End of Session Chaos Renews Calls for Transparency

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For the second straight legislative session, lawmakers were busy working down to the final minutes to pass massive pieces of legislation. Compromise was not reached on the legislature’s top priority: a long-term transportation plan or bonding bill that would fund an abundance of public works projects.

The fact that decisions were made once again within the last few hours of the legislative session has some members upset.  “Two years in a row, we have seen a complete lack of transparency. It is an embarrassing and unacceptable process,” said DFL House Minority Leader Paul Thissen (Minneapolis) in a press release, adding “Minnesotans are frustrated by it and sense that special interests are pulling strings behind the scenes. We should never let this happen again.” Thissen made waves in January after introducing a legislative plan that would mandate transparency, but the measure was rejected by the House of Representatives.

DFL representatives are not the only party disappointed with the session’s end, Senator Roger Chamberlain (R-Lino Lakes) also thought it was much too secretive. “I hate this end-of-session nonsense. You have big omnibus bills and get a few people in a room getting stuff together that … undermines the democratic process,” said Chamberlain.

The Uptake reports that the House of Representatives witnessed the panicking of legislators in the last hours of the session, public scoldings of the legislative body during floor speeches, and failures to ensure that members had ample time to read and consider legislation they were expected to vote for or against.

The transportation bill that was passed by the House of Representatives, did so by a 91-39 measure.  It included $819 million in bonding, $1.1 billion in spending, $278 for transportation, $189 million for higher education, $154 million for water infrastructure public works projects, and $94 million for employment and economic development.

Despite the chaos, both chambers managed to pass a spending bill, which included appropriated funds for the following: $259 million in tax cuts, programs aimed at lesssening the economic gap between individuals of color and their white counterparts, rural broadband initiatives, and prekindergarten programs.

Although a plethora of legislative priorities were not addressed in-depth, and long term solutions were not crafted, according to the Star Tribune Governor Dayton says he sees no reason to call for a special session (only he has the authority to do so).

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