Minnesota, long home to strange political ventures such as wrestler Jesse "The Body" Ventura's stint as governor, and former "Saturday Night Live" cast member Al Franken's election as senator, has accomplished another first: A legislative "unsession."
For the 2014 legislative session, Gov. Mark Dayton and the Democratic-Farmer-Labor majorities in the state House and Senate set about repealing hundreds of laws. The unsession, as they called their activities, is the first of its kind in Minnesota. According to Dayton's website, the governor and his party undertook the unsession to make Minnesota's state government "better, faster, simpler, and more efficient for Minnesotans."
Calling the now-completed unsession a "phenomenal success" in a blog post, Dayton commended the Legislature for its work. Not everyone was impressed.
Republicans in the state House were not thrilled by Dayton and the DFL's move, and were critical of the action. The House Republican leader, Kurt Daudt, criticized Dayton, suggesting it was unreasonable for the DFL to follow through on their plan to build a new office complex for state policymakers. In a statement, Daudt said, "Dayton and the Democrats refused to undo the $90 million office complex for politicians this session — Minnesotans are unimpressed by the unsession."
Former state Rep. King Banaian, R-St. Cloud, who sat on the state government finance committee and continues to work as an economics professor and economist in Minnesota, has questioned Dayton's motivations. When asked by the Washington Examiner if he thought Dayton's unsession reached its goal to create a better Minnesota, Banaian said, "no." Citing a Department of Natural Resources bill that cut a mere $11,000 out of an $890 million budget, Banaian noted, "it does not appear ... that any real savings happened."
Banaian also said that he believed Dayton began the unsession "for political reasons." Instead of simply repealing "outmoded" legislation, Banaian suggested that a better Minnesota would be cultivated through permit reform, not by getting rid of "seldom-enforced" laws.