Chaotic sessions, last-minute votes: Is there a better way to run the state Legislature?

MinnPost photo by Briana Bierschbach
Rep. Dean Urdahl, R-Grove City, desperately trying to pass his Legacy bill off the floor before adjournment. The bill passed the House, but time ran out in the Senate.

On May 18, the last day of the 2015 legislative session, Gov. Mark Dayton wasn’t around the Capitol to see if legislators would manage to pass all their budget bills on time.

Instead, he watched the chaotic resolution on YouTube: With less than a minute and a half to go, Republican House Speaker Kurt Daudt brought up a budget bill on the House floor to fund jobs programs, which had been delayed in the Senate. Daudt hurriedly put the package up for a vote, despite screams on the floor from Democrats in the minority, who said they were just seeing the 90-plus-page bill for the first time. Nonetheless, the bill was passed with half the chamber still standing and screaming and with seconds to go before the clock struck midnight.

After watching the clip online, the DFL governor didn’t gripe about the hurried process he saw or complain about lack of transparency for the public. He simply shrugged. “I’ve seen worse.”

He probably has. Dayton’s been in government for a long time, and like many with years of experience in Minnesota politics, he know that chaos is commonplace at the end of most legislative sessions. Some even defend the tumult, arguing that democracy, even with all its rules and procedures, is a reflection of the public. It was not designed to be neat and tidy.

But some veteran legislators thought the final days of the 2015 session were particularly bad for Minnesotans trying to follow their state’s lawmaking process. A last-minute budget deal, hatched in behind-closed-door meetings, pushed most work to the final weekend of session. Much of the work was done in the dead of the night, and the hurried process left errors in some bills. Other proposals simply ran out of time as the budget logjam clogged up the process. Of the more than 2,000 bills introduced in each chamber this session, only 77 were signed into law, the lowest number since statehood. Legislators are still cleaning up some of the mess now, awaiting a special session after Dayton vetoed three budget bills.

Some rank-and-file legislators are calling for more transparency in the upcoming special session. Others are asking a more fundamental question: is there’s a better way to run state government?

“The end-of-session deadline is written in our Constitution; it has been around for 157 years. We knew this was coming. This deadline didn’t sneak up on us,” said Sen. Carla Nelson, R-Rochester. “I started asking: Why? There has to be a better way.”

Rules, deadlines and guidelines

Nelson is right: The number of days the Minnesota Legislature is in session every two years is written into the state’s Constitution. But legislators in the majority create the rules they must follow every day to meet the deadline.

Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk
MinnPost photo by Briana Bierschbach
Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk

In budget-making years, that includes deadlines for both policy and finance bills to pass certain committees, as well as an initial deadline to set budget targets for each department in state government. There are separate rules that govern decorum on the House and Senate floors, anything from the Senate’s now-famous rule to only look at the chamber’s president when speaking to avoid flaring tempers to a rarely used rule to cut off rambling debate on the House floor. They are designed to help keep the process fluid and transparent, but legislators can break or bend any of their own rules, and often do.

The budget was particularly late this year because it took legislative leaders so long to reach a basic agreement on it. Daudt and Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk announced the framework for the deal on a Friday evening, leaving lawmakers and staff with just over 72 hours to process all the major budget bills, pass them out of committee and put them up for votes on the House and Senate floors. The delay meant others were amended and changed in committees in the middle of the night and passed in hurried, marathon floor sessions.

Some provisions in the final budget bills were added at the last minute. A prime example is a proposal that allows counties to bypass the state auditor’s office and seek private companies to do annual audits. Dayton, a former state auditor, signed the bill that included the provision, but he’s now willing to hold up a special session until legislators agree to undo the change.

Add a new budget deadline?

Nelson thinks adding a new budget deadline to the mix would help. She wants legislative leaders to require themselves to come up with a final budget deal two weeks before the end of session. That would give lawmakers enough time to carefully comb through the final bills in conference committees, vet complaints from the governor, and allow time for the public to testify.

“It happens no matter who is holding the gavel, it seems, and the losers are Minnesotans. We lose transparency when things are rammed through at the end of session. We don’t have time to digest the bills,” Nelson said. “It’s just really incomprehensible.”

The process has long been a source of frustration for Rep. Gene Pelowski, DFL-Winona, a retired high school history and civics teacher. As chair of the State Government Operations Committee in 2008, Pelowski drafted a report recommending a series of changes that could help speed up the process.

