Dems seek to free security funds

ST. PAUL (AP) — Minnesota House Democrats launched an attempt Thursday to prevent Republicans from blocking Secretary of State Steve Simon from spending $7.4 million in federal election security money, aiming to head off a repeat of partisan maneuvering from last year.

Rep. Mike Freiberg of Golden Valley told a state government finance committee that Minnesota is one of only a handful of states that requires the Legislature to sign off before elections officials can use federal money provided under the Help America Vote Act. His bill would eliminate the need for legislative approval.

The latest round of federal funding was assigned in December. The federal government allocated Minnesota $6.6 million in the previous round in 2018 after Minnesota and other states’ election systems were targeted by foreign hackers in 2016. The Democratic-controlled House authorized spending it by a wide bipartisan margin last year.

But GOP Sen. Mary Kiffmeyer, of Big Lake, a former secretary of state who chairs a key election committee, was blamed for stalling approval in the Republican-controlled Senate until the end of the 2019 session.

Simon, a Democrat, told the committee that the reasons for the holdup still remain unclear to him. He said he concluded that the money became “trade bait for an end-of-session deal that may or may not have even included elections.” But, he said, the 16-month delay in final clearance put Minnesota’s election security at risk.

Kiffmeyer said in an interview that she didn’t see any need for the legislation and disputed that there was any holdup last year. She said Republican Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka promised that the money would be released by the end of the session, and it was.

Wind chills keep students at home

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Fear of frostbite was keeping many students home Thursday around Minnesota and had the National Weather Service warning people to limit time outdoors.

The arrival of arctic air has pushed wind chill readings down to 40 below across northern and western Minnesota.

The Anoka-Hennepin School District notified parents classes were canceled Thursday “due to extreme winter weather conditions in the early morning hours.”

Other districts canceling school include Little Falls, Osseo, St. Cloud and St. Francis. The Star Tribune reports in Elk River and Cambridge-Isanti, students had an e-learning day, meaning instruction will be delivered online.


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