Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Met Council writes one thing, does another with legislation

Over the years I have read many sheets of paper that describes what a legislative initiative from government agencies are.  The "cover" sheet is important because it lets people know, particularly the legislators, what the agency is trying to do.  It serves as the government enity arguments and rationale for the bill.

Today I saw one of these sheets, it was from the Metropolitan Council.  The Met Council is proposing a bill which I have some trouble with for a number of reasons.  Those reasons are from the point of view that some sections of the bill are not needed because the "law" already covers it or it is bad policy to make data "secret" that has been public for years on the local level.

It is the character of many government units to "cry" if they see law that covers one agency or levels of government, but is does not cover them.  An example of this is from many years ago, the Legislature felt that the Governor should have some secrecy when he comes up with his budget proposals, they gave it to him.  Cities and counties wanted it, but the Legislature said no.  There were attempts several years ago to do it again.  It is important to note that Legislators decide to make differences in law all the time based on purpose and rationale.

The Met Council initiative is House File 2146.   What the difference is written in the "sheet" and what is written is in the bill is as follows:

In the Met Council Agency Initiative sheet it states that subdivision 3 of the proposed bill is modeled after current law, State Law 13.599.  One section of the current law is:

"Subd. 2.Request for applications.
Data created by a granting agency to create a request for proposal is classified as nonpublic until the request for proposal is published. To the extent that a granting agency involves persons outside the granting agency to create the request for proposal, the data remain nonpublic in the hands of all persons who may not further disseminate any data that are created or reviewed as part of the request for proposal development. At publication, the data in the request for proposal is public."

The bill as proposed allows to keep secret, data that was used to create the Request for Proposal for being available to the public until a bid is awarded which is different than what the Met Council says they "model" that section of law after.

The difference is that the data becomes public after "publication" in current law of the RFP not when a bid is announced as proposed in the new bill.

Was the Met Council trying to mislead the public?  More than likely not, but questions do need to be raised and answered.  I have seen over the decades government entities trying to do what I illustrated with the Met Council, but nobody saw the differences before it was too late.

What I am trying to do is show you what legislative watch dogging is all about.  How important it is for the public to watch the process and legislators understand some of the pitfalls of proposed bills before it becomes law and make public data secret, which then makes government less accountable and transparent.

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