Republicans in the Legislature zeroed in on a familiar target Friday: the Metropolitan Council.
The House and Senate sent Gov. Mark Dayton a bill to reform the regional government, converting the agency from a governor-appointed body to one composed largely of elected officials.
“It goes to the point of representation and accountability,” said Rep. Tony Albright, R-Prior Lake, the House author. “Right now the Met Council has a constituency of one.”
Formed in 1967, the Met Council is one of the most powerful governments of its kind in the country. It oversees the seven-county metro area’s transit and wastewater systems, guides how cities use land, helps develop regional parks, and doles out federal transportation money.
The bill would convert the council from a 17-member body appointed by the governor to one led by a chair and 28 other people, most of whom are county commissioners and local elected officials. The bill’s authors kept a chair appointed by the governor, hoping to win support from Dayton.
“I really wanted to make an overture to him to let him know we were serious about working with him on this issue,” said Sen. Eric Pratt, R-Prior Lake, the Senate sponsor.
The structure of the Met Council has been controversial since its inception in the 1960s. But the primary debate at the time was whether its members should be appointed or directly elected. Pratt says he opposes a direct election model.
“It would make it a more partisan and special interest-driven process,” Pratt said, “and wouldn’t get us to the ultimate goal of being credible and accountable.”
In Washington, D.C., Rep. Jason Lewis, R-Minn., successfully amended a Federal Aviation Authority bill this spring to strip the council of its powers to dole out federal transportation funds absent elected officials on its board. The council’s structure is unlike other entities across the country that distribute federal transportation money, but its structure is grandfathered into federal law.
That bill has not been heard in the U.S. Senate, but Minnesota’s two senators oppose the amendment.