Massive list of state government boards in need of members

Today, Minnesota Secretary of State Steve Simon’s office released its notice of vacancies on state boards, councils and committees and it’s a eyeful. There are 600 vacancies across 140 state agencies according to the posting.

The openings range from a position on the Noxious Weed Advisory Committee to the Potato Research and Promotion Council, both appointed by the Agriculture Commissioner.  There’s a Combative Sports Advisory Council which regulates boxing and mixed martial arts in the state and a board to oversee Athletic Trainers. There’s a Cosmetology board and a separate board for Barbers.

The 25-member Commission on National and Community Service will work to establish a comprehensive plan to provide services under a larger federal government program.  The Minnesota Humanties Center is another large board with 21-25 directors in total whose mission is to “build a thoughtful, literate, and engaged society.”

There are many cultural commissions including a Council for Minnesotans of African Heritage, a Minnesota Council on Latino Affairs which “must work for the implementation of economic, social, legal, and political equality for its constituency,” and the Urban Indian Advisory Board.

Some of the appointed positions pay a per diem or cover member expenses for serving.  The boards of Nursing, Chiropractic Care, and Social Work pay per diems of $75 per meeting.  The Sex Offender and Minnesota Security Hospital advisory boards pays $200 per diem plus mileage expenses and require at least one psychologist and one attorney member of the board.  The National Guard advisory board pays no set per diem, but covers expenses.  The State’s Nonmotorized Transportation Advisory Committee ironically reimburses mileage for its fourteen members and many other boards do the same.

There’s no published tally of the total of taxpayer funds needed to support all of this citizen input and no way to compile one as the commissions cross so many state agency budgets, each requiring meetings arranged and minutes taken.  The Minnesota Department of Education alone lists 44 separate advisory boards or task forces.

Some commissions, like the Legislative-Citizen Commission on Minnesota Resources, dole out big bucks.  The committee recently recommended funding 88 environmental projects with $45.4 million in lottery money per the Pioneer Press.  The Grand Forks Herald reported that this same committee was recently alleged of holding an illegal meeting when three of its executive committee members, Rep. John Persell, (D-Bemidji), Sen. David Tomassoni, (D-Chisholm), and citizen member Nancy Gibson, met behind closed doors.

Many, like the 11-member State Arts Board, have professional staff in place to support the work of the committee.  The Arts Board received nearly $30 million in annual funding in the most recent state budget, and in the past has spent 5% of their total budget on staff payroll and other operating expenses.  The rest of their funding is given out as state grants paid for by the legacy amendment sales tax.

But are they working?  According to the Department of Health and Human Services website, their Health Services Advisory Council made up of physicians has cancelled five of its nine scheduled meetings in 2015.  The Department’s Cultural and Ethnic Communities Leadership Council’s meeting minutes show that less than half of the committee members showed up to meetings held this year.

Not included in this year’s list of vacancies, are positions on the Hearing Instrument Dispenser Advisory Council, the Automobile Theft Prevention Advisory Board, or the Minnesota Invasive Terrestrial Plants and Pest Center Advisory Board.

Applications can be found on the Secretary of State’s website and are due November 24th. If any Alpha News readers apply, please let us know about your experience by contacting us for a future news story.

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