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Wiger: Focusing on Government Accountability

Several new initiatives and proposals are aimed at reforming Minnesota state government.

For a government to be successful, it must continually re-evaluate current practices and be willing to make needed changes to its own programs and services. To do this, the Legislature needs to create and maintain accountability standards and promote transparency throughout all government services.

One way we do this is by analyzing the work of the Office of the Legislative Auditor (OLA). The OLA is a professional, nonpartisan audit and evaluation office that provides the Legislature, state agencies and the public with reports. Through these reports, the OLA seeks to strengthen accountability and promote good management in government.

Every legislative session, the Legislature is presented evaluations conducted by the OLA. This session the OLA will present evaluations on:

  • Helping Communities Recover from Natural Disasters - When communities are hit by floods, tornadoes or other natural disasters, state government helps them recover. In contrast with the initial emergency response, recovery efforts include assistance to rebuild homes and businesses and replace damaged roads and public buildings, among other things. 
  • Child Protection Screening - It is the policy of the State of Minnesota “to protect children whose health or welfare may be jeopardized through physical abuse, neglect or sexual abuse” (Minnesota Statutes 2010, 626.556, subd. 1). The state’s child protection system is intended to fulfill the policy when a child’s welfare is threatened by maltreatment by an individual responsible for the child’s care.
  • Local Governments - The Minnesota Constitution grants the Legislature authority to create, organize, consolidate and dissolve local government units and their functions. Currently, Minnesota relies on 87 counties, 339 Independent School Districts, 854 cities, 1,785 townships and numerous special and regional districts to coordinate and deliver services locally.
  • Fiscal Note Process - Fiscal notes are tools to help legislators and others understand the budgetary impacts of proposed legislation. During the 2011 legislative session, legislators used some estimates of fiscal impact generated by parties outside state government that raised questions about the credibility and objectivity of fiscal notes prepared by state agencies.

The OLA will make recommendations on needed changes in each of these areas.  It is then up to the Legislature and governor to create policy to carry out those recommendations. If you would like to see the OLA reports, visit their website at http://www.auditor.leg.state.mn.us/.

This session we will also take a look at creating the Minnesota Accountable Government Innovation and Collaboration (MAGIC) Act. The Act would develop and test alternative models for service delivery by counties that are focused on performance measures and outcomes. We hope this will allow counties to think outside the box on alternative ways to offer their services.

Over the past year, Gov. Mark Dayton has taken many steps to reform our government and improve the way the state does business. This has lead to a new plan to save money by detecting and tracking down Medicaid fraud, making continuous improvements in how the state does business so taxpayers get the best service for the best price, and several other initiatives. Visit the governor’s website at http://mn.gov/governor/initiatives/better-government/ for more information on his work.

I encourage everyone to follow legislative work. Visit the Senate website (http://www.senate.leg.state.mn.us/) to stay informed on the legislative issues you are concerned about.

As always, please contact me with questions or suggestions about any issue. Please visit my Senate website at senate.mn/senatorwiger. I also encourage you to visit me at the Capitol, or let me know if you’d like me to stop by your home or apartment. Also, please tune in to my local cable TV show, “Your Capitol: What’s Up?,” which appears on public access channels 15 and 16.

Ralph McGraw February 12, 2012 at 12:43 PM
Mr Wiger, Do you really think that our governments are making the necessary changes. From my end I don't see it. Lots of lip service but no results. In fact I recently reviewed a law that came into effect the 1st of the year. A 73 page statute that is condusing to understand. Hard for a layman to understand. I believe that our legislature have to start using the K.I.S.S. methods. And stop writing new ones until we can control the ones already on the books. 40,000 new laws this last session nationwide. A little ridiculous I would say. Once a politician always one I guess.
C February 12, 2012 at 03:23 PM
From my experience, it's very difficult to keep things simple when writing statutes or rules. If there are any loopholes, somebody will find them and use them to skirt the intention of the law. Also, the world is increasingly complex requiring new laws to address new situations. I agree that lawmakers should try to keep things as simple as possible, but it's rarely possible to keep things simple.
Jim February 12, 2012 at 07:00 PM
Honerable Senator Wiger, Reading your statement in this article and thinking of some simple improvements State Government could make a few come to mind. 1. Every current and new law/ordinence proposed at any level in Minnesota shall be subject to a "Freedom Impact Review and Statement". An example would be the DNRs rules to inspect trailered boats for invasives even thou there is no probable cause a law has been broken. 2. Transparency Information Request. All levels of Government would be required to produce all information requested on any activity they are involved in or have knowledge of, with exceptions for cases of Law Enforcement activities. An example would be the installation of solar panels on Oakdale City Hall, performance ROI.
Eric Ekstrand February 13, 2012 at 03:29 PM
Hey, here’s a thought, concentrate on the important things and stop with all the feel good bills to make yourself look good. Last year you submitted a bill for banning cell phones that students submitted because it will make you seem like you are in touch. The better option would be for you to say "your know kids, great idea, but that infringes on our personal freedoms, but thanks for getting more involved in civics and learning how government works." Instead you author a bill and waste the legislature’s time in putting it through. This is just one of many where Sen Wiger waste time and money with worthless do nothing bills whose only attempt is to make him look good!
Jim February 13, 2012 at 04:42 PM
Here's an idea for Honerable Senator Wiger: How about having a question and answer blog right here on the Oakdale Patch? Of course with the understanding the Senator answers the questions. Of course the same opportunity would be offerred to Eric Ekstrand, Senator Wigers opponent, I think. Feel free to correct me if I'm wrong or right for that matter.

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