Citizen-lobbyist wants Minnesota Legislature to open up

ST. PAUL -- Minnesota's best-known citizen-lobbyist on open government issues says the Legislature needs to be, as they say around the Capitol, more transparent.

ST. PAUL -- Minnesota's best-known citizen-lobbyist on open government issues says the Legislature needs to be, as they say around the Capitol, more transparent.

Rich Neumeister has prowled the Capitol's halls for years fighting for public access and recently took on controversial departures of two state officials. He concluded that in both cases, "with these decisions happening within the Legislature, the public may never know why."

The Legislature lives under different rules than other public bodies and can do more in secret.

One of Neumeister's questions come over what has been described as the firing of Michael Brodkorb, who was a key aide to then-Senate Majority Leader Amy Koch and chief spokesman for Senate Republicans. He left the Senate just after four senators confronted Koch for having "inappropriate relations" with a Senate employee she supervised.

The other issue was what was reported as another firing: Susan Thornton, who directed the Legislative-Citizens Commission on Minnesota Resources. The twist here is that House Speaker Kurt Zellers, who apparently fired Thornton, later suspended that action.


Those involved in both incidents refuse to discuss details.

Neumeister said information available to the public about the two incidents is "virtually nothing because the Legislature is not subject to the Minnesota Government Data Practices Act" and laws that govern other governments' personnel decisions.

Three back health law

Three Minnesota Democratic lawmakers have filed court papers supporting a new federal health law.

Reps. Tom Huntley of Duluth and Erin Murphy of St. Paul and Sen. Tony Lourey of Kerrick announced their decision to join the action, with 483 other legislators across the country. The three Minnesotans are leading DFL health-care experts.

Republicans are challenging the health law in the U.S. Supreme Court. They called the act "Obamacare."

"There is no doubt in my mind that the Affordable Care Act is not only constitutional, but will do so much in bettering the lives of Americans," Huntley said. "Many families in Minnesota are already benefiting from reforms that went into effect in 2010: children with pre-existing conditions have reliable coverage, seniors are getting support to pay for their prescriptions, young people are able to stay on their parent's plans until they are more financially stable and businesses are receiving tax credits so they can provide good health coverage for their employees."

Helping the poor


Lt. Gov. Yvonne Prettner Solon announced a coalition to provide poor Minnesotans a chance to buy healthy foods.

The Minnesota Nutritious Food Coalition joins together state, university, tribal, nonprofit and private business groups.

"More than 500,000 Minnesotans access food support benefits monthly," Prettner Solon said. "Yet, many more, particularly seniors, are eligible for the program.

The guidance, work and support of this coalition will encourage more Minnesotans to take advantage of this program so they can get the nutritious food needed for a healthy lifestyle, not to mention strengthen our local economy."

The main jobs of the coalition are to address food access issues, increase participation in the federally funded food support program and identify barriers and areas for expansion.

The food support program, which used to be known as food stamps, now only serves 65 percent of eligible Minnesotans, the Minnesota Human Services Department says.

Don Davis reports for Forum Communications Co.

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