Lack of transparency calls for Catholic engagement

During the final day of the 2024 legislative session, as lawmakers were meeting late into the night and on weekends, the doors to the Minnesota State Capitol were locked. That is a fitting anecdote to a biennium that lacked both transparency and adequate citizen participation in the lawmaking process.

The session left many with mixed feelings about the efficacy and transparency of the state’s legislative process. More than 10,000 pieces of legislation were introduced during the biennium, yet the way some of these bills were reviewed raises concerns. One of the most telling examples was the last-minute passage of a mega-omnibus bill, which combined 10 separate omnibus bills into one.

Law is an ordinance of reason

The Legislature is designed to be a deliberative body, keeping with the classical idea of politics as an exercise in rational decision-making ordered toward safeguarding liberty and promoting the general welfare. As St. Thomas Aquinas describes it, law is an ordinance of reason. Therefore, in a representative government in which citizen legislators deliberate the laws, there must be adequate process for them to do so and to adequately consider the consequences of their actions. Fortunately, this is what the processes of the Minnesota Legislature are designed to do — move bills through committees of various jurisdiction and take testimony as to their need and wisdom and provide adequate time for legislators to discuss them.

The effect of one-party rule

As with any tool, our system of government can be abused. One way this happens is when one party or faction stands in the way of something that is both enormously popular and has been considered for years and multiple sessions.

Another way the system can be abused is when one party retains control and governs according to its most ideological faction instead of the most moderate one.

During this past biennium, one party controlled majorities in the Legislature and did so with a unity of purpose and party discipline not previously thought possible with a one vote majority in the Senate.

Many significant bills were passed — some good, some bad — but one ongoing feature was the inadequate review of many bills. The majority party passed many bills without adequate process and with very little public input. Testifiers were often given a minute or two for testimony, the number of testifiers were limited, debate was cut off in committee and the Legislature exhibited the veneer of process while as many bills as possible were rammed through the system.

The result of this flurry of lawmaking was that a large part of 2024 was spent fixing problems with bills passed in 2023, such as with marijuana, religious freedom and paid family leave legislation.

The temptation in our system of government when one has control is to push through as much as possible. But the process exists for a reason, and it should be respected. Politics requires humility about our ability to legislate away our social ills.

The way the session ended in rancor was a disheartening spectacle. That is why transparency is crucial for understanding the true intentions and potential impacts of proposed bills.

Catholics in Minnesota can do their part as faithful citizens and be more proactively engaged in offering testimony about legislation. As Pope Francis said, “Sometimes we hear: a good Catholic is not interested in politics. This is not true: good Catholics meddle in politics by offering the best of themselves so that the leader can govern.”

One effective way to first get involved is by joining the Catholic Advocacy Network at Your membership provides access to resources and alerts on critical issues, helping you to be formed in the faith, informed on the issues, and take action to transform our state.

Let us not be passive observers but active participants in the legislative process.

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