The Legislature should not draw its own district boundaries, set its own salaries or be party to a shutdown of state government, a group of DFL House members said Tuesday.
In addition, the group said, the state should strengthen its financial disclosure law for legislators and prohibit legislative sessions that stray into the wee hours of the morning.
"For those of you who have spent the night on the House floor watching us, we're not at our best at 4 a.m. -- surprisingly," said Rep. Ryan Winkler, DFL-St. Louis Park, a sponsor of the House DFL reform package. "The room starts to take on a little different odor, and a little different appearance. It is really not a good time to make good decisions.''
DFLers are in the minority in both houses and so their ideas for change are unlikely to go as far in the Legislature as the reform package sponsored by Republicans. The latter expansive proposal includes allowing the mayors of St. Paul and Minneapolis to take over their public schools, merging some state departments and lowering business taxes.
Winkler said the Legislature should begin by reforming itself. "If we are serious about reform during this legislative session, then we as legislators need to take a good, hard look in the mirror,'' he said. "In the last year, the Legislature has been more dysfunctional than a Kardashian marriage.''
The DFL proposal, which he said is to be introduced as a bill this week, would include:
• Turning over the job of drawing new legislative and congressional districts to a judicial commission.
• Establishing a compensation council to determine pay for legislators.
• Prohibiting future state shutdowns by automatically continuing funding at existing levels if a new budget is not approved by a given deadline. In the case of a deficit, the difference would be made up by a combination of cuts and tax increases.
• Requiring legislators and other public officials to disclose income earned as consultants or independent contractors, in addition to earnings as employees.
• Prohibiting legislative sessions and other public meetings between midnight and 7 a.m. The bill also would prohibit private meetings between the executive branch and legislators when the Capitol is closed to the public.
• A prohibition on the Legislature employing party officers.
The last appeared to be aimed at Michael Brodkorb, who served as both deputy chair of the state Republican Party and a top aide to the Senate Republican Caucus. He has since left both positions.
Winkler said Minnesota has one of the nation's weakest financial disclosure laws for public officials. "If I'm a legislator and want to take money from some unsavory source, all I have to do is claim that I'm a consultant,'' Winkler said.
The state DFL recently filed a campaign finance complaint against Sen. Dave Thompson, R-Lakeville, saying he failed to report income from the Republican Party of Minnesota. The Campaign Finance and Public Disclosure board said Thompson did not have to disclose the income because he worked as an independent contractor, and the board said it would not investigate further.
Jim Ragsdale • 651-925-5042