Monday, May 14, 2012

A Little Bit o' Clean-up.  Most of the dust has settled in the big white building located at 75 Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King, Junior, Drive, but there was a bill I did want to do a brief report on.  The Governor vetoed SF 1656, the bill that would have required legislative approval of the social studies standards that are currently being developed before they would take effect.  Like SF 2183, which the Governor also vetoed, SF 1656 sought to curb the rule-making authority of the executive branch, or if not curb, at least limit the range of rule-making.

This issue cuts across the branches of government more than it does the partisan divide, although the element of politics was also in play in this particular debate.  There isn't a governor in existence, at least in my experience, who is willingly going to limit the ability of his agencies to make rules or interpret statutes as they see fit.  The question always gets to be, in the eyes of the legislative branch, are those darn career bureaucrats (my tongue is firmly in my cheek) making decisions that are consistent with the intent of the Legislature.

The other angle that needs to be mentioned is that legislation trumps a rule (provided the legislation is constitutional) and that the Legislature can pass bills that change or eliminate certain rules or sets of rules.  The problem, of course, is that such a move can be controversial and the Legislature can, to some extent, have it both ways by complaining about Executive Branch overreach while having a problem addressed.  In my career, I have seen this happen several times as the Legislature would ship rule-making authority to a state agency only to complain about the product of the rule-making process.  This was very apparent in the development of the desegregation/integration rule in the early-1990s.  The Legislature did not want to tackle the topic and instead sent it to the Minnesota Department of Education (or Children, Families, and Learning--my recollection of the time frame is vague) for resolution.  Of course, because they aren't directly affected by the electoral process, the staff at the agency had a much freer rein in putting together the specific rules relating to the topic and while a number of legislators complained mightily when the rules were completed, there wasn't a lot of impetus to change what the agency had done for a number of reasons (both political and policy-related).

The current tug-of-war between branches of government is certainly heating up, both at the state and federal levels and I believe this debate will continue regardless of who is in control of the different branches of government.  Should be interesting to watch.

At any rate, here is the Governor's veto message on SF 1656:

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