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Letter: Benson Co-Authors Reforms to Increase Transparency at Capitol

The legislature has already wrapped up the second week of session and activity is picking up quickly.

Dear neighbors,

The legislature has already wrapped up our second week of session and activity is picking up quickly. Committees are meeting regularly and discussing a wide variety of legislation.

DFL legislators offered a variety of job and reform proposals this week. On Tuesday, I joined a number of DFL members to co-author a package of reforms today designed to improve transparency and effectiveness at the Minnesota State Legislature. The legislation establishes a non‑partisan redistricting commission and a non‑partisan compensation commission. Let's stop the practice of legislators drawing the lines of their own legislative districts and setting their own pay.

The series of reforms would address loopholes and shortcomings that are preventing the State Legislature from conducting the people’s businesses in the manner the public expects and deserves. People have been losing faith and trust in their state government and I believe these reforms would put us on the path to regaining that trust.

The following are among the provisions in the bill:

Full Disclosure on “Party Pay” for State Legislators

Minnesotans deserve to know if their elected officials are being paid by a political party, but a loophole in campaign finance laws permits elected legislators to shield that information from the public. This legislation would close the loophole and require elected officials to disclose all sources of income, including pay as a “consultant or independent contractor.”

Prohibit Party Officials from Public Jobs

There is an inherent conflict of interest when high ranking officials in political parties hold public jobs at the State Legislature. This legislation would prohibit the House, Senate, and Joint Legislative Commissions from employing officers of a major political party.

Ends “Midnight Madness” and closed door meetings

Midnight sessions and closed door meetings make it difficult or impossible for the public to follow the legislative process. This legislation would prohibit public meetings between the hours of midnight and 7 a.m. or during any time the Capitol or State Office Building is closed to the public. It would also prohibit closed door meetings between the executive and legislative branch while the State Capitol is closed to the public.

Require State Legislature to institute a plan for record retention

Unlike the executive branch, the State Legislature has no Data Practices rules or procedures. In the interest of public accountability, this legislation would require the State Legislature to implement a plan for record retention.

After the scandals, extreme partisanship and gridlock we’ve seen over the last year, I believe these common-sense reforms are essential and will put us on a path to a better state legislature. I’m proud to have signed on as a co-author and hope my colleagues in the majority party will work with us to get this done.

Thank you for the honor of serving you in our state legislature.

Sincerely,

John Benson

State Representative

District 43B

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