Local government officials, lawmakers call for reform

Ending mandates can be complicated

By T.W. Budig, ECM Capitol Reporter

Government association officials and reform-minded lawmakers at the State Capitol on Monday, Jan. 23 called for calculated risk-taking, the removal of barriers and other actions to kindle the fires of reform in Minnesota.

Not that everything should be thrown into the flames.

“I think we ought to look strategically at the (state) mandates,” said Sen. Terri Bonoff, DFL-Minnetonka, warning against over zealousness. Eliminating state mandates is more complicated than might be supposed, Bonoff said.

Still, League of Minnesota Cities, Minnesota School Boards Association, Association of Minnesota Counties officials and a bipartisan group of lawmakers detailed a number of goals they believe can better prepare Minnesota government for the future.

For one thing, local government officials look for more consistency and predictability coming from state leaders in St. Paul, the reformers said.

Attitudes they believe local government must embrace includes a willingness to change — local government officials can be closed-minded and defensive confronting change, they noted.

Officials argue for a commitment to innovation, a focus on outcome, better communications, patience and perseverance in crafting reform. They called for passage of the Minnesota Accountable Government and Collaborative Act — the so-called MAGIC Act.

Passed by the Senate last year, the act would allow county government to develop pilot projects to explore better ways of providing services. The legislation limits the number of pilot projects state agencies would need to participate in.

It’s expected the MAGIC Act will pass the House this session with the wide bipartisan support it enjoyed in the Senate, officials said.

Although the officials did not ask for state funding for their proposals, MSBA official Bob Meeks suggested the reform agenda ultimately will involve funding. “Sometimes you need a little carrot to sell it locally,” he said.

But Meeks stressed that problems facing government today cannot be addressed with old answers.

Last November, a series of six forums took place across the state where some 400 local government officials gathered to discuss reform.