One day after Minnesota's state government shutdown ended, a trio of Republican state senators unveiled bills they said could prevent a repeat, while a DFL senator called for reforms that would end secret budget negotiations.
Republican Sens. Ted Lillie, of Lake Elmo, Paul Gazelka of Brainerd and Ted Daley of Eagan said their bills would keep state government operating at existing funding levels even if legislators fail to agree on a new budget by the end of the two-year budget period.
Currently, the budget expires every two years on June 30. If there is no new budget agreement by then, the state can no longer legally spend money and must cease operations, as it did until Wednesday. A court order was able to sustain some critical services, but even the legality of that was challenged.
Lillie said state officials need to "take measures to ensure this does not happen again."
The senators said their proposed bills are similar to one proposed by DFL Lt. Gov. Yvonne Prettner Solon in the wake of the far shorter, more limited 2005 shutdown. That bill never made it out of committee.
Lillie and Daley's bills would go through the usual legislative process. Gazelka's would submit the change to voters as a constitutional amendment.
DFL Gov. Mark Dayton, Prettner Solon and DFL legislative leaders didn't respond to requests for comments on the bill. The GOP senators said they hadn't conferred with either the governor's office or the Senate minority caucus on their proposals.
Meanwhile, Sen. John Marty, DFL-Roseville, said he plans to introduce a bill that would end the locked-door secrecy that marked the negotiations that ultimately ended the shutdown.
Marty's bill would require all budget negotiations involving legislative leaders and the governor to be open to the public. The senator said members of "the public, the media and many of those involved in the process were disgusted by the complete disregard for transparent and accessible government."
Bob von Sternberg • 651-222-0973