Protest under MN Constitution, Article IV, Sec. 11 challenges lack of transparency & violation of constitutional requirement
St. Paul MN – Senator John Marty (DFL-Roseville) and eight Senate colleagues filed a rare formal protest and dissent against legislative action at the end of the 2017 session. Marty said, “Packing numerous, often unrelated policy provisions and appropriations riders into a single bill violates the Minnesota Constitution and is harmful to the public. On top of that, most of the budget and policy decisions are being made by a handful of legislative leaders, with little time for others to become aware of the provisions.”
Article 4, Section 11 of the Minnesota Constitution gives legislators the right to protest and dissent when legislative acts are injurious to the public, and have the dissent entered into the legislative journal. The provision is rarely used and intended for serious problems.
Marty and his colleagues said inserting multiple policy and appropriation riders into a single bill violates the Minnesota Constitution (Article 4, Section 17) which requires bills to deal with only one subject. The Senators’ protest said that “courts may have been reluctant to step in and enforce this constitutional provision, but that does not excuse violating the constitution that our oath requires us to uphold.”
The protest and dissent said that the practice reduces accountability and transparency: “The public has no ability to know about proposed policies until after they are enacted, or to know the positions of their elected representatives on those provisions.”
The protest and dissent said that it also, “allows harmful provisions to be slipped into bills that contain the funding necessary to operate state government, without a chance for legislators to vote for or against those provisions. This effectively holds some provisions hostage, with legislators being forced to accept policies we consider harmful in order to pass a budget.” They also protested legislative action in the middle of the night, and releasing legislation shortly before acting on bills containing hundreds of pages. “All of this fails to meet even a minimal level of public transparency and accountability.”
Senator Marty & his colleagues concluded the protest and dissent by stating, “We are not interested in casting blame; we are demanding change. The people of Minnesota deserve a better lawmaking process. The constitution demands it.”
A copy of the formal protest and dissent is attached.