Pride, frustration felt on Sunset Advisory Commission

Rep. Peppin passes on final vote

By T.W. Budig, ECM Capitol Reporter

Tuesday, the Sunset Advisory Commissioner made a series of recommendations to the Legislature concerning state boards and councils.

But one commission member, Rep. Joyce Peppin, R-Rogers, who pushed for the creation of the Commission, passed on the final vote.

Peppin, speaking after the hearing, expressed a sense of frustration with the Commission. “We took some baby steps that I liked — that’s why I didn’t vote ‘No,’” Peppin said.

“(But) it just seems that some people view this as a kind of renewal commission, and it’s the Sunset Commission,” she said.

Lawmakers created the Commission last year, and charged it with periodically reviewing state agencies on whether a given agency should continue to exist.

Rep. Mary Kiffmeyer, R-Big Lake, who chairs the commission, views the actions of the commission thus far as commendable.

“(It’s) a very good job for a very tight time frame,” Kiffmeyer said of  the recommendations.

While guessing that the large majority of recommendations would be approved by lawmakers, the Legislature isn’t obligated to approve them, Kiffmeyer said. “But obviously these recommendations carry a lot of weight,” she said.

One recommendation concerning state boards and councils is that they be required to make full use of collaborative support services. Another recommendation is that licensing fees, if needed, be lowered as to prevent boards or councils from amassing budget surpluses.

“Saving money is not the total goal of the Sunset Commission,” Kiffmeyer said. But some Commission actions could, she said.

But in an action that annoyed Peppin, the Commission, which had originally proposed sun setting the Combative Sports Commission, instead recommended that it be reviewed in further detail.

Peppin argues the Commission at times labors needlessly over details.

“Sometimes in making recommendations to the Legislature we don’t need to have every single answer,” she said.

Some of the recommendations made to lawmakers concerns the Commission itself.

The Commission recommends that sufficient funding be appropriated as to ensure it can carry out it works. The current model of using staff from the Senate, House and elsewhere is not sustainable, commissioners said.

The Commission also recommends the work of the legislative auditor be aligned with the Commission — other recommendations are made.

Peppin views the Commission sowing the “seeds” of future viability through such recommendations as funding for staff.

“Don’t throw it out. It’s a good idea,” she said of the Sunset Advisory Commission.

But part of the Commission’s job is to sometime merge government services or sunset them.

If someone isn’t reform-minded, they shouldn’t serve on the Commission, Peppin said.

Kiffmeyer said that the Commission’s very existence has state government officials thinking in terms of justifications. “It makes them more efficient from the get-go,” she said.

The Commission will be examining larger state agency in its next round of reviews.

Under the sunset protocol, many state agencies will expire automatically at a schedule date unless lawmakers act to save them.