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Sen. Gene Dornink: The system is broken

Now that session is over, I wanted to talk about one of the things I ran on, “One bill, one vote.” I got an in-depth look at the system this year and now more than ever I believe we need to work toward a system of straight up or down votes, without omnibus bills that force bad policy on Minnesotans. An omnibus bill is a collection of many pieces of legislation that are difficult to read thoroughly and understand. Policy that impacts everyday lives in our communities needs to be brought to the public’s attention, go through a hearing process, and have every representative decide if it’s best for their constituents.

Representative Peggy Bennet has been working hard to find a solution to the tradition of omnibus bills. She has been a tireless leader and advocate for One Bill, One Vote and I am thankful for the work done by her and her staff. Next session, Rep. Bennett plans to introduce a bill in the House which I will also introduce in the Senate to address these concerns. In the meantime, I will always support bringing stand-alone pieces of legislation to the Senate floor as opposed to adding them into a rushed omnibus bill at the end of session.

The current system is broken. People wonder why we get bad legislation in Minnesota and these omnibus bills are a significant source. Separate from the omnibus bill, much of this bad policy would be voted down by the Senate. If the legislation is good, it can pass on its own. The omnibus bill system does not serve the people well, and it forces your representatives to accept some bad policy added in an otherwise good bill.

The proponents of our omnibus bill system will say that without them, nothing gets done. I say that without them, the legislature will have to face the hard questions and address issues head-on rather than dumping everything into the omnibus trash can and forcing a last-minute vote.

The benefit to the voters is real transparency. You’d be able to see exactly what your representative voted for and against. The current process allows representatives to hide their real voting records.

Strong leaders should all want one bill one vote! Sometimes when I vote for an omnibus bill, I have to pinch my nose so as not to smell the incredibly bad legislation included. With one bill one vote my constituents can see my voting record and I can explain why I have voted the way I did.

As always, I am here for you if you have any comments, questions, or concerns. Please feel free to reach out to me by email at Sen.Gene.Dornink@Senate.mn or call me at 651-296-5240.