On June 25th, 2020, Governor Walz announced a plan to distribute $853 million in federal funding to Minnesota communities impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. The funding was authorized by the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. Local governments can use the funding to support services and grants to businesses, hospitals, and individuals impacted by the pandemic. The specific aid amounts for each township, based on 2018 population, can be found here.

In order to receive these funds, towns should visit the Minnesota Department of Revenue special page with more information and instructions of how to apply for the funding here. But to summarize, towns under 5,000 residents will receive $25 per resident, according to data as recent as 2018. Towns with over 200 residents will receive their funds directly from the State and should work to prevent those funds from intermingling with other township fund, examples on how to do so can be found in the CARES Act FAQ section. Towns with under 200 residents still apply for the CARES Act funds, but the county holds the funds and the town must work with the county to be reimbursed for costs covered under the CARES Act.

In general, the CARES Act assistance can only be used to cover expenses that:

  1. are necessary expenditures incurred due to the public health emergency with respect to the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID–19);
  2. were not accounted for in the budget most recently approved as of March 27, 2020 (the date of enactment of the CARES Act) for the State or government; and
  3. were incurred during the period that begins on March 1, 2020, and ends on December 30, 2020.


CARES Act FAQ:
There a several frequently asked questions that have arisen, two documents exist to aid towns in addressing these costs:

Remember that the town needs a SWIFT ID and DUNS number. If not known by the town can find out the SWIFT ID number by emailing EFTHelpline.MMB@state.mn.us. The town can apply for a DUNS or SAMS number by visiting this page, and more information can be found in the state CRF distribution training slideshow found below. To obtain a DUNS number, follow this link and then register here.

Costs Covered with the CARES Act Funds:
As towns have started to receive CARES Act funds, they have also began spending some of these funds. Below are some examples of costs that towns have covered with the CARES Act, remember that each of these have satisfied all three factors that are required by the CARES Act to spend these funds. A resolution, resolving to spend CARES Act funds can be found here.

  • Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for employees, officers, and town meeting attendees:
  • Increased Election costs, such as, increased pay for election judges, PPE, Plexiglas shields, increased number of voting booths, etc:
  • American with Disabilities Act compliant handicap accesses for different buildings, or changed access routes to aid in social distancing:
  • Automatic amenities to reduce the number of frequently touched objects, these amenities include doors, bathroom sinks, soap dispensers, hand sanitizer dispensers, toilets, etc:
  • Audio/Visual displays for meetings to help reduce need to pass paper or materials, or to comply with the Open Meeting Law:
  • Increased payroll expenses such as increased janitorial services or costs related to researching how to mitigate the spread and properly conduct the township through COVID-19:
  • Broadband infrastructure or hotspots that can be deployed this year, and was not already budgeted for as of March 27th 2020:
  • Computers or tablets for remote work and access or meeting participation:
  • Telephone or video meeting service costs:
  • Donations to food shelves or other social support programs:
  • Grant program to local businesses or individuals. Since grants are not commonly given by towns, it is strongly recommended that the town works with their private town attorney or in cooperation with the county that the town is located in, if such a program is established, in building this system:

Towns may also transfer excess funds to other local governments, a sample resolution doing so can be found here.

Help America Vote Act CARES Act Grant:
The state has also received funds specifically for elections, which was received by the Secretary of State, 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.

These funds are to be distributed by the Secretary of State through the counties, so long counties agree to a “fair, equitable, and mutually agreeable” distribution plan with the municipalities within the county. So, if the town would like to learn how to apply these funds to their election, please reach out to the county to get some clarification. More information on the HAVA Cares Act Grant can be found here.

CTAS Reporting:
The linked document contains the reporting requirements in order to report these funds on CTAS.

CARES Act Reporting:
Towns over 200 residents that receive CARES Act funds must complete periodic reports (The report form can be found here). Reports have been due 7 business days after the end of the month (e.g., August 11th and September 9th, October 9th, and November 10th). The final report is due 7 business days from November 15th (November 24th). If you received distributions prior to the end of August, you must report for August and the months prior, if you received distributions after, there is no need to complete this first report. You may review the instructions and report to the MMB and COVID-19 accountability office here.

August 25 CARES ACT Webinar: For information regarding this form, please watch/listen to the August 25th webinar found here.

ZOOM CARES Act Teleconference Calls:
On July 8th, a Zoom conference call with leaders at the MN Department of Revenue to explain the application process and answer questions.

Listen to the CARES Act Information Zoom Teleconference & Presentation Here:
Password:   8q&4m^P6
Click to view PowerPoint used in teleconference: State CRF Distribution Training

On August 4th, a second Zoom conference call with Minnesota Management and Budget experts to discuss the procedures and take questions.

