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Dodge County hires lobbyist to battle HRA legislation

MANTORVILLE — Dodge County Commissioners voted unanimously on Tuesday to spend up to $5,000 for a lobbyist to try to block legislation that would grant the Southeastern Minnesota Multi-County Housing and Redevelopment Authority the power to levy without county board approval.

The legislation (Senate File No 896 and House File No 1027) would give multicounty HRA boards the ability to approve up to 25 percent of their levy authority without county board approval. Since redistricting, Dodge County has nine legislators, (four Senate districts and five House districts), but none of them are on the committee hearing the measure. The Property and Local Tax Division committee is scheduled to hear the House bill at 4 p.m. Wednesday in room 10 of the State Office Building.

Dodge County commissioners have tried repeatedly to extricate the county from SEMMCHRA.

"Dodge County formally requested to be removed from SEMMCHRA late last year," County Administrator Jim Elmquist said." We really haven't received a formal response. We will formally ask for arbitration to help decide the matter."

Attorney Tom Radio, of Minneapolis law firm Best and Flanagan, spoke to the commissioners on Tuesday about the arbitration. But he also told the commissioners, if the legislation passes, the county could find themselves with no representative on the SEMMCHRA board, even though the board would retain the ability to levy taxes against Dodge County residents and businesses. The commissioners decided spending the money for a lobbyist was the best strategy at this point.


Radio said he had reviewed correspondence between the county and SEMMCHRA, and the county has demonstrated over a number of years that it wanted to leave the group.

Radio said it's possible that two public entities could go into litigation over public housing funds. "They're holding the (county's) Section 8 housing vouchers hostage," he said.

A HUD-accepted vendor is needed to administer Section 8 Housing Vouchers, said Elmquist, but none of the other services that SEMMCHRA provides are needed by the county.

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