Rep. Ryan Winkler presents government reform agenda

Rep. Ryan Winkler, DFL-Golden Valley, presented a perceived government reform initiative on Jan. 31 at the State Capitol. (Photo by T.W. Budig)

House Democrats presented a perceived government reform package on Tuesday that includes economic disclosure reform for legislators, a ban on late night legislative sessions, data practices changes and other reform items.

“For those of you who’ve spent the night on the (House) floor with us, we’re not at our best at 4 a.m., surprisingly,” quipped Rep. Ryan Winkler, DFL-Golden Valley, House bill author.

At a Capitol press conference Winkler and other House Democrats spoke of having 21 House sponsors on the reform legislation. They’re hoping for bipartisan support in the end, Winkler said.

In the area of economic disclosure for legislators, Winkler explained that under current state law lawmakers can in affect disguise paid work for political parties.

He argued that lawmakers should be required to disclose all forms of their income, including pay earned as a consultant or independent contractor.

“Right now, Minnesota has one of the worst income disclosure rules in the country,” Winkler said.

The economic disclosure provision is probably the most important provision in the reform package, Winkler indicated.

Winkler also proposes prohibiting high-ranking political party officials from holding jobs in the Legislature.

In regard to all-night legislative sessions , Winkler proposes to prohibit these and all public meetings between the hours of midnight and 7 a.m. The middle of the night is not the time to be making big decisions, he argued.

Winkler also proposes prohibiting closed-door meetings between the executive and legislative branches while the State Capitol is closed to the public.

He does not prohibit closed-door meetings in general, saying they’re often part of the negotiation process.

Additionally, Winkler proposes to force the state legislature to implement data practices rules and procedures.

Another provision in Winkler’s legislation deals with preventing state government shutdown.

He proposes making good state budget deficits, when no budget agreement is reached, through budget cuts and an income tax surcharge.

The legislation also deals with redistricting — Winkler wants to take the process out of the hands of the legislature. Lawmakers should not be drawing their own legislative district lines, he argued.

“It’s time for us to put our own house in order,” Winkler said

Winkler, an attorney by profession, said the first week of the legislative session has been a tough one in terms of partisanship. He suggested lawmakers “take a breath” and a hard look in the mirror.

“In the last year, the Minnesota Legislature has been more dysfunctional than a Kardashian marriage,” he quipped.

House Minority Leader Paul Thissen, DFL-Minneapolis, and other Democrats back Winkler’s reform legislation.

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