Hello Friends and Neighbors,
Since my last update, concerning the conclusion of the 89th Legislative Session, there has been some progress over the vetoed bills by the governor and the negotiations by leaders on changes proposed to the bi-partisan bills passed by both the Senate and the House.
As you may recall, the vetoed legislation represents about one-half of state spending for the FY 16-17 biennial budget, representing more than $20 billion.
I have signed on to a letter, along with my Democrat colleagues, which was sent to the leadership of both caucuses and the governor, demanding more transparency about the negotiations being conducted behind closed doors. We are expecting that the final negotiated provisions of the bills vetoed by the governor, be posted publicly with adequate time for review by both legislators and the public. However, it has now been disclosed that the governor will not call a special session until several conditions are met, two of which are very disappointing.
While the final proposed changes to the bills vetoed and negotiated have now since been posted publicly on line, the governor will not call a special session unless there is agreement that no legislator – whether Democrat or Republican, from either the House or the Senate – may make or propose any amendments to the negotiated bills. I have received many emails from constituents suggesting changes to the outstanding bills to be resolved, most of which have been respectful.
Thank you for your suggestions and comments. Unfortunately, the aforementioned condition of a Special Session, mutes any legislator, whether Democrat or Republican from representing the interests of their constituents and apparently offering amendments to the final legislation proposed by this trio of leaders is not acceptable to the governor. The Special Session, if and when it is called shall be limited to essentially a rubber stamp approval by the respective representative bodies. Legislating in this manner is usurping the process and is in many ways an overreach of the executive branch. Allowing the executive branch to legislate is a violation of the separation of powers granted to the three branches of government.
Second, the governor is calling for the repeal of a provision of a bill that he has already signed into law a couple of weeks ago and is asking for a “do-over” as the final condition of calling a Special Session to resolve the remaining budget issues. This last issue is over a provision which allows 59 Minnesota counties the same discretion as 28 other counties to seek competitive bids from the private sector to perform their required annual audits rather than being required as currently, to have the State Auditor’s office perform them. Besides the 28 counties that already are afforded this discretionary exemption, all of our cities and school districts have the same discretion to seek competitive proposals for required audits or may hire the State Auditor’s office to perform them if they choose. Ironically, there are many large school districts that manage budgets much larger than some of our counties. The governor has made recent public statements that allowing these remaining 59 counties to have discretion over their audit practices would essentially “gut a constitutional office” is incredibly absurd.
On the contrary, the office of the State Auditor has many other important responsibilities including management of the Audit Practice Division, Government Information Division, Legal/Special Investigations Division, Pension Division and Tax Increment Financing Division. In addition, the State Auditor serves upon the State Executive Council, Board of Investment, Land Exchange Board, Public Employees Retirement Association Board, Minnesota Housing Finance Agency Board, Rural Finance Authority Board, Council on Local Results and Innovation and the Collaborative Government Council.
It is time for the governor to end this final demand and get on with resolving the business of the people.
As for the Special Session, at this point, I am not hearing very much support from Democrats or Republicans from the Senate or the House to pass bills re-negotiated by leadership which were broadly bi-partisan when they reached the governor’s desk the first time.
It is my sincere hope that the governor is not trying to force yet another government shutdown as he did in 2011.
Rep. Jerry Hertaus