Press "Enter" to skip to content

Bills Overlap Initiatives: Mickelson Money Ban, Redistricting, Vote-by-Mail, Kinda-Open Primary

The glut of bills in the hopper include some measures closely connected to initiated measures that have either made the ballot or may still make it this year:

As a back-up plan to G. Mark Mickelson’s unconstitutional out-of-state money ban (IM 24), Rep. Spencer Gosch (R-23/Glenham) resurrects a bill he floated last year to limit out-of-state money in ballot question campaigns. House Bill 1216 would cap contributions to ballot question committees from out-of-state individuals, political committees, and entities at $100K per election cycle. That’s better worded and more workable than the sloppy 75%-limit he proposed last year, but Gosch is still cruising for a First Amendment bruising by trying to subject Minnesotans to speech limits that South Dakotans need not observe.

House Joint Resolution 1009 and House Bill 1218 both seek to put legislative redistricting in the hands of an independent commission. HJR 1009 skips the detail of Chuck Parkinson’s pending independent redistricting measure and simply places on our ballot a constitutional amendment calling for an independent redistricting commission. HJR 1009 would leave details to the Legislature. HB 1218 adopts Parkinson’s details in law: board with nine members, no more than three from any one party, no elected officials; map drawn by Constitution, population, geography, and no consideration of party registration, voting history, or candidates’ addresses. Both measures are sponsored by the Democratic caucus (sans Rep. Bordeaux, the ailing Rep. Soli, and the campaign-bound-and-gagged Sen. Sutton); both are thus unlikely to see daylight.

House Bill 1237 takes an early shot at implementing Rick Weiland’s pending  vote-by-mail initiative. Like the identical initiative, HB 1237 would allow counties to conduct all elections entirely by mail. Election chiefs would send out ballots three weeks before the election. Every county would have to establish at least two secure and accessible ballot drops, with an additional drop site for each 5,000 in population above 15,000 (Lake County: two drops; Brown: six; Minnehaha: 35).

House Bill 1305 doesn’t support the full open, top-two primary concept advanced by Joe Kirby and De Knudson in their pending initiative petition, but it does open the primaries to more non-partisan participation. HB 1305 would create a new line on the voter registration form on which individuals marking declaring themselves “independent” or “no party affiliation” could indicate which party’s primary they want to vote in. That’s still far from full openness: indies still have to fill out a form at least fifteen days before the primary to participate rather than simply walking on primary day and asking for the ballot that strikes their fancy, registered party members have to change their registration to cross party lines in the primary, and everybody still has to pick just one party primary ballot instead of being able to have a say, as the Kirby/Kundson proposal envisions, in a hot Republican gubernatorial primary and a tight Democratic legislative primary at the same time. But HB 1305 would at least put the decision to participate in primaries entirely in the hands of the voter rather than parties, which currently can say yea (as Dems do) or nay (as ‘Pubs do) to independent participation in their primaries.

HB 1305 has an odd mix of right-wing extremists (Dennert, DiSanto, Latterell), GOP mainstreamers (Lust, Mickelson), and one Democrat (Frerichs!). I’ll speculate that Republicans will see indie participation in their primaries as a weakening of their party’s autonomy. Republicans don’t really believe in expanding voting rights, so they’ll vote this measure down.

Out of all of these initiative-overlapping measures, only vote-by-mail HB 1237 would make its initiative counterpart redundant. Passage of Gosch’s HB 1216 wouldn’t moot Mickelson’s effort to ban out-of-state money entirely from ballot question campaigns. HJR 1009 would compete with Parkinson’s redistricting amendment on the ballot; Parkinson and friends could continue their campaign, saying his amendment is stronger that HJR 1009 and HB 1218, both of which would still allow legislators to rig the redistricting commission.  HB 1305 would leave Kirby and Knudson free to argue that we should open the primaries completely and let everyone vote on the same slate of candidates in the primary.


  1. Doug Kronaizl 2018-02-02 11:09

    Interestingly enough, this year also saw the introduction of SB10, which addresses conflicting measures. While it is clear regarding protocol for competition initiatives on the same ballot, SB10 does not indicate what course of action should be taken if an initiative and referred law compete.

    What would happen if any of these repeats were passed and referred so that they appear on the same ballot as theur initiative counterpart.

  2. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2018-02-02 12:42

    Good point about that I/R gap in SB 10, Doug! Has anyone brought that gap to the sponsors’ or committees’ attention?

  3. Doug Kronaizl 2018-02-02 13:52

    Not to my knowledge! It didn’t really seem necessary until a number of these later bills hit the hopper!

  4. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2018-02-03 07:53

    Looks like SB 10 goes to House State Affairs next. Time to contact some legislators!

Comments are closed.