Some rascality on transparency came into the legislative committee process today. Before the House Environment and Natural Resources Policy and Finance Committee, HF 181 (Outdoor heritage fund money appropriated, outdoor heritage fund money requirements modified, previous appropriation modified, and appropriating money) bill was heard. This is the bill that deals with the money for the various Legacy projects related to “outdoors” and the Lessard-Sams Outdoor Heritage Council. Among the amendments put on the bill was this one.
The amendment deals with the Open Meeting Law and how the Lessard-Sams Council operates under that law. The purpose of the post today is not to go into detail about concerns and issues with the specific amendment, but how the public was informed about this change.
First of all there is some history, on the issue of transparency and openness of the Lessard-Sams Council. Four years ago, there was a big House floor fight on accountability and transparency about the Lessard-Sams Council. The media covered it from Minnesota Public Radio to an open government blog writer, “The Legacy bill and Open Meeting” The bottom line what came out of that floor fight and what became policy was the importance of accountability and clarity of how millions of public dollars are spent.
Now in 2015, four years later, Rep. Denny McNamara who is the Chief Author of HF 181 and who believed in 2011 that Lessard-Sams Outdoor Heritage Council should not be under the strict accountability of the Open Meeting Law has placed this amendment on the bill.
I remember four years ago, Rep. McNamara making comments to me past midnight after the floor fight. He did not like what I did.(lobbying against the Legacy Conference Committee bill which allowed Lessard-Sams Council to be less accountable and transparent). In other words, he was mad.
This morning when I found out about the amendment I went to his office, since 2011, Mr. McNamara and I have talked many times. I asked him what the amendment does. He was short for time, but I was able to ask a quick question. Why did you not introduce the amendment as a bill? An answer was shouted by his aide saying it was posted on the committee website.
But for me posting an amendment on the committee website about the Lessard-Sams Council/Open Meeting Law that affects how it can and will be perceived by the public as it makes recommendations how millions of dollars being spent—–does not cut it. Particularly, by the person who is the Chief Author of the bill, he should be astute to that.
I had hoped that Representative McNamara would have thought about four years ago and the long floor fight on the Open Meeting issue. In so doing, he would have thought of need and notice to the public about these kind of changes and the need for transparency.
It is still early in the 2015 legislative session. Amendments to bills that deal with transparency and open government can still be done as proposals introduced as House File…….rather than amendment………..
Shenanigans in my view, do not need to start yet…this early.