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2004 Minnesota Session Laws

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                            CHAPTER 277-S.F.No. 1907 
                  An act relating to elections; creating an 
                  administrative remedy for violations of fair campaign 
                  practices in state and local elections; repealing 
                  mandate that county attorney investigate violations of 
                  local election campaign finance reporting and fair 
                  campaign practices; amending Minnesota Statutes 2002, 
                  sections 10A.31, subdivision 4; 201.275; 211A.05, 
                  subdivision 2; 211A.08, by adding a subdivision; 
                  211B.16, by adding a subdivision; proposing coding for 
                  new law in Minnesota Statutes, chapter 211B; repealing 
                  Minnesota Statutes 2002, sections 211A.08, 
                  subdivisions 1, 2; 211B.16, subdivisions 1, 2. 
        BE IT ENACTED BY THE LEGISLATURE OF THE STATE OF MINNESOTA: 
           Section 1.  Minnesota Statutes 2002, section 10A.31, 
        subdivision 4, is amended to read: 
           Subd. 4.  [APPROPRIATION.] (a) The amounts designated by 
        individuals for the state elections campaign fund, less three 
        percent, are appropriated from the general fund, must be 
        transferred and credited to the appropriate account in the state 
        elections campaign fund, and are annually appropriated for 
        distribution as set forth in subdivisions 5, 5a, 6, and 7.  The 
        remaining three percent must be kept in the general fund for 
        administrative costs.  
           (b) In addition to the amounts in paragraph (a), $1,500,000 
        for each general election is appropriated from the general fund 
        for transfer to the general account of the state elections 
        campaign fund. 
           Of this appropriation, $65,000 each fiscal year must be set 
        aside to pay assessments made by the Office of Administrative 
        Hearings under section 211B.37.  Amounts remaining after all 
        assessments have been paid must be canceled to the general 
        account. 
           Sec. 2.  Minnesota Statutes 2002, section 201.275, is 
        amended to read: 
           201.275 [INVESTIGATIONS; PROSECUTIONS.] 
           A county attorney who is notified by affidavit of an 
        alleged violation of this chapter shall promptly investigate.  
        If there is probable cause for instituting a prosecution, the 
        county attorney shall proceed by complaint or present the 
        charge, with whatever evidence has been found, to the grand 
        jury.  A county attorney who refuses or intentionally fails to 
        faithfully perform this or any other duty imposed by this 
        chapter is guilty of a misdemeanor and upon conviction shall 
        forfeit office.  The county attorney, under the penalty of 
        forfeiture of office, shall prosecute all violations of this 
        chapter except violations of this section; if, however, a 
        complainant withdraws an allegation under this chapter, the 
        county attorney is not required to proceed with the prosecution. 
           Sec. 3.  Minnesota Statutes 2002, section 211A.05, 
        subdivision 2, is amended to read: 
           Subd. 2.  [NOTICE OF FAILURE TO FILE.] If a candidate or 
        committee fails to file a report on the date it is due, the 
        filing officer shall immediately notify the county attorney of 
        the county where the candidate resides or where the committee 
        headquarters is located.  The county attorney shall then 
        immediately notify the candidate or committee of the failure to 
        file.  If a report is not filed within ten days after the 
        notification is mailed, the county attorney filing officer shall 
        proceed file a complaint under section 211A.08 211B.32. 
           Sec. 4.  Minnesota Statutes 2002, section 211A.08, is 
        amended by adding a subdivision to read: 
           Subd. 3.  [COUNTY ATTORNEY AUTHORITY.] A county attorney 
        may prosecute any violation of this chapter.  
           Sec. 5.  Minnesota Statutes 2002, section 211B.16, is 
        amended by adding a subdivision to read: 
           Subd. 3.  [COUNTY ATTORNEY AUTHORITY.] A county attorney 
        may prosecute any violation of this chapter.  
