The color purple is attracting particular attention this season. We hope that’s true at the Minnesota Legislature, where the Senate’s bipartisan, moderate-minded “Purple Caucus” is pitching a change aimed at more orderly and transparent lawmaking at a legislative session’s end.
The caucus Thursday proposed a new deadline — one week before a session’s constitutionally required adjournment date, which is May 23 this year — for conference committees to produce the final versions of major spending and tax bills and send them to the House and Senate floors.
Last year, to the consternation of many Minnesotans with a stake in legislation, those bills came out of conference committees in the last three days of the session, and at least one appeared in the wee hours of the session’s final day. Insufficient time was allotted for legislators to digest the bills and for stakeholders to react to them before their enactment.
Earlier action by conference committees is much in order. But it’s not clear that by itself, an earlier deadline would be effective or enforceable. Deadlines are frequently waived by the Legislature’s rules committees when delay serves leaders’ desires. Leaders are loath to take over negotiating duties for a stalled conference committee until the constitutional deadline gives them no alternative.
But even as only a goal, a conference committee deadline could be a useful prod to action. Better still would be recognition among legislative leaders that Minnesotans were disgusted by the delays and disorder at the end of the 2015 session and will hold incumbents to account if that bad show is repeated.