Marty calls for end to closed-door budget negotiations and “cone of silence”

Statement from Senator John Marty after close of 2011 Special Session:

“There are many reasons to be disappointed by the 2011 budget process: state government was shut down and the new budget will hurt Minnesota’s education system, its economy, and its most vulnerable people. And even so, the final budget deal borrowed against the future without fixing our financial problems.

Despite the huge disappointment with the budget process and outcome, state government is back in operation, so it is time to look at improving the process for the future. We can use this opportunity to reform the system.

The public, the media, and many of those involved in the legislative process were disgusted by the complete disregard for transparent and accessible government. What Speaker Zellers called the “cone of silence,” with budget negotiations behind closed doors, must become a thing of the past.

Democracy is not always comfortable or easy. True representation and informed discussion occurs only with an involved electorate.

During the special session, Representative Mindy Greiling and I introduced legislation to end these top secret negotiations (SF 13/HF 13).

Until the early 1970′s, many legislative committees operated behind closed doors. However, in 1972, the DFL party campaigned on the theme of opening the doors to government. After the election, they truly kept their promise and adopted rules that opened up the legislative process.

Unfortunately, over the past four decades, this openness has been slipping away incrementally. While committee meetings are open to the public, many of the most important policy and budget decisions are now made behind closed doors–in conference committee negotiations and in budget negotiations between the governor and legislative leaders.

If we believe in openness when routine legislation is being discussed, isn’t it even more important when the most important decisions are being made?

This legislation would require all budget negotiations between House and Senate legislative leaders (including conference committee negotiations) and negotiations between the governor and legislative leaders to be open to the public.

It may seem easier or more convenient to negotiators to work behind closed doors, but the results have not been good.

This proposal in not meant to blame anyone – I have been pushing for these changes over the years under both DFL and Republican legislative leadership. This legislation is aimed at opening up the political process for the future. In a government “of the people,” the public should not be locked out of the lawmaking and budget-setting process.”

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Senator John Marty
John Marty represents Roseville, Lauderdale, Falcon Heights and northern St. Paul.

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