           Sec. 6.  [211B.31] [DEFINITION.] 
           As used in sections 211B.32 to 211B.36, "office" means the 
        Office of Administrative Hearings.  
           Sec. 7.  [211B.32] [COMPLAINTS OF UNFAIR CAMPAIGN 
        PRACTICES.] 
           Subdivision 1.  [ADMINISTRATIVE REMEDY; EXHAUSTION.] A 
        complaint alleging a violation of chapter 211A or 211B must be 
        filed with the office.  The complaint must be finally disposed 
        of by the office before the alleged violation may be prosecuted 
        by a county attorney. 
           Subd. 2.  [LIMITATION ON FILING.] The complaint must be 
        filed with the office within one year after the occurrence of 
        the act or failure to act that is the subject of the complaint, 
        except that if the act or failure to act involves fraud, 
        concealment, or misrepresentation that could not be discovered 
        during that one-year period, the complaint may be filed with the 
        office within one year after the fraud, concealment, or 
        misrepresentation was discovered. 
           Subd. 3.  [FORM OF COMPLAINT.] The complaint must be in 
        writing, submitted under oath, and detail the factual basis for 
        the claim that a violation of law has occurred.  The office may 
        prescribe the form of a complaint. 
           Subd. 4.  [PROOF OF CLAIM.] The burden of proving the 
        allegations in the complaint is on the complainant.  The 
        standard of proof of a violation of section 211B.06, relating to 
        false statements in paid political advertising or campaign 
        material, is clear and convincing evidence.  The standard of 
        proof of any other violation of chapter 211A or 211B is a 
        preponderance of the evidence. 
           Subd. 5.  [FILING FEE; WAIVER; REFUND.] (a) The complaint 
        must be accompanied by a filing fee of $50, unless filed by a 
        filing officer under section 211A.05, subdivision 2.  
           (b) The office may waive the payment of the filing fee, if 
        the individual seeking a waiver of the fee files with the office 
        an affidavit stating that the individual is financially unable 
        to pay the fee.  
           (c) The office may refund the filing fee of a complainant 
        who prevails on the merits. 
           Subd. 6.  [SERVICE ON RESPONDENT.] Upon receipt of the 
        filed complaint, the office must immediately notify the 
        respondent and provide the respondent with a copy of the 
        complaint by the most expeditious means available. 
           Sec. 8.  [211B.33] [PRIMA FACIE REVIEW.] 
           Subdivision 1.  [TIME FOR REVIEW.] The chief administrative 
        law judge must randomly assign an administrative law judge to 
        review the complaint.  Within one business day after the 
        complaint was filed with the office, when practicable, but never 
        longer than three business days, the administrative law judge 
        must make a preliminary determination for its disposition. 
           Subd. 2.  [RECOMMENDATION.] (a) If the administrative law 
        judge determines that the complaint does not set forth a prima 
        facie violation of chapter 211A or 211B, the administrative law 
        judge must dismiss the complaint.  
           (b) If the administrative law judge determines that the 
        complaint sets forth a prima facie violation of section 211B.06 
        and was filed within 60 days before the primary or special 
        election or within 90 days before the general election to which 
        the complaint relates, the administrative law judge must conduct 
        an expedited probable cause hearing under section 211B.34. 
           (c) If the administrative law judge determines that the 
        complaint sets forth a prima facie violation of a provision of 
        chapter 211A or 211B, other than section 211B.06, and that the 
        complaint was filed within 60 days before the primary or special 
        election or within 90 days before the general election to which 
        the complaint relates, the administrative law judge, on request 
        of any party, must conduct an expedited probable cause hearing 
        under section 211B.34. 
           (d) If the administrative law judge determines that the 
        complaint sets forth a prima facie violation of chapter 211A or 
        211B, and was filed more than 60 days before the primary or 
        special election or more than 90 days before the general 
        election to which the complaint relates, the administrative law 
        judge must schedule an evidentiary hearing under section 211B.35.
