The Free Press, Mankato, MN

Editorials

December 4, 2013

Cut number of state boards, commissions

Why it matters: Reports show Minnesota has many outdated and obsolete boards and commissions that cost taxpayers millions

(Continued)

Legislators noted the difficulty in eliminating boards and commissions with resistance often coming from those who came up with these great ideas and other constituencies who apparently vigorously defended the boards.

Gov. Mark Dayton said he sees the problem with boards and commissions as a way for the Legislature to micromanage what should be the duties of the executive branch. It’s gotten to a point where it appears the executive branch cannot carry out some necessary functions because some board is in the way.

Others point to problems filling the boards with qualified applicants. There are currently some 375 open seats on boards and commissions, according to the Star Tribune report.

When Democrats gained control of the 2012 Legislature, they resurrected a form of the Sunset Commission and will soon recommend some 40 boards, commissions or agencies be scrapped.

This is an action that is probably long past due. The point is not that citizen input is important, but board and commissions, like other state agencies, should have to prove their worth by either the value of their recommendations or their ability to suggest efficiencies in state government or improved outcomes. A scorecard of such success of any and all board does not appear to be available.

Board and commissions are only as good as the advice they provide. Citizen or industry input may be important, but if reports from advisory groups continuously sit on a shelf somewhere, one has to question the value of the input.

At some point, the legislative hearing process has to be seen as an equally effective way to get citizen and expert input on policy issues. Creating lots of boards and commissions seems to duplicate that process and muddy the result.

Gov. Dayton has suggested the upcoming legislative session be an “Unsession” – one in which the Legislature find ways to streamline state government and do away with wasteful programs.

Winnowing the number of boards and commissions would be an excellent place to start.

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