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Continued: State boards and commissions face new scrutiny

  • Article by: BAIRD HELGESON , Star Tribune
  • Last update: December 2, 2013 - 10:42 AM

The bipartisan group reviewed about 40 agencies, boards and commissions. In the end, it did away with just one, the Combative Sports Commission, whose duties were folded into another agency.

“Every single program was somebody’s great idea at some point,” Holberg said. “You never know who you are going to run up against when you suggest doing away with these programs.”

Democrats ended the Sunset Commission when they retook the Legislature in 2012, then launched their own bipartisan review. The group has identified about 40 boards and commissions it will recommend be scrapped.

Assistant Senate Minority Leader Roger Chamberlain pressed Democrats to do more to reduce boards and commissions. “We should take a hard look at it, inventory it, categorize it, commission by commission,” said Chamberlain, R-Lino Lakes. Anything less, he said, is “disingenuous and silly.”

One board has already asked to be downsized.

For years, the Minnesota State Council on Disability had 21 members, many with disabilities that made it expensive to bring them to the Twin Cities for meetings. Some even had to fly in to attend the gatherings.

After several years of testing life with a smaller board, the group successfully petitioned the Legislature to whittle its membership to 17.

The board’s leader said it can be successful with a narrower focus and still keep everyday Minnesotans engaged with state government.

‘The land of 10,000 boards’

“We are the land of 10,000 boards,” said Joan Willshire, the disability council’s executive director. “That’s a good thing. That is one of Minnesota’s strengths. We really work with the people.”

One of the biggest challenges boards face is just finding bodies.

Charged with appointing replacements for many boards and commissions, Dayton said he was surprised to learn how difficult legislators have made it to fill many seats. In some instances, legislators have created such a specific prescription for board makeup that strong candidates are turned away because they live outside a boundary or don’t meet certain criteria.

This seat cannot be filled

State law requires one member of a potato promotion board in northwestern Minnesota to be from a potato processing operation — even though there no longer are any potato processors in the region.

It takes 250 words to explain precisely who can serve on the State Interagency Coordinating Council. State law requires: “at least five parents, including persons of color, of children with disabilities under age 12, including at least three parents of a child with a disability under age seven, five representatives of public or private providers of services for children with disabilities under age five.”

Some requirements are overtly political, dividing appointments on certain boards among the House speaker, Senate leaders and minority leaders.

Dayton said he is committed to pressing legislators to clean up the requirements, making it easier to fill seats with qualified candidates.

“It’s this need of legislators to micromanage,” Dayton said. “They really want to control the operations side rather than trust the executive branch. ... But they are oblivious to what I call the cumulative effect.”

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