Republicans leading the Minnesota House have established a new legislative subcommittee that's charged with delivering oversight of the Metropolitan Council, a municipal body with wide jurisdiction in the Twin Cities area that has frequently been the target of Republican criticism.
The new Subcommittee on Metropolitan Council Accountability and Transparency will be chaired by Rep. Linda Runbeck, R-Circle Pines. Last October, Runbeck called the council an "unelected, unaccountable board" that's "not responsible to any authority but its own."
The Met Council is comprised of gubernatorial appointees from districts throughout the seven-county metro area, and which has a hand in setting transportation, land-use and wastewater policies and programs. The agency has been a major player in the construction of light rail lines, including the current push to develop the new Southwest line from Minneapolis to Eden Prairie.
"We are forming this subcommittee to hold the Met Council accountable and ensure they are meeting the needs of people in the metro area," Speaker Kurt Daudt said. "This unelected board has grown more powerful over the decades, and legislators want to ensure that the Met Council is listening to the needs of all its constituents both in the cities and suburbs, providing the services for which they were given authority."
The panel will be comprised of seven members, four Republicans and three Democrats who all hail from areas covered by the Met Council.
Recently, Gov. Mark Dayton appointed Adam Duininck, a Met Council member and DFL political operative, to be the council's new chairman. A separate legislative proposal recently introduced by Sen. David Osmek, R-Mound, would give communities under Met Council jurisdiction more involvement in the process of approving Met Council members. Similar proposals are likely to be considered by the new House committee.
Duininck said Wednesday that House Republicans let him know the new subcommittee was in the works. He said he was open to discussions about boosting Met Council accountability, but also warned that an entity like the council, by its nature, is often a target of criticism.
"I would just say there is oftentimes tension between local governments and a regional planning body," Duininck said.