Among the recommendations:

  • Get to work right when session convenes. Other states allow lawmakers to swear in and organize their committees just weeks after they are elected in November.

  • Reduce the number of committees and streamline the House and Senate committees to cover the same issues. That will clean up the process and reduce the number of stops a bill has to make on its way to becoming a law. Currently Minnesota has 28 committees and divisions in the state House and 23 in the Senate.

  • Cut back on the length of floor debates by limiting the duration of some speeches or limiting the number of times a lawmaker can address a particular issue. It’s not uncommon for floor debates in the House and Senate to stretch on longer than 12 hours, and some complain they are increasingly partisan and more about forcing the opposing party to take tough roll-call votes than about debating the policy in a bill.

  • One recommendation would require floor sessions to end at midnight so the public can participate and lawmakers and staff can rest.

“We need to be careful about what we are doing with these budget bills, because the impact can ripple across the entire state,” he said. “These are rules we impose on ourselves and we impose them on ourselves with the understanding that they are in the best interest of our state. There are better ways to do this, and all we have to do is adopt new rules and abide by them.”

Can’t fix human nature

The abiding part may be easier said than done. While a politically divided Legislature this session certainly led to some of the delays, sessions didn’t end much more smoothly under an all-DFL-controlled government two years ago. The big problem is personalities: There’s the governor, four top legislative leaders and of all the other 197 rank-and-file legislators, a cast of characters that changes every two years.

Senate Minority Leader David Hann
MinnPost file photo by James Nord
Senate Minority Leader David Hann

“You can’t change the process unless you can change human nature,” said Rep. Sarah Anderson, R-Plymouth, the Republican chairwoman of the State Government Finance and Regulatory Reform Committee. “You have all Type A personalities, and 201 of them.”

“Like any deadline, it depends on human beings to abide by them. I don’t think you are ever going to get away from some of the last-minute maneuvering. There will always be pressure to hold off to try and leverage some deals,” said Senate Minority Leader David Hann, R-Eden Prairie. “It may help if you put some kind of deadline on that, but it’s sort of like when people will set their clock ahead an hour. It never works, because then you know you set your clock ahead an hour.”

Brenda Erickson, a former Minnesota legislative staffer and a senior analyst at the National Conference of State Legislatures, has spent much of her career looking at how different statehouses manage their flow of business. Her conclusion: Messy sessions will probably never change because legislatures should be a reflection of the public.

“Legislatures have rules in place to help make it more focused and have healthy dialogue about the issues, but, if there isn’t a clear consensus amongst the citizens for the state it’s hard for the legislature as well to have a clear consensus,” Erickson said. “They reflect the citizens of the state.”

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Comments (24)

  1. Submitted by Hiram Foster on 06/05/2015 - 09:05 am.


    Human nature doesn’t necessarily dictate the processes of the Minnesota Legislature. Other state legislatures, many of which are also populated by humans possessing natures do things differently. There are a number of reasons why the legislature acts the way it does. For one things, it allows legislators to enact politically unpopular measures with limited media and public scrutiny.

  2. Submitted by Harris Goldstein on 06/05/2015 - 09:53 am.

    Watch the video…

    of the final minutes. Keep in mind that these are the same people criticizing Mnsure for poor management. I’m not defending MnSure’s initial management, but I’m not sure the ones I see in that video have earned the right to criticize.

  3. Submitted by Steve Titterud on 06/05/2015 - 10:10 am.

    A minimum “study time” before any bill can be voted into law.

    AT LEAST 72 hours, but a week would be better.

    Demanding a vote on a bill before anyone can read it is malfeasance, not chicanery. The leadership on both sides who connived to do this should be ashamed to now offer their vacuous excuses.

    Who can have any respect for a process like this ??

  4. Submitted by Mike Downing on 06/05/2015 - 11:30 am.

    The answer is yes…

    “Is there a better way to run the state Legislature?”: The answer is yes.

    Let the Legislature pass the Bills into Laws

    Let the Governor execute the Bills that are in the Laws.

    That simply means: grow up Governor. Your job is the Executive Branch not the Legislative Branch.

    • Submitted by Richard O'Neil on 06/05/2015 - 04:50 pm.

      “Let the Governor execute the Bills that are in the Laws.”

      Can you explain exactly what that means?

