Friday, March 10, 2017

It's Never Good

I hold out the possibility that Republicans could do something positive. I really do. They used to, especially in Minnesota. It’s possible.

So when I saw this headline, GOP sentencing bill advances, in today’s Star Tribune Metro section, I thought, Oh, maybe it’s a sentencing reform bill along the lines of what Rand Paul has talked about. Right? It could be.

But no.

Instead, it’s a bill to take away the power of Minnesota’s Sentencing Guidelines Commission, a quasi-independent body that was created in 1980 and is held up as a national model. Just like Republicans are trying to gut our Metropolitan Council, which is also a national model, they want to give the Legislature direct control over sentencing.

The Commission was set up—with non-elected members from the judicial, legal, law-enforcement, and public sphere—to collect data (facts, you know) so that policy could be informed by trends and resources could be brought to bear as needed. It also was intended to bring uniformity to sentencing. But that's too much loss of control for our current Republican majority.

And get this: It’s not as though the Legislature can’t overrule the Commission if it wants to in a particular case. It already can. This bill makes it so that anything the Commission does has to be affirmatively approved by the legislature.

As the former executive director of the Commission said in her testimony before the House Public Safety Committee, the current system lets the Legislature delegate, which leaves the Legislature more time to focus on the most serious issues instead of housekeeping. But the current crop of Republican legislators are all about housekeeping and micromanagement, it seems, from the recent preemption bill to this latest effort.

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