Minnesota’s Legislative Mess

Jeff Johnson via The Pioneer Press – June 18, 2017

Recently, we saw a messy end to the Minnesota legislative session. As a conservative, I can celebrate some victories and lament some painful disappointments, but setting the substance aside, I’m once again disgusted with what has become commonplace in our Minnesota legislative process. Unfortunately, Minnesota government looks more like the U.S. Congress every year (and that is not a compliment).

It’s become more and more frequent (particularly since Mark Dayton took office) that the session ends in chaos with multiple all-night sessions and the vast majority of legislators — and Minnesotans — completely in the dark as a few leaders negotiate a huge deal behind closed doors.

I’m not a Pollyanna. I know legislative leaders and the governor need to negotiate policy and agree on terms, sometimes in private one-on-one meetings. But two completely unacceptable things have apparently become acceptable:

  1. Omnibus bills full of unrelated policy items that are thrown in because they either couldn’t otherwise pass the Legislature or wouldn’t otherwise be signed by the governor.
  2. An end-of-session marathon in which bleary-eyed legislators are forced to vote on huge and complex spending bills with little or no time to read them — or even to be accurately told what’s in them.

Neither should ever happen. They won’t when I’m governor.

One of the greatest tools a governor has is the veto pen. As governor, I will veto any omnibus bill that does not conform to the constitutional single-subject requirement. The courts have been hesitant to enforce this rule; I will not be. Minnesotans have a right to know where their governor and legislators stand on important issues.

I will also veto any bill that was not posted publicly for at least 48 hours before debate on it began and will propose such a requirement be put into state law. The public deserves this simple provision.

These aren’t the only government reforms necessary in Minnesota. I believe more transparency in campaign contributions is in order and that the time has come for term limits for both legislators and constitutional officers (including the governor). But before anything else, we must clean up the dreadful process that has come to characterize the end of nearly every legislative session in Minnesota.

Bottom line: Government isn’t going to deliver results until we as a state deliver reform. I’m ready to do just that as governor starting in 2019.

— Jeff Johnson

The original op-ed published via twincities.com on June 18, 2017 is here.

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