Other view: Make more, or rather less, of ‘unsession’Our top legislative leaders say they’re ready to make state government better, faster and smarter for Minnesotans. We hope they mean it.
By: St. Paul Pioneer Press, Duluth News Tribune
Our top legislative leaders say they’re ready to make state government better, faster and smarter for Minnesotans. We hope they mean it.
State House and Senate leaders in both parties sound mostly open and positive when it comes to Gov. Mark Dayton’s call to an “unsession” next month to undo laws, regulations and practices that burden people and hinder efficiency.
“Gov. Mark Dayton has a state Senate that’s very interested in working with him on trying to find ways to streamline the way state services are provided,” Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk, a Democrat from Cook, said.
His Republican colleague, Senate Minority Leader David Hann of Eden Prairie, said there is no argument about finding things that are unneeded or unnecessary that the state can stop doing.
“I think everybody agrees with that,” he said.
But just a minute: “The difficulty is that there are some very big issues that we think should get addressed, as well,” Hann also said. “They … fall into the category of ‘undoing,’ notably the business-to-business taxes” passed in 2013.
“In terms of the effect on the public, the biggest thing we can undo in the next session is the harm those taxes are putting on (Minnesota’s) economy,” he said.
The state began taxing business equipment repairs and equipment purchases by telecommunications providers on July 1. Unless lawmakers act — as they should to repeal the measures — a tax on warehousing services will be added on April 1.
Deputy House Minority Leader Jennifer Loon, an Eden Prairie Republican, said measures that make their way onto the legislative schedule will be “things that probably won’t be a heavy lift. They’re ideas that will be widely supported and get good buy-in from both parties.”
Some examples are surfacing.
“We still have a very well-regulated telegraph industry in our state statutes,” said Tony Sertich, the administration’s point person on the “unsession” since late last year. “I think we can all agree that can go.” Sertich, commissioner of the Iron Range Resources and Rehabilitation Board, is a former House majority leader.
Dayton pitched the “unsession” as a time for eliminating unnecessary or redundant laws, rules and regulations; reducing the verbiage in those that remain; shortening the timelines for developing and implementing them; and “undoing anything else that makes government nearly impossible to understand, operate or support.”
Why stop there? The “unsession” should take advantage of the full potential for reform of state government.
The governor’s proposals will be “ready to go on Day One of the session,” Sertich said, after outreach efforts seeking ideas from state employees and other Minnesotans, as well as line-by-line work on statutes by commissioners and their agencies. The effort has, he said, produced “so many ideas, good ideas, and so many with strong substance to them.”
That’s encouraging. So may be the timing.
Reform and streamlining efforts “in the context of a budget crisis,” House Speaker Paul Thissen said, are about “cutting money in an immediate sense instead of what it should really be about, which is the right decision that will have an impact long-term.”
Conditions now, with fewer budget pressures and an apparent surplus at hand, “allow us to be creative,” the Minneapolis DFLer said, not just about immediate savings but about benefits that could continue to accrue in years to come.
It may be too much to hope for in an election year, but lawmakers should indeed be creative in their approach to the “unsession,” taking a lesson from the private sector, where tough business decisions about what to continue, what to stop and how to adapt to changing conditions are a way of life.