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S.F. No. 1823 - Ethnic Affairs Department Creation
Author: Senator Patricia Torres Ray
Prepared By: Stephanie James, Senate Counsel (651/296-0103)
Date: March 17, 2015


 Article 1

Article 1 [Department of Ethnic Affairs] creates a Department of Ethnic Affairs, transfers the responsibilities of the Councils on Black Minnesotans, Asian-Pacific Minnesotans, and Chicano-Latino Minnesotans to the new department, and places the ombudspersons serving these communities within the new department.

Section 1 [Departments of the State] adds the Department of Ethnic Affairs to the list of departments of the state.

Section 2 [Department of Ethnic Affairs] establishes a Department of Ethnic Affairs

Subdivision 1 [Creation; purpose] describes certain purposes and responsibilities of the department.

Subd. 2 [Executive directors] specifies that the department will have six co-equal agency heads:  one executive director and one ombudsperson for families representing each of the following communities:  Black Minnesotans, Latino-Hispanic Minnesotans; and Asian-Pacific Minnesotans.  These six agency heads are appointed by the governor after considering input from commissions, established in a later section, dedicated to suggesting candidates for these positions.

Subd. 3 [Director terms] sets the terms for each of the executive directors at six years.  Permits the governor to remove a director for cause, after notice and hearing.  Provides for appointments to fill a vacancy.

Subd. 4. [Duties] establishes duties for the three executive directors as follows:

  • coordinate with state agencies and organizations that receive state funds about legislative priorities;

  • coordinate with state departments to inform communities of color about new legislative initiatives, requests for proposals, implementation of existing policies;

  • develop practical methods to inform the community about resources and opportunities;

  • gather and coordinate statistical data to propose new policy;

  • annually identify legislative priorities and report these by November 1 to the legislature, governor, and the public;

  • identify, analyze, and track legislation to determine whether it particularly affects the community that the executive director represents;

  • testify at legislative committee hearings;

  • propose legislation and amendments to legislation;

  • partner with state agencies and other organizations to disseminate demographic information;

  • strive to create networks among ethnic minorities; and

  • on topics related to children, coordinate with the ombudsperson.

Subd. 5 [Additional duty of the executive director representing Black Minnesotans] transfers an existing statutory duty of the Council on Black Minnesotans to the executive director representing Black Minnesotans in the Department of Ethnic Affairs.

Subd. 6 [Contracts and grants] permits the department to enter into contracts for goods or services and to apply for grants.

Subd. 7 [Administrative support; agency partnerships] requires the Department of Administration to provide administrative support and requires other agencies to provide advisory staff. Requires the department to cooperate and coordinate its activities with other state agencies.

Subd. 8 [Staff] permits executive directors and ombudspersons to hire staff in the unclassified service.

Subd. 9 [Preliminary policy planning report] requires each executive director to submit a planning report to the governor and the legislature by November 15, annually, that identifies issues or priority for the community, make recommendations to address the issues, and list the specific steps the department will take to partner with the executive and legislative branches to address those issues.

Subd. 10 [Session report] requires each executive director to submit a session report to the governor and legislature by February 1, annually, to identify priority issues impacting each ethnic minorities. The report must identify specific policy measures to address the issues raised, and, in the odd-numbered years, address the first ten bills introduced in each body.

Subd. 11 [Results report] requires each executive director to submit a report by September 15 of each year that summarizes the activities of the department since its last report, lists receipts and expenditure, and describes success in meeting objectives in the planning and session reports.

Section 3 [Commissions on Executive Direction Selection] establishes three commissions for recommending candidates to the governor for each of the three executive director positions in the Department of Ethnic Affairs.  This enabling legislation is patterned after the commission that makes recommendations for judicial appointments, in Minnesota Statutes, section 480B.01.

Subd. 1 [Commission established; members] establishes three commissions on executive director selection, one commission for each of the three executive director positions.  Each commission is composed of 13 members, appointed by the governor, who are from and represent the designated ethnic community.  Eight of the members are from each of the state’s congressional districts and five are at-large.

Subd. 2 [Terms; vacancies] sets the terms of commission members at one six-year term, and provides for the governor to fill any vacancy with a member from the same congressional district for the unexpired term.

Subd. 3 [Recruitment process] requires each commission to prepare and make available to the public its process and timeline for recruiting and evaluating candidates. Requires each commission to actively seek out and encourage qualified candidates.

Subd. 4 [Candidate evaluation] sets criteria for the commission to use in evaluating candidates, including experience with the legislative process, experience developing and implementing public policy, and expertise in consensus-building across the community they seek to represent.  Requires the commission to solicit, in writing, recommendations from community organizations and associations.

Subd. 5 [Commission meetings; notice; time] requires the governor to notify the commission of a vacancy, and for the commission to meet 30 to 45 days after the notice.

Subd. 6 [Notice to public] requires the chair of a commission to provide notice to the public that the executive director position is vacant, that the commission is accepting applications, and provide details for applying.

Subd. 7 [Nominees to governor] requires a commission to recommend three to five nominees for executive director to the governor within 60 days after receiving a notice of a vacancy.  The governor is not required to fill the position with a nominee recommended by the commission. (It would be unconstitutional to require the governor to fill an appointment from a list of nominees. State ex rel. Childs v. Griffen, 69 Minn. 311, 313, 72 N.W. 117, 118 (1897).)  The governor is permitted to fill a vacancy for a term with less than 60 days remaining without waiting for the commission to recommend nominees.

Subd. 8 [Commission meetings and data] makes meetings of the commission to discuss the candidates closed .

Sec. 4 [Transfer of Authority] transfers the responsibilities, unexpended funds, personnel, and property of the three existing ethnic councils to the Department of Ethnic Affairs.

Sec. 5 [First appointments] sets deadlines for the governor to appoint members to the commissions, for the commissions to make recommendations, and for the governor to appoint the first executive directors.

Sec. 6 [Repealer] repeals the enabling legislation for the Council on Black Minnesotans, the Council on Asian-Pacific Minnesotans, and the Council on Chicano-Latino Minnesotans.

Article 2 – Ombudspersons for Families

Article 2 [Ombudspersons] moves a portion of the existing Ombudsperson for Families program into the Department of Ethnic Affairs, created in Article 1.  This moves the three ombudspersons who represent Black Minnesotans, Latino-Hispanic Minnesotans, and Asian-Pacific Minnesotans. This article copies the ombudsperson program wholesale from existing law, except that it eliminates the councils that currently appoint the ombudsperson, and instead requires the governor to appoint each ombudsperson.  The duties of the ombudpersons are not changed.

Article 3 – Ombudsperson for American Indian Families

Article 3 [Ombudsperson for American Indian Families] moves the portion of existing Ombudsperson for Families program that represents American Indians into the existing Indian Affairs Council.  This article copies the ombudsperson program wholesale from existing law, except that it eliminates the council that currently appoints the ombudsperson representing American Indians, and instead requires the governor to appoint each ombudsperson.  The duties of the ombudsperson representing American Indians is unchanged.



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