Wednesday, May 09, 2012

All in the game, yuck

Like everything else important at the State Capitol, the final version of the Vikings stadium bill was decided behind closed doors, outside of the view of the public. This should come as no surprise. At least they let people in the building this time. Last summer, they had the whole Capitol complex on lockdown. I guess we should count our blessings.

This time there's a trail of Twitter breadcrumbs to document the lengths to which our elected officials go to avoid public access to the actual negotiations that will shape a billion dollar giveaway. Wednesday morning, there was a stakeout on the 4th floor of the State Office Building next to the Capitol. Reporter James Nord from MinnPost tweeted that he'd seen members of the conference committee appointed to reconcile differences between the House and Senate versions of the Vikings stadium bill going into room 400. Mayor Rybak and members of his staff were also spotted. So, assuming that the conference committee was meeting, Nord tried to go into the room to listen to the proceedings. "Sorry, this is private," came the reply. "There's no quorum, so this isn't a meeting of the conference committee." Later, Nord would tweet that it appeared that the conference committee of six members was split into two groups in "different rooms" on either side of a door. Ta-da! No quorum!
Better yet, Republican Senate Majority Leader Dave Senjem later said that the secrecy was necessary to protect the privacy of the Vikings. These are the same Republicans who think that people who receive nutrition assistance should be forced to pee in a cup to get a couple of hundred dollars in food for their family.
The Minnesota Open Meetings statute says that all conference committees are open to the public. When you look at the statute, be sure to check out the strict penalties for violating the law.
Subd. 2. Enforcement. The house of representatives and the senate shall adopt rules to implement this section. Remedies provided by rules of the house of representatives and senate are exclusive. No court or administrative agency has jurisdiction to enforce, enjoin, penalize, award damages, or otherwise act upon a violation or alleged violation of this section, to invalidate any provision of law because of a violation of this section, or to otherwise interpret this section.
You read that right - the remedy to violating the state's Open Meetings law is determined by the bodies that will violate it. That's right up the alley of the Republicans who think that investment banks are self-regulating and that we should let polluters police themselves. So there you have it. The final shape of the biggest corporate giveaway in decades has been negotiated behind closed doors for the benefit of the privacy of the company. But don't worry! At 9:00 PM, you can watch the conference committee announce what they decided!

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