Archived Story

‘Un-session’ requires top to bottom look at laws [UPDATED]

Published 10:49am Thursday, October 24, 2013 Updated 12:50pm Thursday, October 24, 2013

In a system where elected officials attempt to demonstrate their value by doing something in response to every request and problem, there are bound to be a lot of bad laws on the books.

So it was refreshing to see that Gov. Mark Dayton has suggested the 2014 Legislature to hold an “un-session” dedicated to clearing old or irrelevant laws from the books. That an un-session would be welcome is indisputable. It would be particularly welcome if the governor could guide lawmakers to truly cut into excess government.

The typical legislative response to almost any perceived problem or crisis is to pass a law. That has been going on for decades, so there are bound to be plenty of useless laws on the books. Indeed, most of them were nearly useless or ill-considered even when new. However, it seems most unlikely that the same lawmakers who recently approved one of the largest expansions of tax policy in state history are going to reverse course and start pruning the books next winter. To make such an effort be more than a publicity stunt would require a top to bottom look at what state government and state laws do — and a comparison to what they ought to do.

We have suggested many times that what Minnesota needs is a prioritization of regulation and government spending. This would require a comprehensive look at what we need government to do, both as to how it regulates people’s lives and how it spends their money. We are convinced that such a prioritization would yield a sleeker set of laws, a sleeker government and a better quality of life for most Minnesotans. We doubt, however, that any such bottom-to-top review is what the governor contemplates.

Trimming Minnesota’s statutes is a good idea. Just as a gardener prunes entire stems off rose bushes, rather than nipping the tips of a few leaves, an un-session will only work if it comes near to the roots.


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