      • Submitted by Logan Foreman on 06/08/2015 - 10:08 am.

        Apparently it should be against the law

        For a Governor to veto a bill. Just do what the legislature wants apparently. Total nonsense.

  5. Submitted by Tina Liebling on 06/05/2015 - 11:46 am.

    Legislators must put democracy ahead of ending on time.

    It’s fine to put more rules in place, but rules mean little without a fundamental commitment to democracy. If the majority is willing to sheepishly follow their leader, the leader can do just about anything he or she chooses.
    The 93 page/$100 million bill rammed through the House in the last 90 seconds was not a conference report–which at least would have had some kind of public hearing. It was a “delete all” amendment that had no public vetting at all. It was already obvious that a special session would be needed, so the only reason to ram through that bill was to be able to say “we ended on time.”
    The chaotic end of this session was fundamentally different than others I have experienced. 2007 is being widely touted by Republicans as being just as bad–but it was not. One of the few tools of the minority party is to keep debating and try to run out the clock. That is what happened in 2007, when the DFL used a parlimentary move to cut off debate and get to a vote before midnight.
    This year the House DFL was not running out the clock. We finished the previous bill and sat quietly for about 5 minutes waiting for the now-infamous jobs and energy bill. With 90 seconds to go, the bill came over from the Senate and Speaker Daudt chose to ram it through without ANY debate. That’s abuse of power and is why I called for Speaker Daubt to resign.

    • Submitted by Bill Willy on 06/06/2015 - 03:00 pm.

      Walking the Talk

      While every member of the House and Senate would claim to be committed as can be to democracy, for those not familiar with her work, no Minnesota legislator demonstrates that committment more cleary and consistently than Representative Tina Liebling.

      Same thing goes when it comes to the equally important phrase, “commitment to the common good.” No Minnesotan – Democrat, Republican, Independent or otherwise – need ever doubt she understands and lives those things in everything she does in her work.

      Thanks for the little bit of insight as to what it was like to “be in the room” when Kurt Daubt worked his (literal) last minute magic. I check in on the legislature once in a while during session via MN public television and I often wonder what it’s like to be sitting in a committee meeting listening to a few people I won’t name, saying what they say in the way they say it, having the perspective you have. (I’m not sure I could take it or keep myself from yelling at a few people, if not jumping right over the table at them.)

      Anyway… Good to hear from a legislator directly. I think it’d be great if more of you all would share your perspectives here on MinnPost.

      Which reminds me… After reading Tony Lourey’s Community Voices piece here, “House GOP’s proposal to eliminate MinnesotaCare is not up for debate in HHS conference committee,” I thought, “Good! Nice to see a Senator saying that kind of thing so publicly.”

      I don’t know if you had a hand in it (can’t imagine you didn’t), but whatever was done to flatten Matt Dean’s attempt to inflict his particular strain of “ideological incoherence” (as Paul Udstrand puts it sometimes) on the HHS system (and a whole lot of Minnesotans) was, to me, a great example of some legislators real world commitment to democracy and how to “defend” the greater good. We all could have used a lot more of that kind of thing from other Democrats around the House and the Senate (in particular).

      I’m sure there are at least a few regular commentors here that would disagree with that. I’ve been waiting for them to pipe up and let you know what they think directly ever since I noticed your comment pop up yesterday. But for some reason they seem to be a little shy about explaining reality to someone who actually serves on (and has chaired) the House Health and Human Services Finance and Ways and Means committees (to name a couple), has helped put together all kinds of legislation and taken lots of votes on the floor of the Minnesota House of Representative, etc..

      I don’t know what the hesitation is all about, but please be patient. They may have gone fishing, or they may be taking a little extra time to get their thoughts together. I’m almost sure they don’t agree with you about the Speaker resigning, or about much of what’s going on with Health and Human Services “boondoggle giveaway programs,” or, of course, the disastrous MNSure nightmare that, they usually say, is wrecking everyone’s life.

      But I don’t want to speak for them. I’ll be patient too and wait to see if they take the opportunity to let a “directly involved” legislator know what they think.

      Even though I’m not one of your constituents, thanks again for all your work on everyone’s behalf, and thanks for chiming in here. Don’t be a stranger!

      • Submitted by Tina Liebling on 06/07/2015 - 04:16 pm.

