Minnesota campers, anglers and taxpayers will see improved services under a massive government streamlining effort passed by legislators and signed into law by Gov. Mark Dayton.
Dayton celebrated the achievements Tuesday, calling passage of nearly 1,200 measures to eliminate antiquated laws and improve government services “a phenomenal success.”
“Things don’t get undone in government very readily,” the DFL governor said. “I think we are off to a very good start.”
Dayton's signature streamlining initiative was to be a centerpiece of the last legislative session, but he saw it slip from legislators’ priority list due to a surprisingly large budget surplus and other attention-grabbing issues, like medical marijuana.
The governor’s team leading the initiative kept at it while other political battles flared overhead, unveiling more than 1,000 proposals and doggedly shepherding them through the committee process. With a database tracking each measure, Dayton’s team ditched some that became controversial and took on others pitched by legislators as the session wore on.
“The one thing that can unite us all, that we shouild agree upon, is that government should run better,” said Iron Range Resources and Rehabilitation Board Commissioner Tony Sertich, who led Dayton’s initiative. “That has a hallmark of the Dayton administration and a hallmark of this initiative.”
Republicans criticized the effort for focusing on sometimes silly and otherwise common-sense reforms rather than giving a serious rethinking of the state’s troubled health insurance exchange and the new $77 million office building for state Senators and staff.
House Minority Leader Kurt Daudt, R-Crown, criticized Democrats for not stopping the new office building. “Minnesotans are unimpressed,” he said.
Dayton said the changes will make it less time-consuming and aggravating for Minnesotans and business owners when they need to deal with state government.
The governor even signed an executive order that requires state agencies to do something seemingly so simple, but which has proven so hard – requiring communication with the public to be clear, concise and easy to understand.
As part of the effort, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources converted 92-pages of fishing regulations into a slick and easy to use computer application that works on mobile phones.
Legislators wiped out myriad antiquated laws that generated a chuckle around the Capitol. They eliminated telegraph regulations, repealed a law that made it a misdemeanor to carry fruit in the wrong sized container and eliminated a nearly 80-year-old law that made it illegal to drive in neutral.
But many of the changes were serious and substantive.
Dayton is seeking to shorten waiting times for business permit applications to 90 days, a dramatic drop from the current 150 days.
The administration is expecting that 11,000 of the 15,000 annual permits applications quickly reach this new standard.
The effort will make it easier for some Minnesotans to file taxes, eliminating an often confusing multi-step process to deduct student loan interest.