What is “public testimony” at the Minnesota legislature? The rules say it is supposed to be members of the public testifying for and against proposed legislation. On Wednesday Rep. Peggy Scott (R) indicated that public testimony means having one member of a government administrative department testifying.
At issue is legislation that is part of a Republican plan to modify Minnesota’s health care insurance program. Democrats (DFL) would rather do a less complicated and less expensive fix that Governor Mark Dayton has proposed. However, Republicans have rejected that approach and are trying to hurry their proposal through the legislature. Originally they wanted no hearings, but could not get enough Democrats to support that.
When the bill went before the House Civil Law committee on Tuesday, only the Myron Frans, Commissioner of Minnesota Management and Budget, testified before the bill was approved. Scott is the chair of that committee.
During that committee hearing, Scott abruptly cut off testimony on the bill after the subject of the cost of collecting and managing data came up. Rep. John Lesch (DFL) said to Scott “You’re asking us to pass language that creates all these classifications and explodes government. I thought the GOP didn’t like bigger government. You’re creating a gigantic system that we’re going to be accountable to our constituents for paying for. Whether you’re saying we don’t have to talk about costs now, this is just the Data Practices (committee), you’re creating a huge system that’s going to be impossible to administer. So this is absolutely the place to talk about it.”
MN GOP Plan Costs Outweighs Benefits Says MMB
Lesch then asked Frans if the bill was so expensive that it was “actually a waste of our time.”
Frans testified that the Republican plan to gather data to verify people’s eligibility was not needed because the insurance companies would do that work. He said collecting the data was costly and outweighed be benefit because relief would be delayed.
As soon as Frans said that, Scott ordered a vote on the bill before any more testimony could be offered in the committee.
The next day on the House floor Lesch and Rep. Debra Hilstrom (DFL) objected to approving the committee’s report.
Hilstrom quoted House rule 6.22 on public testimony.
6.22 PUBLIC TESTIMONY. Public testimony from proponents and opponents must be allowed on every bill or resolution before a standing committee, division or subcommittee of the House.
After hearing the rule definition, Scott continued to insist there had been public testimony in her committee on the bill.
The House then voted along party lines to let the bill go forward to the next committee.