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These comments are responses to the Civic Caucus interview with

Minnesota State Senator Tom Bakk
December 2, 2016

Most ideas at Legislature come from outside


According to Minnesota State Senator Tom Bakk, protecting the integrity of the Legislature as an institution is a high priority. He says legislators should act to keep people's trust in their state government, especially since so many people have lost faith in the Federal government. Decorum, especially that practiced in the Senate, helps the public maintain respect for the Legislature, he believes. He maintains that a citizen Legislature is important, so that legislators are not only career politicians.

Bakk says that consideration by the Legislature of major policy issues starts with a study or report and that most legislative ideas come from outside the Legislature. He mentions the importance of studies by the Legislative Auditor, the University of Minnesota and special state commissions. He advises individuals or groups doing studies and bringing proposals to the Legislature to make a case and show there's some value to the new proposals, since every dollar to be spent is in competition with other spending. He says it's important for groups to find a legislative champion for their proposals who has a passion for the subject area involved. Someone has to write a bill, he says, so there can be public testimony. He asserts that a good idea without a constituency is not going to go anywhere.

He states that groups that are organized and know how to communicate with the Legislature are incredibly effective with legislators, giving the Minnesota United Snowmobilers Association and the electric co-ops as examples. To be effective, Bakk notes, people need to build organizations that touch a lot of members.

Bakk believes omnibus bills at the Legislature are important, but they should be limited to finance and not include policy provisions. He also speaks about pre-K education (keep the scholarship program for low-income students, but don't move to universal pre-K); K-12 school testing (all the money goes to the subjects in which students are tested); teacher salaries (they're too low); and the future of the Metropolitan Council (it might not survive)

For the complete interview summary see: link to interview

Individual Responses:

Wayne Jennings

Sen. Bakke makes sense in justifying the Legislatureís process. However, Iím tired of the partisan dig in the heals process.

I worry about the relationship with Education MN. They represent status quo when it comes to significant change.  Their issues are economic which is understandable. They donít support system reform; they canít. They and MDE are not supportive of innovation. The charter law was a good move for change but it is mostly conventional approaches now. Innovative schools survive by flying under the radar for fear of MDE clamping down over some rule or regulation. Innovative schools serving at risk students with low test scores are at risk themselves.

When will we recognize the importance of "21st Century skills" vs standardized tests? I know Sen. Bakke canít do all this alone, but I want leadership in the direction of systemic change which might be pilot programs required to show innovation. It may have to be outside MDE. It could be part of the charter school statute.

Paul Hauge

Tom is an experienced realist who has a great deal of experience and has

become a trusted advisor to many who join the legislative ranks. His comments

about  education for those who will go into the trades needing greater emphasis

fits well with the Civic Caucus concerns also.

Hopefully he will have an important voice in the Senate.

Scott Halstead

Senator Bakk makes some good points.  Citizen legislators vs. career politician.  I concur with the citizen legislators.  However, there needs to be some changes.  Increase the term length for House of Representative legislators from 2 to 4 years.  Estsablish term limits of 12 years, maximum of 16 years if you serve both in the House and Senate

Reduce the size of the legislature 1/2 and double the salary.  Require regular meetings with business, local government, groups and individuals throughout their district.  We also need published voting records.

Transit:  The legislature needs to establish standards for LRT and commuter rail.  We don't need multibillion dollar LRT that goes 13-14 miles per hour (slightly faster than a local bus) that have very high operating costs including needing an excessive number of buses.  We have taxation without representation.  13-14 mile per LRT is very poor transit for the future.

Paul Ostrow

Well done


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The Civic Caucus   is a non-partisan, tax-exempt educational organization.   The Interview Group  includes persons of varying political persuasions,
reflecting years of leadership in politics and business. Click here  to see a short personal background of each.

  John S. Adams, David Broden, Audrey Clay, Janis Clay (executive director), Pat Davies, Bill Frenzel, Paul Gilje, Dwight Johnson, Randy Johnson, Sallie Kemper, Ted Kolderie,
 Dan Loritz, Tim McDonald, Bruce Mooty, Jim Olson, Paul Ostrow (chair), Wayne Popham, Dana Schroeder, Clarence Shallbetter, and Fred Zimmerman



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