        Bill,Thanks very much for

        Thanks very much for your kind words. One correction: I’ve never served as chair of Ways and Means or HHS Finance but last term I chaired the HHS policy committee. This term I’m the minority co-Lead (with Rep. Diane Loeffler) on HHS Finance, and also serve on Ways and Means and the HHS reform committees.
        Thanks again for your response. I’m grateful for MinnPost and often enjoy reading the comments.

        • Submitted by Bill Willy on 06/07/2015 - 05:33 pm.


          Please excuse. I thought of the potential HHS/Ways and Means chair confusion stuff before posting, but let it slide, but did think you were chair of HHS Finance and “not just” HHS Policy. Didn’t mean to inflate your resume, but those who appreciate your work know that’s not possible anyway.

          And Rep. Diane Loeffler! Yes indeed. I don’t know why exactly, but I’ve always thought of you two as some kind of “legislative twins,” or “close sisters,” or a “formidable tag team,” at least. She always seems to come prepared with enough facts, compassion, “sharpness,” and, dare I say it, “common good sense,” (everyone knows DFLers are deficient in that category, don’t they?), to drill through one-inch steel.

          Just one example was the late session committee meeting in which the “new targets” were supposed to be covered but wound up to being eaten up by discussion of a Joe Atkins (“filler”) bill, whatever exactly that was. As the time kept going by she started in on and just kept going after Matt Dean, sawing his Chairperson’s legs off until it seemed obvious to all concerned he was just running out the televised clock so the meeting could be moved to the basement (away from the cameras) the next day. He was able to stonewall it, but he sounded lost and looked a little seasick.

          And she always goes at things in that way and please tell her I appreciate it and have been meaning to drop her a note to tell her so for a couple of years but procrastinate too much.

          In terms of the bigger picture question of “What are the top 10 things we could do to improve Minnesota government?” as far as I’m concerned, you and she and more than a few others in the House and Senate are among the many examples of why Minnesotans (of ALL “political persuasions”) should keep on electing more and more women.

          I don’t know why (with all the extra years of practice the men have had), but you all just do such a better job of it.

    • Submitted by John Appelen on 06/06/2015 - 11:08 pm.


      To ensure a project is completed on time, I work with teams to set clear milestones. Personally I think the Legislature should be forced to meet a few more of these.

      The Senate giving the bill to the House at the last minute and then throwing the blame on Daudt for slamming it through is like blaming the guy who misses the field goal in the last moment for losing the game.

      There were hundreds of politicians fumbling and intercepting for months. The whole lot of them is responsible for not getting their job done in an orderly fashion. Then to make it worse, Dayton drags the game into overtime because he did not do his job adequately during the game…

      • Submitted by Bill Willy on 06/07/2015 - 01:45 pm.

        Two out of three’s not bad

        I agree with you 100% on new and improved deadlines.

        I also agree with you 100% that the finger should be pointed straight at both House and Senate leadership (including regular and conference committee chairs) for the “closed dooe, hocus pocus, late night last minute” garbage and, to me, some really bad provisions (some unheard in committees, etc.) that got stuck into those bills at the next-to-last minute.

        Related to that and Ms. Liebling’s view of the Speaker, I think the same thing goes for Tom Bakk. I find myself surprised and disappointed to be feeling that way (I’ve always “liked the guy”), but after seeing what made it into House File 846, I can’t help it.

        While I’m not saying he should “resign” from the Senate over it (which he’d never do anyway), some content of HF 846 has convinced me that neither Tom Bakk nor any other member of the Senate “Range delegation” can be trusted to be in the position of Senate Majority Leader. It’s too obvious where they stand when it comes to their ability to rationalize the “greater good of their constituency”- which, Section 117 of HF 846 shows, includes global mining interests – and put it ahead of the “commitment to democracy” Tina Leibling’s talking about, as well as the “greater good” of ALL Minnesotans, not just “the folks back home.”

        To me, in this case (more fundamentally important than “run-of-the-mill pork-rolling”), that’s the same kind of “abuse of power” she has accused Speaker Daubt of engaging in.

        If you open that file and look at Section 117, starting on line 170.20, “Subd. 4j. Permits; solid waste facilities.,” paying particular attention to what you’ll read on lines 171.13 through 171.16, you’ll see one of those “slick as can be, inside politics legislative tricks” that, to me, is about as low and undemocratic as legislators can go (with some “outside help and direction,” most likely). I doubt many elected representatives in EITHER party:

        A) were aware that item (“e”) was in the bill (its barely noticeable and looks so bland its not something that would “jump out” at anyone reading the bill for the first time); or

        B) if they did notice it, took the time to figure out what it actually says, means and does.

