EDITORIAL: Legislature People served by single subject plan

Feb. 1—DFL majorities in the House and Senate took major strides this year to clean up a legislative process that had for too long been cumbersome for the people to participate in, much less understand.

That's both welcome and long overdue.

Led by Sen. John Marty, DFL-Roseville, who chairs the Senate Finance Committee, Senate committees will be required to keep their bills to a single subject and to keep separate policy bills from finance bills. That may seem like bureaucratic rulemaking that affects no one, but in reality it provides for more transparency and does not allow bills and policies without majority support to become law.

An in-depth report in MinnPost shows Marty and DFL House Speaker Melissa Hortman are committed to this process, which was not attainable when there was a divided Legislature. That process required negotiation between Democrats and Republicans, with each holding onto legislation until the waning minutes of the session, passing bills in the dark of night without proper vetting or rank-and-file participation.

That also created a lot of bills where powerful interests were able to slip in provisions that benefitted few.

We think both Republicans and Democrats should have fixed that system long ago, but at least Democrats in the majority will now make sure it happens. Credit goes to Marty, who has long been a critic of such "garbage bills" coming for votes at the end of the session.

Marty also will require chairs of other budget committees to separate out policy bills from money bills. Having the two together in one bill in the past allowed policies that wouldn't pass muster in the majority to get through because they were attached to funding bills that were popular.

A good example occurred in 2020 when the tax cut bill was included in the bonding bill. The tax bill would have never passed alone, Hortman said at the time, according to a report in MinnPost.

Marty says that will no longer happen. It's also a good policy because it complies with the Minnesota Constitution's single subject rule.

"The goal is to separate budget and policy and create a more accountable, transparent system that's going to comply with the Constitution's single subject rule," Marty told MinnPost.

Marty's counterpart, House Ways and Means Committee Chair Rep. Liz Olson, DFL-Duluth, agrees with the single subject rules. That should make the House and Senate coming to agreement an easier process.

While dark of night negotiations and lack of transparency were unhealthy byproducts of divided government, that divided government shouldn't be an excuse for the lack of good governance.

But for now, the DFL is making the right moves for transparency and expediency. That will serve the people of Minnesota.