The Free Press, Mankato, MN

March 10, 2014

House passes Blue Earth County Library Board bill

By Dan Linehan

---- — ST. PAUL — A bill to limit the authority of the Blue Earth County Library Board passed the state House Monday after just a few minutes of discussion on a 119-6 vote.

The change was sought by the County Board to clarify it has sole budgetary authority over the county library system. Though many of them choose not to exercise it, library boards across the state could write their own budgets and hire their own library directors.

And like most of its peers, Blue Earth County’s Library Board tends to steer clear of financial tasks, so the bill will have little immediate practical effect.

The only question raised on the House floor came from Minority Leader Kurt Daudt, R-Crown. He said he has served on a regional library board and asked for background on how Blue Earth County’s library system works.

Blue Earth County operates its own libraries, but if it were part of a regional board Daudt referenced, the bill obviously would be more complicated.

But Mankato stopped making library payments last year, so the County Board can argue that it alone should have budgetary authority.

Rep. Kathy Brynaert, D-Mankato, the bill’s chief House sponsor, said researchers only found two other counties in the state that have sought this legal change, Washington and Hennepin.

She said some of the six votes against the bill came from legislators who had raised questions in committees about the proliferation of new laws and the necessity for keeping the Library Board around at all. But state law requires the Library Board exist, and a new law is the only way to change its authority.

The bill still keeps some responsibilities for the Blue Earth County Library Board, including reviewing the budget, setting a five-year building plan, setting a long-range plan and establishing library policies.

The bill’s Senate companion has passed through its sole committee, and Brynaert said it should hit the floor there within a few weeks.

Unlike the vast majority of bills, it won’t become law when the governor signs it or at a specified later date. Instead, it only takes effect when the County Board approves it.