FFM Bulletin 8/4/11

Minnesota Court of Appeals ruling forces greater transparency in school district elections

Minnesota taxpayers received welcomed news Monday from a Minnesota Court of Appeals opinion. The ruling states that school districts must follow campaign finance disclosure laws when using taxpayer funds to pass bond and tax referenda.  The opinion says:

  1. A school district, school board, and board members fall within the definition of “committee” in Minnesota Statutes, chapter 211A, and are subject to the chapter’scampaign-finance reporting requirements.
  2. A school district’s use of public funds to influence or to promote the passage of a ballot question is an expenditure not authorized by law.
  3. A school district’s expenditures of public funds to promote the passage of a ballot question are not election-related expenditures required or authorized by law and thereforeconstitute “disbursements” under Minnesota Statutes, chapter 211A. 

This issue has received significant attention over the past several years as a result of numerous lawsuits from taxpayers.  With the new ruling, Minnesota school districts will be forced to adhere a higher level of transparency and accountability when spending taxpayer dollars while seeking to exact even more taxpayer dollars from local residents.

Sunshine Review: Minnesota Falls Short of Excellence on Transparency Test

Speaking of greater transparency needed in government, at least one recent independent study showed Minnesota government doesn’t quite make the grade when it comes to disclosing vital information to the public.

According to the latest analysis from the Sunshine Review, a non-profit organization that advocates for greater state and local government transparency, Minnesota received a "B" grade on the group’s 10-point transparency checklist.  Their criteria measures the availability of certain public documents on government websites.

“Although a ‘B’ grade may surpass many other states, Minnesotans deserve excellence when it comes to something as critical as transparency,” said Michael Barnhart, president of Sunshine Review. “Minnesota voters deserve officials who will not only balance the budget in a timely fashion, but disclose vital information about everything from the quality of their children’s schools to how much they pay in taxes.”

The state website earned a B, the same letter grade awarded to certain city and school district websites.  The five largest Minnesota county websites earned an average “C” grade.

“As Minnesota rebounds from their budget crisis, they need to put a priority on making their government more transparent and accountable to the people,” Barnhart said.

Daycare unionization moving forward?

A contentious and yet largely unknown union organizing campaign thatFFM flagged in June appears to be moving forward.
According to the SEIU Local 284 website:

  • “On Saturday, August 13th 2011 family child care providers from Southern and Central Minnesota will come together to launch their union, SEIU Local 284 Kids First!  Please join us for an exciting day that will inform you, energize and challenge you to come together with other providers to create a strong voice for quality affordable child care.” 
The plot to organize the roughly 12,000 licensed home-based daycare providers, headed by SEIU and AFSCME, has been in the works for several years.  Different union representatives have gone door-to-door throughout the state, gathering signatures from daycare providers that could give them collective bargaining rights.  Our report showed that in many cases, the daycare providers thought they were signing up for more information, only to find out after they signed the union’s documents that the fine print said they were granting the union collective bargaining rights on their behalf.

“Just about everybody we have spoken to has said they were not told by signing that card they were supporting a union,” said Jennifer Parrish, a Rochester provider who’s leading opposition to the union. “The main theme seems to be people are being told they can sign up for more information or be put on a mailing list.”

After the cards are certified, some believe that Governor Dayton will be asked to sign an executive order designating AFSCME and SEIU as collective bargaining units to negotiate with the state.

MN State News this week: Debt Ceiling, regulation, and more

Minnesota State News has been busy this week covering the latest local, state, and even national government stories. See a few of our most recent articles below and continue to check  www.mnstatenews.com for new content throughout the week.

  • Minnesotans vote on the not-so perfect plan
    Minnesota's representatives were split in their decisions- four yes votes, four no votes, two of each from both parties. In the Senate, the bill passed by a vote of 74-26 with both U.S. Senators voting in favor of the legislation. Read more…
  • West St. Paul moratorium pawned for new ordinances
    The Council voted to repeal a moratorium banning new pawnshops that has been in place since last year, replacing it with new regulations governing pawnshops and, for the first time, precious metal dealers as well. Read more…

  • Minnesota’s financial status downgraded in latest report
    For the second time since the state shutdown, a major credit rating agency slapped Minnesota with some less than encouraging news. Read more…


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