           Subd. 3.  [NOTICE TO PARTIES.] The office must notify all 
        parties of the determination made under subdivision 2.  If the 
        complaint is scheduled for hearing, the notice must identify the 
        time and place of the hearing and inform all parties that they 
        may submit evidence, affidavits, documentation, and argument for 
        consideration by the administrative law judge. 
           Subd. 4.  [JOINDER AND SEPARATION OF COMPLAINTS.] The chief 
        administrative law judge may direct that two or more complaints 
        be joined for disposition if the chief administrative law judge 
        determines that the allegations in each complaint are of the 
        same or similar character, are based on the same act or failure 
        to act, or are based on two or more acts or failures to act 
        constituting parts of a common scheme or plan.  If one complaint 
        contains two or more allegations, the chief administrative law 
        judge may separate the allegations, if they are not of the same 
        or similar character, if they are not based on the same act or 
        failure to act, or if they are not based on two or more acts or 
        failures to act constituting parts of a common scheme or plan.  
        If the chief administrative law judge separates the allegations 
        in a complaint, the assigned administrative law judge or judges 
        may make separate recommendations under subdivision 2 for each 
        allegation. 
           Sec. 9.  [211B.34] [PROBABLE CAUSE HEARING.] 
           Subdivision 1.  [TIME FOR REVIEW.] The assigned 
        administrative law judge must hold a probable cause hearing on 
        the complaint no later than three business days after receiving 
        the assignment if an expedited hearing is required by section 
        211B.33, except that for good cause the administrative law judge 
        may hold the hearing no later than seven days after receiving 
        the assignment.  If an expedited hearing is not required by 
        section 211B.33, the administrative law judge must hold the 
        hearing not later than 30 days after receiving the assignment. 
           Subd. 2.  [DISPOSITION.] At the probable cause hearing, the 
        administrative law judge must make one of the following 
        determinations: 
           (a) The complaint is frivolous, or there is no probable 
        cause to believe that the violation of law alleged in the 
        complaint has occurred.  If the administrative law judge makes 
        either determination, the administrative law judge must dismiss 
        the complaint.  
           (b) There is probable cause to believe that the violation 
        of law alleged in the complaint has occurred.  If the 
        administrative law judge so determines, the chief administrative 
        law judge must schedule the complaint for an evidentiary hearing 
        under section 211B.35.  
           Subd. 3.  [RECONSIDERATION BY CHIEF ADMINISTRATIVE LAW 
        JUDGE.] (a) If the administrative law judge dismisses the 
        complaint, the administrative law judge shall provide to the 
        complainant written notice of the right to seek reconsideration 
        of the decision on the record by the chief administrative law 
        judge. 
           (b) A petition for reconsideration must be filed within two 
        business days after the dismissal.  The chief administrative law 
        judge must make a decision on the petition within three business 
        days after receiving the petition.  If the chief administrative 
        law judge determines that the assigned administrative law judge 
        made a clear error of law and grants the petition, within five 
        business days after granting the petition, the chief 
        administrative law judge shall schedule the complaint for an 
        evidentiary hearing under section 211B.35. 
           Sec. 10.  [211B.35] [EVIDENTIARY HEARING BY PANEL.] 
           Subdivision 1.  [DEADLINE FOR HEARING.] When required by 
        section 211B.34, subdivision 2 or 3, the chief administrative 
        law judge must assign the complaint to a panel of three 
        administrative law judges for an evidentiary hearing.  The 
        hearing must be held within the following times: 
           (1) ten days after the complaint was assigned, if an 
        expedited probable cause hearing was requested or required under 
        section 211B.33; 
           (2) 30 days after the complaint was filed, if it was filed 
        within 60 days before the primary or special election or within 
        90 days before the general election to which the complaint 
        relates; or 
           (3) 90 days after the complaint was filed, if it was filed 
        at any other time.  
