This year’s evaluation focuses on sixteen floor votes that highlight important principles and policies. The 2017 report emphasizes the increasing use of unconstitutional multi-subject bills in place of the single-subject bills required by the Minnesota constitution. Multi-subject bills, often hundreds of pages long, have dominated the content of recent legislative sessions.
“Multi-subject bills are not only unconstitutional, but they derail accountability and allow special interests to manipulate the system at the expense of the citizens,” says LEA president, Don Lee. “Politicians love them for closed-door, team-based, deal-making. Citizens should hate them for the same reason.” The report condemns processes that create constitutional conflicts between the executive and legislative branches, such as making appropriations contingent upon passing certain policies. The governor signed bills and then tried to renegotiate by withholding the legislature’s funding. In another case, portions of a bill that the governor vetoed and did not become law were implemented by him anyway.
John Augustine presents award to 2016 Senate honoree Bruce Anderson
Over 60 people attended the LEA Annual Members’ Meeting and Legislative Awards Banquet, which was held February 21 at The Mermaid Event Center in Mounds View. LEA Board Chairman/President John Augustine spoke of the problems caused when our Minnesota Constitution’s single-subject rule is ignored, and of the threat that earlier election dates pose to all citizen groups evaluating public officials’ performance and educating fellow citizens about that performance.
Those in attendance also got to hear from two of the 2016 Senate honorees, Bruce Anderson and David Brown, as they rose from their seats to receive their award plaques. The keynote speech, “Economic Growth: Let’s Do Better,” was given by Univ. of St. Thomas Finance Professor John Spry. He noted the parallels between LEA’s published credo and the American Declaration of Independence. Among the barriers to achieving more robust economic growth that Spry discussed were miseducation and crony capitalism. The Minnesota tax code should not be so complex, as it is now with 57 property-tax classifications and four income-tax brackets, he argued. The biggest barrier Spry sees to robust, sustained economic growth is lower participation in the workforce, particularly among those just becoming eligible to enter it. The participation decline is both recent and dramatic. Whereas 60% of American teenagers had a summer job in 1989, only 33% did in 2016. Continue reading →
The annual LEA Legislative Awards Banquet will be held Tuesday, February 21, 2017 in the Coral Room, at the Mermaid Event Center 2200 County Hwy. 10, Mounds View (near Ramsey Co. Rd. H, just northwest of junction of Hwy. 10 and I-35W). Free parking and entrance are on the west side, in back of the building.
HONORING: Senators Bruce Anderson, David Brown, and Dave Thompson Social Hour and Registration Begins at 5:30 P.M. — Dinner 6:30 P.M.
Featured Speaker: Prof. John Spry Topic: “Economic Growth: Let’s Do Better”
What We Can Do to Promote Economic Growth Toward a Better, Lower, Broader, Simpler Tax Code, Improving Government Budgeting Continue reading →
Honorees: Senators Bruce Anderson, David Brown, and Dave Thompson. Honorable Mention: Senators Michelle Benson and David Osmek; Representative Steve Drazkowski.
Citizen Legislature Has Given Way to an Administrative State
Press Release by LEA President John Augustine
A half-century ago, candidates for the Minnesota legislature ran on the ballot without partisan designation, and legislators met in session every other year to conduct the business of the people. Many bills were passed, but they were fairly simple. Certainly, not all the laws that passed were good laws, but they were easier to understand and to repeal if they created more problems than they addressed. The simplicity allowed a good citizen legislator to achieve competence and function effectively without pursuing a full-time career as a government official. Continue reading →
Note from Mr. Augustine, Chairman and President of the Legislative Evaluation Assembly of Minnesota: LEA is on record in its 2015 report (available at www.lea-mn.org) as being opposed to felon-voting restoration language very similar to what is in a bill that has been passed by the 2016 Minnesota Senate. However, the views expressed in this piece are the author’s and not necessarily those of the LEA Board or its members.
It has become trendy for activists across the political spectrum to support automatic restoration of voting rights to convicted felons not in prison, regardless of whether the offenders have completed all the terms of the sentencing process. Continue reading →
The Annual LEA Legislative Awards Banquet will be held on Thursday, March 3rd, 2016, in the Coral Room at The Mermaid Event Center, 2200 County Hwy. 10, Mounds View (near Ramsey Co. Rd. H, just northwest of junction of Hwy. 10 and I-35W) free parking and entrance are on the west side, in back of the building.
Honorees: Senators Bruce Anderson, Michelle Benson, Dan Hall, Mary Kiffmeyer, Branden Petersen, and Dave Thompson. Honorable Mention: Senator Ortman; Representative Drazkowski. Social Hour and Registration Begins at 5:30 P.M. — Dinner 6:30 P.M.Continue reading →
Honorees: Senators Bruce Anderson, Michelle Benson, Dan Hall, Mary Kiffmeyer, Branden Petersen, and Dave Thompson. Honorable Mention: Senator Ortman; Representative Drazkowski.
The Relationship between Quality and Quantity
Press Release by LEA President John Augustine
Do More Bills Getting Votes Lead to Better Legislation?
“Paradoxically, the answer appears to be yes,” notes LEA President John Augustine. “One of the most commonly-used sayings in our culture is ‘quality, not quantity’. However, this trend of pushing more new law into fewer bills is not producing better results.” The increased reliance on omnibus bills hurts accountability, as it provides legislators with more cover to vote for bad policies in bills that also contain some things that have value. It also gives more power to a small group of leaders, because these bills almost always end up in conference-committee negotiations and get to the floor late in session. Members lose opportunities to push for amendments to make the legislation better in the event it reaches the governor’s desk, or to override a governor’s vetoes made after the end of session. Crafting bills with so much packed into them also increases the chances of stalemate and special sessions to settle budgetary disputes. The accountability problems created by these huge omnibus bills are magnified even further in special session, when the legislature simply convenes to ratify the products of closed-door negotiations, without much media scrutiny or citizen input through committee hearings. Continue reading →
In an excellent commentary in the Minneapolis StarTribune on August 14, former Senator Jack Davies analyzed the destructive and dysfunctional practice of crafting multisubject bills in the State Legislature, describing this year’s legislature as carrying on the practice which began in the 1980s to “shocking new heights.”
He noted that the 1969 Legislature passed 1150 single acts, compared to this year’s 80, most of which contained more than one subject. While not advocating the elimination of omnibus bills, Davies argued that every single new subject to be added to them needs a vote in the legislature or in an open committee. He also recommended that the practice be brought to the Supreme Court by multiple petitioners and that the Court hold multisubject Acts invalid. Continue reading →
The Sunlight Foundation has released an update to its state lobbying disclosure report card, evaluating each state on disclosure of lobbyist activity and compensation, expenditure transparency, expenditure reporting thresholds and document accessibility.
Based on Sunlight’s criteria and rating system, Minnesota earned a “C.” California, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, South Carolina and Wisconsin each received an A. At the bottom of the list was Florida, Nevada and West Virigina which received Fs.