GOP leaders share government reform wish list

DFLers say many of the ideas largely are unworkable.

Republican legislative leaders are proposing a hefty list of reform ideas that range from lowering business taxes to revamping teachers' pay to the suggestion to "let people buy beer" even if government shuts down.

With a budget surplus and a November election on the horizon, House and Senate leaders say now is the perfect time to remake government.

"This is what happens when representative government truly is representative government," said House Speaker Kurt Zellers, R-Maple Grove.

While DFL Gov. Mark Dayton said he could agree with some of the Republicans' "Reform 2.0" ideas, Democrats in the Legislature found much to dislike.

House Minority Leader Paul Thissen, DFL-Minneapolis, said the ideas would do little to help the middle class. The Democratic Alliance for a Better Minnesota even set up a website called "Deform 2.0," mocking the Republicans.

The Republican ideas are expansive. Among them: allowing the mayors of St. Paul and Minneapolis to control their cities' public schools and redoing the state's prevailing-wage laws. Some of the ideas are old, made new with Republican majorities' use of Twitter, Facebook and an online bill tracker that would follow the measures during the legislative session, which starts next week.

House Majority Leader Matt Dean, R-Dellwood, said the GOP plans also would include putting in place a "parent trigger," which supporters have likened to a union. It would allow parents to essentially demand their kids' school become a charter school if a majority of parents agree and if the school is failing.

"It is very controversial, but it is something that is very popular in other states," said Dean.

Also on their docket: merging some state departments. They did not specify which ones, but Zellers noted proposals that have been made before, including combining the Health and Human Services Departments and folding the Board of Water and Soil Resources into the Agriculture Department.

Dayton said that such a move would not be a panacea. "I don't rule it out ... but the benefits are overstated and the problems are underappreciated," he said.

But Dayton and the Republicans appear to be in concert on making it easier for businesses to deal with state government.

On Wednesday, the governor announced a multiagency effort to give businesses "one place to call to get the assistance they need" to grow. On Thursday, Republicans proposed "an ombudsman" who would serve as a primary contact for businesses that want to set down roots in Minnesota or expand.

Then there's the beer.

During the three-week government shutdown last summer, the state said it might have to remove MillerCoors products from shelves because the company's brand label registration was expired. MillerCoors had sent the state a check to renew the license but made it out in the wrong amount. It sent a new check, which arrived too late to be renewed before noncritical employees were laid off.

Zellers said the state should still require licenses but should let companies renew online.

Of the beer threat amid the shutdown, he said: "It's just bad for us. It is embarrassing for business."

Rachel E. Stassen-Berger • Twitter: @rachelsb

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions

ADVERTISEMENT

Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close