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Capitol Review: Myhra Debuts Tighter Transparency Bill

On Thursday Rep. Pam Myhra (GOP) offered follow up legislation to a transparency bill that passed last year, which was inspired by a controversial $250,000 severance package granted by the Burnsville Board of Education to ex-HR Director Tania Chance.

Republican Rep. Pam Myhra is taking another shot at a transparency bill she crafted last year.

On Valentine's Day she introduced H.F. No. 604, a refinement of H.F. No. 2647 — a bill passed unanimously and signed into law last spring The law made any settlement agreement that includes a payout to public employees available to the public. The law also classifies agreements pertaining to dispute resolution as public documents.

Myhra crafted a bill in response to a dustup over an unexplained severance package then rocking Independent School District 191. The controversy began when news broke that former district HR Director Tania Chance had left in the middle of a two-year contract, taking with her a $250,000 severance settlement. The district resisted calls to release information about what went on behind the scenes, citing state Data Practices law, though ultimately officials agreed to release a redacted copy.

The new bill is more specific and leaves public entities with less leeway when deciding what is and isn't public information. The bill states that "if the agreement involves the payment of more than $10,000 of public money, it must:

A. disclose the specific reasons for the agreement; and

B. describe the nature of the acts, omissions, or other events that gave rise to potential liability, if the agreement releases the government entity from potential liability."

According to a release from Myhra's office, the new bill also clarifies the employment positions would be subject to disclosure and removes language that allowed exceptions.

“My bill last year received strong bipartisan and public support. I hope to build on that support for transparency this legislative session,” said Myhra. “Based on statements from school districts and local governments, they also want more transparency and I look forward to working with them.”

Myrha is joined by Mary Liz Holberg, a Republican from Lakeville, and Will Morgan, a DFLer who represents the eastern and southern portions of Burnsville, who also signed on in support of the bill. Morgan also happens to be a teacher at ISD 191. 

In other news from St. Paul:

• Myhra also introduced H.F. No. 597, which authorizes the City of Savage to turn the Mining Reclamation Project Area into a redevelopment tax increment district. 

• Morgan introduced H. F. No 646, a bill amending the process for obtaining a drivers' licenses, driver education and to instruction permits. The bill would also establish a Novice Driver Education Improvement Task Force.

• Morgan was one of several legislators to put forward H. F. No. 687, a bill changing the date of the state primary from August to June.

• Burnsville-Eagan Rep. Sandra Masin threw her support behind H. F. No. 689, a bill appropriating money for programs related to reducing fetal alcohol syndrome.

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