Too many committees, not enough public input

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A cumbersome committee structure is a barrier to public participation and process transparency.

It’s a situation that concerns Geoff Bartsh, president of the Minnesota Governmental Relations Council, who offered recommendations for change to the House Governmental Operations, Reform, Technology and Elections Committee. The committee is looking at ways to improve the legislative process.

Too many committees lead to overlap and bills not being fully vetted, Bartsh said.

He said it is hard for an experienced lobbyist, like himself, to follow the process, but nearly impossible for the general public. “More and more bills are being sent from one committee to the next with work left to be done, and we keep hearing this phrase, ‘This bill has a lot of stops to make before it gets to the floor.’”

He supports fewer House committees and better coordination with the Senate committee schedule and structure. Bartsh also advocates imposing stricter standards on committee hearing notices and agendas, and having bill amendments available online before a meeting.

Under the chairmanship of Rep. Gene Pelowski Jr. (DFL-Winona), the committee has had reform discussions for two years. The plan is for a list of potential procedural changes to be ready for House leadership consideration prior to the 2009 session.

The committee is scheduled to meet July 10 to focus on recommendations for improving floor debate.