        Although there may be other as nearly-invisible items in the bill that do the same kind of thing, that one, item “(e),” is the LAW in the bill that exempts “mine owners and operators” (including future copper nickel mine owners or operators) from the MPCA solid waste management application process. According to the “Rule” in question, they need not apply and are “deemed” to already possess a solid waste management permit (“by Rule”).

        Or, as Ron Meador put it on May 21st, item “(e)” provides “categorical exemption of copper-nickel mining from state regulations on solid waste — a blank check for industrial pollution sources that don’t yet exist, for discharges that can’t yet be quantified, with impacts extending for centuries.”

        I mean, try figuring out THAT aspect of HF 846 if you’re an “average Minnesotan” that would like to communicate with his or her elected representatives about the wisdom of doing that BEFORE he or she votes on it.

        It would be one thing if the bill read, “The commissioners of the Pollution Control Agency and natural resources shall deem owners or operators of any and all copper-nickel mining operations that may be established in the state of Minnesota to be exempt from state regulations on solid waste management.”

        It’s an entirely different thing when all the bill says is, “The commissioners of the Pollution Control Agency and natural resources shall apply Minnesota Rules, parts 7001.3050, subpart 3, item G…”

        And SOMEbody put that language and “provision” in there, and I doubt very much it was Kurt Daubt or any other Republican. I’d bet my money on David Tomasonni, Tom Saxhaug, Tom Bakk, and their “constituents.”

        And that’s why I don’t feel good about any of those people being in the Senate Majority Leader posistion. That bill couldn’t have passed the Senate without the Democrats that voted for it (Tom Bakk, Kent Eken, Melisa Franzen, Vicki Jensen, Lyle Koenen, James Metzen, Tom Saxhaug, Rod Skoe, Dan Sparks, LeRoy Stumpf, DavidTomassoni). And while I don’t doubt some of those people couldn’t wait to push the green button, we can all bet there was some “Range style” leadership arm twisting involved.

        Anyway… There are several, but that’s the primary reason I agree with you 100% on the issue of “shared blame.”

        I don’t agree with you at all on what you’ve consistently said about Mark Dayton’s veto of HF 846 and the other two bills. You may think the above is a perfectly fine “deregulatory” kind of thing, or that it was a fair compromise (farmer’s getting “regulatory relief” from the MPCA in exchange for no-MPCA-questions-asked solid waste management practices for mine owners and operators), but a lot of people that voted for Mark Dayon don’t, and are very glad he has at least stopped the toxic train long enough for people to take a look at what is actually IN those bills, and could soon become Minnesota LAW.

        Speaking of which, anyone concerned about the contents of House File 846 that would like to let the Governor know they think it may be a good idea to insist the “solid waste management” provisions in House File 846 Section 117 that exempt mine owners or operators from the MPCA solid waste management permit application process be taken out can do so by going here and selecting the most appropriate form of communication:

        • Submitted by John Appelen on 06/07/2015 - 06:26 pm.

          Simple is Better

          Of course you are preaching to the choir about simpler wording is better. Unfortunately it seems to me that the Democrat folks are the ones who live to create more laws, rules, programs, regulation, oversight, etc. No wonder the laws get bigger, more complex and less understandable.

          It is an interesting mess we have created and some seek to make bigger.

          • Submitted by Bill Willy on 06/07/2015 - 11:42 pm.


            So in Simple is Better terms, you’re okay with copper-nickel mine owners or operators being exempt from having to fill out an MPCA solid waste permitting application, right?

            • Submitted by John Appelen on 06/08/2015 - 09:40 am.

              Whos Back Yard

              I don’t pretend to know all of the details of the mine or the environmentalists that are fighting it, however I know enough to understand that the environmentalists are using every technicality they can find or pass to stop the mine and the jobs it would bring.

              At some point the people who live in that area need to make the call if they want that mine in their back yard, not the people who are hundreds of miles away and have to much time and money on their hands. Just like the folks who don’t want to trap wolves… Please work to solve the problems in your communities, not someone elses.

              • Submitted by Robert Gauthier on 06/08/2015 - 09:51 pm.


