- Associated Press - Tuesday, March 4, 2014

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) - It’s illegal in Minnesota to sell fruit in the wrong-sized container. Automobile bug deflectors must be a certain size and color. Motorists can’t drive in neutral.

Those are just a sampling of 1,000 state laws or procedures that Gov. Mark Dayton’s administration deems past their time. A team of commissioners asked lawmakers Tuesday to give the statute books an overdue cleaning.

“That’s really what we see this ‘Unsession’ as,” said Tony Sertich, the commissioner of the Iron Range Resources and Rehabilitation Agency and Dayton’s point person on the governor’s priority project. “It’s really looking top-to-bottom, cracking open the law books and seeing every way, shape or form that we can eliminate those old things that are no longer needed, they’re outdated, they’re duplicative or are just plain getting in the way.”

The targeted laws range from the substantive to the silly. Some proposals are in the name of efficiency while others revisit laws that haven’t been enforced in decades. The law making it illegal to “drive” in neutral has been on the books since 1937 - and, in the governor’s eyes, defies physics.

Several dormant advisory commissions, such as the Board of Invention and the Nuclear Waste Council, would be scrapped. Other laws that were meant to deal with long-ago or unique circumstances would be purged.

In concert with the legislative plan, Dayton signed an executive order requiring executive agency leaders to communicate with the public in plain language rather than bureaucratic jargon.

“Use language commonly understood by the public; Write in short and complete sentences,” are a few of the pointers in Dayton’s order, which itself lacks the “whereas” and “therefore” lead-ins traditionally seen in executive orders.

Departments have been updating their websites to make them easier to navigate and understand. The Department of Natural Resources, which oversees state parks and outdoors licenses, has already streamlined its site. Before, it could take up to 11 clicks to reserve a campsite, Sertich said.

Sarah Hamman, an outdoor enthusiast from Minneapolis, said she’s already noticed a difference when researching parks, obtaining trail maps or locking in a campsite. The information is just a click or two away and can be easily accessed from mobile devices.

Appearing at the administration’s rollout news conference, Hamman hailed the changes for helping “get us outdoors quicker and spend less time searching on a government website.”

Minnesota Pollution Control Agency Commissioner John Linc Stine rounded up 38 proposals from his agency that he thinks could lead to faster turnaround in permit applications. He said no one should construe it as a weakening of environmental standards.

“This will not lessen the degree of public health or environmental protection,” Linc Stine said.

Most of the ideas require the Legislature to pass bills to undo or update old laws.

It’s not clear if the ideas will move through in small batches or stay part of a comprehensive package. Either way, the proposals could be susceptible to political mischief because amendments on almost any topic could be considered in order.

Sertich said he’s had conversations with legislators from both parties and urged them to avoid turning the push into a controversy.

“There are two ways you can go about doing this: You can see this as an opportunity to maybe have a political food fight and play some games or we can get some good work done and eliminate laws that aren’t needed anymore,” Sertich said.

The collision may be imminent. Democratic legislative leaders applauded the administration’s list. Senate Minority Leader David Hann said fellow Republicans see it as an opening to try to repeal laws, undo budget decisions and propose “real solutions to fix the mistakes of 2013.”


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