           For good cause shown, the panel may extend the deadline set 
        forth in clause (2) or (3) by 60 days. 
           Subd. 2.  [DISPOSITION OF COMPLAINT.] The panel must 
        determine whether the violation alleged in the complaint 
        occurred and must make at least one of the following 
        dispositions: 
           (a) The panel may dismiss the complaint.  
           (b) The panel may issue a reprimand.  
           (c) The panel may find that a statement made in a paid 
        advertisement or campaign material violated section 211B.06. 
           (d) The panel may impose a civil penalty of up to $5,000 
        for any violation of chapter 211A or 211B. 
           (e) The panel may refer the complaint to the appropriate 
        county attorney. 
           Subd. 3.  [TIME FOR DISPOSITION.] The panel must dispose of 
        the complaint: 
           (1) within three days after the hearing record closes, if 
        an expedited probable cause hearing was required by section 
        211B.33; and 
           (2) within 14 days after the hearing record closes, if an 
        expedited probable cause hearing was not required by section 
        211B.33.  
           Sec. 11.  [211B.36] [PROCEDURES.] 
           Subdivision 1.  [EVIDENCE AND ARGUMENT.] The administrative 
        law judge or panel may consider any evidence and argument 
        submitted until a hearing record is closed, including affidavits 
        and documentation, or may continue a hearing to enable the 
        parties to submit additional testimony. 
           Subd. 2.  [WITHDRAWAL OF COMPLAINT.] At any time before an 
        evidentiary hearing under section 211B.35 begins, a complainant 
        may withdraw a complaint filed under section 211B.32.  After the 
        evidentiary hearing begins, a complaint filed under section 
        211B.32 may only be withdrawn with the permission of the panel. 
           Subd. 3.  [COSTS.] If the assigned administrative law judge 
        or panel determines the complaint is frivolous, they may order 
        the complainant to pay the respondent's reasonable attorney fees 
        and to pay the costs of the office in the proceeding in which 
        the complaint was dismissed. 
           Subd. 4.  [HEARINGS PUBLIC.] A hearing under section 
        211B.34 or 211B.35 may be conducted by conference telephone call 
        or by interactive television.  All hearings must be open to the 
        public. 
           Subd. 5.  [JUDICIAL REVIEW.] A party aggrieved by a final 
        decision on a complaint filed under section 211B.32 is entitled 
        to judicial review of the decision as provided in sections 14.63 
        to 14.69; however, proceedings on a complaint filed under 
        section 211B.32 are not a contested case within the meaning of 
        chapter 14 and are not otherwise governed by chapter 14. 
           Sec. 12.  [211B.37] [COSTS ASSESSED.] 
           Except as otherwise provided in section 211B.36, 
        subdivision 3, the chief administrative law judge shall assess 
        the cost of considering complaints filed under section 211B.32 
        as provided in this section.  Costs of complaints relating to a 
        statewide ballot question or an election for a statewide or 
        legislative office must be assessed against the appropriation 
        from the general fund to the general account of the state 
        elections campaign fund in section 10A.31, subdivision 4.  Costs 
        of complaints relating to any other ballot question or elective 
        office must be assessed against the county or counties in which 
        the election is held.  Where the election is held in more than 
        one county, the chief administrative law judge shall apportion 
        the assessment among the counties in proportion to their 
        respective populations within the election district to which the 
        complaint relates according to the most recent decennial federal 
        census. 
           Sec. 13.  [REPEALER.] 
           Minnesota Statutes 2002, sections 211A.08, subdivisions 1 
        and 2; and 211B.16, subdivisions 1 and 2, are repealed. 
           Sec. 14.  [EFFECTIVE DATE.] 
           This act is effective July 1, 2004, and applies to 
        violations committed on or after that date. 
           Presented to the governor May 18, 2004 
           Signed by the governor May 28, 2004, 7:15 a.m.

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