                The people who set the standards are federal, our state is more “relaxed” than Feds. The real issue is perpetually throwing resources to the Range and holding the rest of the state hostage. The locals are largely in the dark and what was passed actually gave corporations the upper hand over the locals. So your premise is wrong, no one is imposing save the corporations. The people telling the locals what to do? That is the large corporations. This whole session was for PolyMet and the like, not about the Rangers. They are pawns. The original bill gave corporations carte Blanche to pollute and stripped away the right of ANYONE to sue or object. You call that local control?

                • Submitted by John Appelen on 06/09/2015 - 11:00 am.

                  Please Explain

                  How exactly are the County Commisioners being block from passing rules, regs, etc? Which “higher body” in their infinite wisdom decided to take that right away from them? Thanks

              • Submitted by Sean Olsen on 06/11/2015 - 09:24 am.

                The problem with that is…

                … that if the tailings pond fails (like one in British Columbia did last year), everyone is going to be on the hook for the bill to clean it up and make sure that the folks on the Range have water they can drink.

  6. Submitted by Mike Worcester on 06/05/2015 - 11:57 am.

    Type A Personalities?

    201 of them to be exact, says to one of the legislators quoted in the article.

    According to Psychology Today, these are some of the characteristics of a Type A Personality —
    hostility, impatience, difficulty expressing emotions, competitiveness, drive, perfectionism, and an unhealthy dependence on external rewards such as wealth, status, or power.

    • Submitted by Rory Kramer on 06/05/2015 - 01:50 pm.

      And your point is?

      A politician will do whatever it takes to make his point and get a bill signed into law. Said politician can be hostile and impatient when it comes to listening to opponents. Said politician is usually competitive with a drive to be perfect. Said politician does so that they can stay in office, giving them status, power and wealth.

  7. Submitted by joe smith on 06/06/2015 - 08:23 am.

    Sadly the special session is just another way for politicians to pull the wool over the voters eyes. In the special session 3 people make the laws for millions of Minnesotans. The Governor, speaker of the house and senate leader will get together and make deals that won’t get properly vetted by the full body.

    I love when politicians run a campaign the word trust always comes up, if any of us trust them, shame on us. In the 60’s we ran around U of M campus talking about not trusting anyone over 30 and question authority. We were all liberal hippies. Now I question the authority of politicians/govt and I’m considered a conservative. Amazing what 50 yrs will do.

  8. Submitted by Ray Lewis on 06/06/2015 - 01:07 pm.

    Media coverage of a partisan process

    First, a belated congratulation on your jouranalism award Briana.

    As someone involved in the legislative process (in different roles) since the mid 80’s, I appreciate the difficulty elected officials find in the details of the many proposals and bills introduced. No one can be an expert on all the topics; although I’ve always appreciated the legislative staff that make the gears work in the sausage factory.

    Committee hearings are good to tell the stories of people effected, vetting by organizations responsible for implementation, and weighing of pros/cons, risk/benefits and costs/RIO that go into a decision. Setting the agendas to decide what get heard, or not, highlights the consequences of elections.

    Getting to the underlying values behind the laws, the intended impacts, and who benefits from them seems to get get fuzzy when the media only focuses on the politics of winners and losers. When these many decision points in the process are translated into campaign slogans and talking points based on recorded votes to influence voters, it often seems more confusing than enlightening.

    Single issue, or groups focused on a single point in time without consideration of historical or future impacts, seem to have an incentive to point to governent as the cause rather than a unified way for a civil society to react to problems we face. Although some of us policy and process wonks who read MinnPost, or watch legislative coverage, can try to connect the dots, it’s a big disconnect for many people who decide not to be part of Democracy, since voting seems to endorse the current system.

    The last minute, out of the blue, additions may be a holdover from the behind the scenes pork-barrel vote trading era. But I’m not sure how citizens feel they can influence change when their voices don’t carry the same power as “unlimited free speech money” that essentially perpetuates distortion and partisanship for political parties that control the system.

    I’ll get off my soapbox now, but thanks for the opportunity to get feedback for your readers!

    • Submitted by Bill Willy on 06/07/2015 - 03:58 pm.


      Everything you said strikes me as an accurate description of the situation, which is the bad news.

      The “average Minnesotan doesn’t stand a chance.” Most aren’t interested which isn’t to say anything against anyone: Most are too busy, many don’t care, others are skeptical as can be, etc..

