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Guest Editorial: Late lawmaking leads to secrecy, mistakes, chaos

The one potential benefit from the mistakes of the 2017 Legislature was the opportunity to learn from them.

But so far in the 2018 Legislature, it appears not many lessons have been taken to heart.

Let's review. The 2017 session ended with the GOP putting a sneaky provision in a spending bill that would have withheld funding from the Minnesota Department of Revenue if Gov. Mark Dayton vetoed the tax bill.

Dayton signed the bill, but retaliated in kind by defunding the Legislature with a line-item veto.

Several court hearings later, taxpayers had only a $767,000 legal bill to show for it.

The legislative session in 2016 was no better. It ended with late-night meetings, secrecy, members unaware of what they were voting on, and a last-minute veto of a tax bill that created even more chaos.

A lack of trust, untoward political maneuvering and the Legislature's unwillingness to show its cards and play above-board were at the heart of the problem.

A similar troubling pattern is emerging this year.

A GOP-led House public safety committee said it would discuss gun bills as they all came in at a later date. To date, no discussion has been scheduled. In fact, the bills that were offered were sent to the legislative graveyard to die. When Democrats tried to have a debate on the bills on the Senate floor, they lost on a procedural vote.

The GOP chairman of the House bonding committee said on April 11 that they would provide their bonding proposal in "a couple of weeks." The plan was released Wednesday, several days after promised and months after Dayton released his bonding bill.

There is no reason for the House and Senate delays. Their inaction now requires squeezing the complex and time-consuming bonding debate into less than three weeks. In 2016, Republicans released their bonding bill just five days before session end.

And while a subcommittee on workplace safety to deal with the sexual harassment at the Capitol meant well, it appears now a bipartisan proposal was not properly vetted by hearing from members of the business community, who now object to the bill.

Even a bipartisan plan to toughen laws on texting and driving now appears iffy.

The GOP-led Legislature is also now taking the ill-advised tactic of connecting numerous unrelated omnibus bills into large packages that will only make timely lawmaking more difficult.

We urge the Legislature to get its bills and houses in order. It should move legislation in a timely manner, allowing the public to weigh in and giving reasonable opportunity for debate and compromise.

There are too many critical issues facing Minnesotans for taxpayers to be left with empty promises and large legal bills.

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