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COLUMN: Sen. Rarick - "A Failure to Follow Rules and Procedures in the Legislature"

A Failure to Follow Rules and Procedures in the Legislature by Senator Jason Rarick

As Session comes to a close, the Senate has found itself in the phase of conference committees, extended floor sessions, and working out differences between House and Senate legislation. Most of the big bills were saved for the end—things like Taxes, State Government, Transportation, and other hyper-partisan bills. Amidst all that, there have been a number of concerns regarding the process. Many of the traditional processes have been undermined and ignored. Specifically, committees have been unbalanced, there has been limited public input, and invalid provisions have been thrown into multiple bills at the last minute. This calls into question a serious lack of transparency.

With over a dozen conference committees, it would stand to follow that there would also be plenty of opportunity for input from the Republican caucuses in the House and the Senate. These are the legislators elected to represent nearly half of the state. Yet despite that fact, the Democrat trifecta put in place unbalanced committees, sometimes without a single Republican voice. Some of the biggest bills were decided by only Democrats. Many of the committees that did happen to include a Republican were decided behind closed doors, with input only being provided by the chairs. This is a shameful practice that not only ignores those that represent the interests of half the state, but also lacks transparency.

Public input has also been severely limited. Traditionally, conference committees have offered a platform for Minnesotans and organizations to come forward and share ideas regarding the House and Senate bills. It has offered a last-minute opportunity for voices to be heard. Unfortunately, that part of committee has been completely cut out of the process this year. Because of this, we’ve been hearing from folks that have been extremely frustrated that their input and voices have been completely shut out of the process. The public should be given the opportunity to challenge some of the things being discussed in these bills—that is what should be happening. What we’re actually seeing is agreements being made behind closed doors, and then being brought to conference committee to have signatures slapped on it, followed by hitting the gavel and being done. This has been extremely frustrating to witness.

Democrats have also twice tried to throw invalid provisions into these bills, one specific example being the Jobs bill. Democrats have been caught twice on these technicalities, once in the Senate and once in the House. When the Jobs bill came to the senate floor, we attempted to make a motion to send the report back to conference committee so the public could provide further input. But we also pointed out that they failed to follow a rule. In their closed door process, Democrats added a bill into the Jobs bill that was not included in either one of the House or Senate versions. Within that new bill, there was a provision that would have given state agencies rulemaking abilities. Legislative rules have always said that conference committees cannot do that. It was such a frustrating moment, that even a Democrat Senator spoke up and advocated for the bill being sent back to conference committee. Unfortunately, instead of returning to conference committee and taking that provision out of the bill like the should have, they simply removed the rulemaking authority, and sent it right back to the floor.

Senate Democrats are simply failing to follow the rules and procedures regarding the way everything is supposed to happen. Many of these bills will be affecting schools, cities, and counties, yet people from any of the affected communities have been limited in providing feedback. And the representatives elected to be the voice of those groups have also been kept out of the process. This is just another example of standard procedures being completely ignored and undermined by the Democrat trifecta. This not the way we should be making laws in Minnesota, and we have to do better.

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