Listen/View the August 4, 2020 CARES Act Information Zoom Teleconference
Password:     cv7%TNG?
Click to view PowerPoint used in Aug 4 Zoom teleconference: COVID-19 Funding Reporting Presentation (Aug 4 Call)

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16 Jun
By: MAT Staff 0

Legislative Update: Proposed Distribution for Federal COVID-19 Aid

One of the tasks facing the legislature in the Special Session is how to distribute $841 million of Federal CARES Act funding to local governments. Senate File 47 proposes a distribution model in which townships, cities, and counties receive funding for COVID-19 related operating expenses.Use of these funds are restricted to the purposes allowed by Federal law, as we described in this article.

The bill uses population as the measure of the maximum funding available to a town, allowing a township to receive up to $25 per person in the township. If it passes, the initial funding would be distributed by June 30, 2020, and claims for reimbursement could be made until September 15, 2020. The funds must be used for an eligible expense by November 15, 2020, and any unused amount must be returned to the county by November 20, 2020.

All towns would be eligible for CARES Act funding, however, only towns over 199 in population would receive a direct payment from the State for expenses. Towns with population under 200 would need to apply to the county for reimbursement of their COVID-19 related expenses. With proper documentation of expenses, the county must pay the township the amount claimed.

The bill appears to have bi-partisan support and represent a compromise between the House and Senate on the issue. The Senate passed its version of the bill on June 16, and the bill is now in committee in the House.

 

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15 Jun
By: MAT Staff 0

Coronavirus Relief Fund Frequently Asked Questions

The US Dept of the Treasury has released a Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) concerning the use of the Federal assistance provided to State and local governments through the Federal CARES Act. The CARES Act funds have been transferred to the states at this point, and now each state is in the process of distributing those funds. However, questions arose about the expenses for which CARES Act funding may be used. The FAQ attempts to describe eligible expenses and program rules.

In general, the CARES Act assistance can only be used to cover expenses that:

  1. are necessary expenditures incurred due to the public health emergency with respect to the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID–19);
  2. were not accounted for in the budget most recently approved as of March 27, 2020 (the date of enactment of the CARES Act) for the State or government; and
  3. were incurred during the period that begins on March 1, 2020, and ends on December 30, 2020.

The FAQ provides more detail about the eligible expenditures. Townships should treat CARES Act money as a restricted fund, similar to State Gas Tax funding, that can be used only for its intended purposes and never transferred to an ineligible purpose. The money cannot be used for revenue replacement, so it cannot be used to pay resident’s property tax bills or utility bills.

Coronavirus-Relief-Fund-Frequently-Asked-Questions(1)

Two of most relevant answers from that document are below:   

The Guidance says that funding can be used to meet payroll expenses for public safety, public health, health care, human services, and similar employees whose services are substantially dedicated to mitigating or responding to the COVID-19 public health emergency. How does a government determine whether payroll expenses for a given employee satisfy the “substantially dedicated” condition?

The Fund is designed to provide ready funding to address unforeseen financial needs and risks created by the COVID-19 public health emergency. For this reason, and as a matter of administrative convenience in light of the emergency nature of this program, a State, territorial, local, or Tribal government may presume that payroll costs for public health and public safety employees are payments for services substantially dedicated to mitigating or responding to the COVID-19 public health emergency, unless the chief executive (or equivalent) of the relevant government determines that specific circumstances indicate otherwise.

 

The Guidance states that the Fund may support a “broad range of uses” including payroll expenses for several classes of employees whose services are “substantially dedicated to mitigating or responding to the COVID-19 public health emergency.” What are some examples of types of covered employees?

The Guidance provides examples of broad classes of employees whose payroll expenses would be eligible expenses under the Fund. These classes of employees include public safety, public health, health care, human services, and similar employees whose services are substantially dedicated to mitigating or responding to the COVID-19 public health emergency. Payroll and benefit costs associated with public employees who could have been furloughed or otherwise laid off but who were instead repurposed to perform previously unbudgeted functions substantially dedicated to mitigating or responding to the COVID-19 public health emergency are also covered. Other eligible expenditures include payroll and benefit costs of educational support staff or faculty responsible for developing online learning capabilities necessary to continue educational instruction in response to COVID-19-related school closures. Please see the Guidance for a discussion of what is meant by an expense that was not accounted for in the budget most recently approved as of March 27, 2020.

More Information can be found at the US Dept of the Treasury’s Webpage for CARES Act support of Local Governments, here.

The maximum amount that each township is eligible to receive through direct distribution (state to township) is found here: CARES Act Fund Distribution to Townships. Townships that do not have a Distribution Amount listed are still eligible for an indirect distribution (county to township).

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