      And when it comes to those that do pay attention it can be “amazing” to see how impossible it can be to get and keep any kind of grip on what actually seems to be happening.

      In my case, I was initially trying to keep my eye on the House tax bill, the Health and Human Services Finance stuff, and KIND of trying to keep track of Pat Garofalo’s “Affordable Energy and Jobs” extravaganza.

      It turned out the Tax bill tea leaves were the easiest to read, but the HHS Finance committee meetings kept disappearing to the basement (“due to scheduling conflicts,” etc.), and by the time the P. Garofalo show teamed up with Dave Tomasonni’s version in conference committee, it had pretty much vanished: It USED to have one bill number; then it got rolled into another (the Senate file number, I think); and then, after those two things got lost, it popped back up as HF 1437 (I think).

      And then, out of nowhere (for me, anyway) came the Giant Ball of Omnibus Stuff called “HF 846,” and there was something like a day left to go in session. And little old me, average MN person, is supposed to figure out what it all means – sick turkeys, overwhelmed farmers, MPCA handcuffs, sulfide-treated water for all, etc., etc., etc. – and let my representatives (one House Republican, one DFL Senator) know how I want them to vote?

      Anyway… That’s all part of that bad news.

      The good news is it’s kind of interesting (if you’re interested) and, more importantly, there actually are a bunch of studies and statistics around that show it only takes a small percentage of people to “influence things.” 10% or less in most cases, as little as 3% or 4% in others (like campaign finance reform, they say).

      Not that that means “there’s hope,” but I keep thinking that “in the case of Minnesota,” we could actually stand a chance of at least not letting “Them” get away with it, and MAYbe even push the fairly respectable record we’ve got going here further down the “right track” path we seem to be on (in terms of “economic indicators,” educational priorities, quality of life standards, pollution concern and actions, windmills and solar installations, etc.).

      And speaking of that, and the fine contribution the people that make MinnPost work are making toward that end (way more than sound-bitten horse race media emphasis), I think one of the interesting sub-topics the ugly end of session has produced is the discussion of rule changes, and time line adjustments, etc., that this article addresses (which I’m pretty sure is a MN media rarity).

      When I read what you had to say I was reminded of something Ray Shoch had to say in his May 15th, “I know it’s in the state constitution,” comment that struck me as such a good and relevant idea that actually could go a long way toward making things work better.

      My big thing would be making omnibus bills illegal, along with last minute amendments (time lines-related) that haven’t been heard in committee (or anywhere else).

      How “the people” get organized on pushing for things along those lines is a mystery to me, but in keeping with that good news I mentioned, if “just enough” people could create enough squeak (Democrats AND Republicans), it MIGHT force the foxes guarding the chicken coop to apply some grease.

      And you’re 100% right about the work “legislative staff” does. I put that in quotes because there are a fine raft of people that work in St. Paul that are more than willing to help the average person make their way through at least SOME of the legislative weeds: House Information Services; amazingly well-versed Librarians who can help you find a needle in a hay stack in under five minutes; people at the Office of Management and Budget and MPCA that will gladly tell you anything you want to know; “and more!”

      I strongly suspect the people that grouse all the time about how dumbed-down, inefficient, bureaucratic and cronified government in general is, and “public employees” in particular are, haven’t actually dealt with many of those people.

  9. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 06/11/2015 - 08:36 am.


    In a democracy you get the government you deserve. If you send a bunch of people who don’t understand the job up to the legislature you’ll get incompetent performance.

    Beyond that, we need to get to clean bills somehow. We have rules that supposedly disallow amendments and riders that are not “germane” to bills, but the guys adding the amendments get to decide how “germane” something is. So they stuff an anti-abortion measure into circus legislation and call it “germane”. Maybe if we had some kind of independent process that could be invoked when someone stuffs a gun silencer amendment into a agriculture budget or whatever we could break that stuff out and make legislators pass or not pass on stand alone bills.

    The media frankly does a horrible job of covering the legislative process. For one thing the old style “let’s interview the power brokers” practice ala “Almanac” is a waste of time by and large. If you watch TPT live coverage on any given day you’ll see a multitude of newsworthy moments that NEVER make the news. For instance when the republicans were in the minority they routinely gummed up the entire process by requesting roll call votes that would then lose anyways. Then yo wonder why they don’t get done on time? No one ever reports stuff like that.

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