Count us among those who would support a law that would prohibit Minnesotans from being members of the Legislature one day and paid lobbyists the next.
Sen. Dick Day, a Republican from Owatonna, rekindled a long-smoldering debate last week when he announced that he'll leave the Senate next month and become president of Racino Now, an organization that supports the creation of two state-run casinos at racetracks in the metro area.
We're not opposed to the idea of racinos. Frankly, it's probably high time that the state got a cut of the take from slot machines and blackjack tables. People are going to gamble, and if a racino keeps some of their money in Minnesota, rather than sending it to Las Vegas or Iowa, then so be it. The state's coffers could use an infusion of cash.
But we're uncomfortable with a system that basically invites our elected officials to make connections and build a network of well-placed friends, then cash in on those connections when opportunity knocks.
It's one thing for a legislator to step down because of health concerns or a family crisis, but it's quite another to simply say, Sorry, folks - I got a better offer.
Keep in mind that Day's voluntary departure will force his constituents to hold a special election to choose his successor, which won't be cheap.
Of more importance, however, is the matter of fairness. There are two sides to every issue, and we fear that an organization with a legislator-turned-lobbyist enjoys a distinct advantage as it promotes its agenda.
In this case, for example, it seems plausible that the Minnesota Indian Gaming Association - which has an interest in stopping the spread of state-run gambling - would at least consider trying to lure a well-placed legislator onto its payroll. That's not how government is supposed to work.
Sen. John Marty, a DFLer from Roseville and a gubernatorial candidate, has introduced a bill that would mandate a two-year cooling-off period before a legislator could become a lobbyist. It's not an original idea - he says 30 states and the federal government have such revolving door laws.
We hope Day's decision prompts Minnesota to follow a similar path.
- Post-Bulletin of Rochester
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