MSBA at the Capitol — Three election bills would be game changers

Three bills that MSBA provided testimony in opposition to were heard as informational bills Thursday in the Senate Subcommittee on Elections.

The first bill was SF 1394 (authored by Sen. Jim Carlson), which would move Minnesota primary date from August to June with the hope that more Minnesotans would participate in a primary. This issue is important to school board members because it would push back our candidate filing dates in 2015 from July 28 through August 11 to April through June. Our concern is that it becomes more difficult to find highly qualified school board candidates the earlier the filing date.

Next was SF 1205 (authored by Sen. Julianne Ortman), which would move the Minnesota primary back to March. This would push our filing dates back to January-February. Sen. Ortman talked about the low turnout (10.19 percent) at the August primary. She felt that a primary in March makes Minnesota important player in presidential elections. Chair Sen. Katie Sieben reiterated that MSBA’s previous concerns.

Perhaps the biggest game changer of the three is SF 1711 (authored by Sen. Mary Kiffmeyer). This bill would require that all capital referenda be moved to the general election in November. MSBA provided compelling testimony to point out the challenges to this proposal. Here are the highlights:

  • Schools are already held to higher standard than other local governments when it comes to facilities. Cities and counties can levy for facilities needs without a vote of support from residents.
  • This bill may have the unintended consequence of requiring schools to delay starting a project until after the general election. Costs may rise due to the longer wait for approval and weather constraints.
  • The election ballot could become huge and voter fatigue could be a problem. During the November election cycle, schools would have to get through the political noise to share the attributes of these school projects. The voters could actually become less informed.

It is for these reasons MSBA opposes these bills. You will hear more from us if these proposals move forward.

About mnmsba

The Minnesota School Boards Association, a leading advocate for public education, supports, promotes and strengthens the work of public school boards.
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