Twenty years ago, the so-called Marty Rule, named after DFL?Sen. John Marty, placed a ban on gifts to public officials. Strict regulations put the kibosh on lobbyists or special interest groups taking legislators out to dinner or throwing lavish parties or receptions.
It may just be a coincidence, but it seems collegiality and bipartisanship went out the window at the Legislature at the same time.
Certainly there were abuses that led Sen. Marty to propose his rule, but the rule also removed opportunities for legislators and their staffers to mix and mingle in social settings, to see each other as something besides enemies.
For many years, New Ulm hosted a reception, New Ulm Night at the Legislature, with polka music, Schell's beer, Kraft cheese and other local goodies for all legislators and staffers. There was never a specific agenda, just a chance to let legislators know we were here. It built good will for New Ulm, and no doubt built some good will among the legislators.
Last session, the Legislature passed an amendment to the ethics rules, proposed by Sen. Dave Senjem (R-Rochester). The amendment will allow lobbyists and interest groups to host legislative receptions as long as they hold them away from the Capitol and they extend invitations to all legislators at least five days before the event. It places no limit on the amount groups can spend to entertain officials.
We hope the change will not lead to excesses and ethical lapses, but we do hope it will help build a friendlier spirit of collegiality in Minnesota government.