A top lawmaker at Minnesota’s capitol is attempting to make the State Legislature “more open and accessible to the public.” In a press release sent out Thursday morning House Minority Leader Paul Thissen (DFL) announced his legislative package to “improve Minnesota’s ‘D- rating’ for openness and transparency.” The “chaotic end” of the 2015 session in the House, where a $100 million spending bill was passed just before the deadline, was included in the announcement
The press release explains the legislation will include “longer public notices before final actions on bills and changes to make it easier for the public to follow legislation and provide input.” The legislation will also attempt to stop the “revolving door” of legislators who become lobbyists, as well as improving “reporting related to per diem and other public expenditures.”
Other changes the legislation proposes include a minimum of 24 hours to notify the public of a final vote on a piece of legislation, mandated time allotted for public testimony during several steps in the legislative process, amending House rules to forbid the ability to suspend the rules to allow the House to meet past midnight prior to the last two weeks of legislative session, requiring that bills only include one subject, and amending House rules so that Omnibus Budget Bills “only contain budget related material.”
Thissen says, “We must never repeat the mockery of legislative process that occurred last session when the House jammed through a $100 million spending bill that no one – either legislators or the public – had a chance to read.”
In November the Center for Public Integrity gave Minnesota a “D-” in an integrity investigation, giving the state “F’s” in public access to information, executive accountability, legislative accountability, judicial accountability, ethics enforcement agencies, and state pension fund management.
Several of the proposed changes will depend on the House Rules Committee changing procedure, while some will require new laws. In a previous interview with Alpha News regarding his 2016 plans Thissen said he hopes to not only work towards transparency issues, but to tackle campaign finance reform as well.
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