Open the closed doors of government

Gov. Mark Dayton signed the budget bills passed during last week’s special session, but he stuck a time bomb in the legislative process when he used his line item veto to eliminate funding for the state Legislature next year, unless Republicans agree to return to the negotiating table to redo the tax bill. The Legislature has enough reserve funds to operate for a few more months.

Dayton couldn’t just veto the tax bill, because Republicans had stuck a measure in there saying the Department of Revenue’s funding would be eliminated unless Dayton signed the tax bill. An “insurance policy,” they claimed. “A reprehensible sneak attack,” said the governor.

Republicans are outraged at Dayton’s maneuver.

“We agreed to (the) tax bill,” Senate Taxes Chairman Roger Chamberlain said. “I sat at table [with him], he agreed to compromise.”

Well, did he? Since much of the negotiating at the end of the session took place in closed meetings, we don’t know who agreed to what, or who discussed what. Republicans are saying the governor and his staff should have known about the Revenue Department being held hostage over the tax bill, since it was in several versions of legislation sent their way and discussed in meetings with them. But again, we don’t know what was discussed behind those closed doors.

The Legislature is the only governmental body in the state that is not affected by the state’s Open Meeting Law. No city council, school board or county board would be able to hold closed sessions to work out their differences on public matters before them. But the Legislature does it as a matter of course in conference committees and negotiations with the governor. They say they can’t get the negotiations done in the public’s eye.

Well, it seems they can’t get it done in private either. We say they should open up the process and see what they can do in the open sunshine.

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