The frenzy surrounding the arrival of the first committee deadline at the Capitolâ€”which was last Friday, March 20â€”has now passed, but the second committee deadline is already this coming Friday. So the pace in St. Paul remains fairly hectic.
MNAâ€™s main legislative focus continues to be on a few key bills that are of broad importance to our members, including ones that would clarify where mortgage foreclosure notices should be published, and that would restore publication of unclaimed property notices covering property held by the state. As always, we are working on a variety of public access issues as well.
Mortgage Foreclosure Notice Publication.
The bill (SF 1147/HF 953) that would add a provision to state foreclosure law specifying where foreclosure notices should be published surmounted two important hurdles last week. On Thursday evening, the measure was approved by the House Civil Law Committee, and on Friday, the Senate Judiciary Committee endorsed the bill. As a result, the legislation has met both the first and second committee deadlines and now moves on to the floor of both bodies for final action. The bill provoked little discussion and no controversy in either the House or Senate committees. We want to again sincerely thank the chief authors for their efforts on this bill, Rep. Tim Oâ€™Driscoll (R-Sartell) in the House, and Sen. Ron Latz (DFL-St. Louis Park) in the Senate.
Unclaimed Property Notices.
Legislation that would restore some publication of notices containing the names of those who have unclaimed property held by the state was heard and approved last week in the House Commerce Committee, and it therefore met the first committee deadline as well. The bill is SF 1645/HF 1693; chief authors are Sen. Jim Metzen (DFL-South St. Paul) and Rep. Joe Atkins (DFL-Inver Grove Heights). The Senate version of the bill is scheduled to be heard in the Senate Commerce Committee on Wednesday of this week.
Other Public Notice Bills
. At this juncture, it does not appear that any other bills seriously affecting the publication of public notices will be considered this session. However, there is no certainty until the session adjourns in May, so something could still happen, with several weeks remaining in the 2015 session.
Freedom of Information Issues.
Over the past several days, MNAâ€™s legislative representatives have also been actively engaged with a number of bills that could affect access to records and open meetings.
Body Camera Data
. Among the bills is legislation that would address the treatment of audio and video data collected by body cameras used by law enforcement agencies. The more this topic has been debated during the session, the more its complexity has been revealed. As a result, MNA currently takes the view that no legislation comprehensively dealing with the classification of body camera data should be attempted this year because the chances are too high that the topic isnâ€™t fully understood yet.
The current Senate version of the billâ€”SF 498â€”would impose a broad private data classification covering most body camera data. MNAâ€™s has testified against this approach, but our concerns havenâ€™t obtained much evident traction in the Senate yet, as a number of strong interests favor extensive privacy protections, including groups representing law enforcement officers. However, in the House, the bill (HF 430) hasnâ€™t received a hearing and probably wonâ€™t by the second deadline at the end of this week. That doesnâ€™t mean the bill is dead for the session, though its prospects for passage would be reduced if it isnâ€™t heard.
Addresses on Birth Certificates
. Another open records issue that just popped up last Friday during a hearing on SF 1818 is contained in an amendment adopted by the Judiciary Committee that would prohibit public access to the home addresses and certain other information about the parents of newborns shown on birth certificates. Birth certificates have always been publically accessible, but the proponents of the amendment contend that access to the home addresses in particular is being used for improper purposes. MNAâ€™s legislative representatives are attempting to determine if this particular restriction on access could pose a problem for journalists.
Public Employee Relations Board
. One other issue that has percolated over the last few days involves a new public body created last year by the Legislature, called the Public Employee Relations Board, or PERB. Its purpose is to deal with labor relations disputes involving public employee unions. PERB is now pursuing legislation that would exempt the board from the Open Meeting Law when addressing certain narrow issues unique to the boardâ€™s jurisdiction. MNA has some concerns about the proposal, and is working with PERB representatives in an effort to strike a compromise on the proposed restrictions. The bill is SF 1794/HF 1918.
The full spectrum of legislative issues that MNA is working on this year can be found on the MNA legislative bill tracking list, which is available at MNAâ€™s website. It summarizes the nature of each bill, and also provides the bill numbers, chief authors, and status in the House and Senate.
If you do have any comments, questions, or suggestions about any bill of interest to MNA and its membersâ€”especially those involving mortgage foreclosure notice publication and birth certificate access as described aboveâ€”please let us know. Only with your regular input can we be fully confident that we are best advancing the interests of our members.
Download the current Legislative Bill Status Report