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Legislation allows local officials to make changes to 'stupid mandates'

WILLMAR -- Legislation passed this year will allow local units of government to seek waivers from or changes to "stupid mandates."

State Auditor Pat Anderson was in Willmar on Monday to talk to county officials about how to apply for the waivers from administrative rules or procedural laws and how to propose reforms to specific mandates the state has placed on local governments.

The initiatives will provide ways to deal with rules that "just don't make sense" and end up frustrating local governments and costing taxpayers more money, Anderson said.

As an example, she cited a rule that requires certain family service documents to be printed on a specific weight of paper. She put that one in the "stupid mandate of the week" category.

The waivers would still require that the entity meet the goal or the outcome of the rule. So, family services would still be required to print the document but could use a different weight of paper.

Anderson will decide which waivers to approve on a caseby-case basis.

Entities can also request that specific mandates be changed by the Legislature.

This law allows all cities, counties, townships and school districts to come up with resolutions that identify potential reforms of state mandates, according to a press release from Anderson's office.

After the resolutions are passed by the local units of government, Anderson will post them on the state auditor's Web site for citizens and policy-makers to review. That will give entities the opportunity to see what others are doing and perhaps pass their own resolutions to support reform of that mandate.

If there's enough concern shown by local units of government about a specific mandate, Anderson said the issue will be brought to state legislators for possible reform. She said at least six entities will need to request reform of a certain mandate in order for it to be heard by a legislative committee.

"If local government can demonstrate that a mandate is unnecessary or especially burdensome, I pledge to bring the item to the attention of the Legislature for reform," states a letter Anderson sent to local government officials.

She said local units of government are being asked to "do more with less" in terms of budgets, and sometimes rules and mandates can get in the way of governments working cooperatively and force them to spend more money than is necessary.

Although she has not yet received requests for waivers, there have already been requests for changes to mandates. All of the requests have to do with the Help America Vote Act that requires all polling places to have assistive voting machines by Jan. 1. The machines will allow individuals with disabilities to vote independently and privately.

She said a half-dozen townships have already passed resolutions to request changes in the federal and state mandate.

Some townships do not want to be required to use the machines for their township board elections in March, when only 10 people may show up. Other townships are requesting that those with 200 or fewer registered voters be exempt from the requirement to have the special voting machines at their polling places.

Anderson predicted that once local governments learn about the options, there will be numerous requests for waivers and changes to mandates.

Carolyn Lange

A reporter for more than 30 years, Carolyn Lange covers regional news with the West Central Tribune.

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