Caroline Cournoyer is GOVERNING's deputy web editor.E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
If Minnesota cities and towns have the authority to establish pilot projects, then why shouldn’t counties? Some state lawmakers have been asking themselves this question, evidenced by the introduction of bills in the House and Senate to give counties more freedom to serve their citizens’ needs. Lacking the powers that cities have, counties currently must seek the Legislature’s approval to begin a pilot program – a process that can take years with no guarantee of moving forward, wrote a county board chair in an op-ed. They are also prohibited from pursuing any initiative not explicitly permitted in state guidelines – a rule dating back to the 1800s, according to the Association of Minnesota Counties. If enacted, counties would be permitted to adopt ordinances, resolutions or regulations to improve the lives of their residents – as long as they don’t conflict with state or federal law. A section of the bill referred to as the MAGIC (Minnesota Accountable Government Innovation and Collaboration) Act would grant counties waivers to launch outcome-based pilot programs. Rather than requiring the Legislature’s approval to initiate the pilot, the Legislature would have the final say on whether it becomes a permanent county program. The Senate bill has been referred to the finance committee for consideration.