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In 2015, a cabal of powerful legislators with a kettle of gripes drew scissors in a late-session huddle and snipped one of the state's most effective policymaking arrangements, the citizen board of the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency.

No heads-up, no public discussion, and no respect for responsible lawmaking. Just a backroom whip-slash and a model in transparent governance went poof.

That reckless wrong would be righted by a bill advancing in the Minnesota Legislature, in open daylight (HF 2076/SF 1937). Rep. Kristi Pursell, DFL-Northfield, wants a governor-appointed, eight-member MPCA "community board" that, like the one purged, would sign off on agency policy. A companion bill by Sen. Foung Hawj, DFL-St. Paul, has been approved by the first of several committees.

The MPCA and its Citizens' Board were created in 1967 when an engaged public supported cleaning up widespread environmental damage. That would require regulation, always the nemesis of those preferring to do business without bothersome rules.

The citizen board would review MPCA policy proposals in open meetings. It worked because the public was better informed, and agency proposals were improved through broader input.

The board's demise unfolded when it overruled the MPCA commissioner and required full environmental review of a planned 8,500-head feedlot in Stevens County. Critics saw that as needlessly adding time and cost to an agriculture project.

In reality, the board's undoing had as much to do with the persistent antiregulatory bent of business and industry, and by a bevy of beefs from Iron Rangers, prominently the prolonged permitting process for a copper-nickel mine near Babbitt. Leaders of the cabal to abolish the board were Rep. Kurt Daudt, then GOP House speaker and business favorite, and former Sen. Tom Bakk, then DFL majority leader and staunch mining advocate.

Daudt told MinnPost he was "always kind of baffled" that a politically appointed board would oversee a regulatory process. (What about the governor-appointed Public Utilities Commission?)

Daudt might know that the MPCA and its citizen board became law under the guidance of GOP Sen. Gordon Rosenmeier of Little Falls. GOP Gov. Harold LeVander supported the citizen board, and appointed fellow Republican John Badalich as MPCA's first commissioner.

A few years later, the Republican Nixon administration created the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Council on Environmental Quality, and passed the foundational National Environmental Policy Act.

Among Minnesota's most effective environmental legislators at the time was GOP Sen. Robert Dunn of Princeton, who appreciated that MPCA legislative proposals had already been publicly vetted the board. Same for the era's legislative environmental master, Rep. Willard Munger, DFL-Duluth.

Government transparency improves decisionmaking and builds public understanding, as the MPCA's Citizens' Board showed for 48 years. A policymaking board also insulates commissioners from inevitable political pushback by ever-present disgruntled legislators.

Pushback is one thing; late-night thuggery is quite another. So is the Minnesota Senate's recent misguided penchant of firing governor-appointees who ruffle politicos while doing their jobs.

The Legislature should erase a disgrace and approve bills to restore the MPCA's citizen board.

Ron Way of Minneapolis is former MPCA assistant commissioner for public and legislative affairs. He's at ron-way@comcast.net.