Minnesota Office of the Legislative Auditor
The auditor of Minnesota state government


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Legislative Audit Commission
Special Subcommittee on Data Access and Topic Selection


December 21, 2001

Members Present:

Senator Sheila Kiscaden, Chair Representative Steve Dehler
Senator Ann H. Rest Representative Wes Skoglund
Senator Claire Robling

Others Present:

Don Gemberling, Department of Administration
Peter Wattson, Senate Counsel
Richard Walzer, Department of Revenue
Scott Simmons, Office of the State Auditor
James Nobles, Legislative Auditor
Roger Brooks, Deputy Legislative Auditor for Program Evaluation

Senator Kiscaden called the meeting to order at 1:05 p.m. in the Whitaker Conference Room, Centennial Office Building. She indicated the meeting would be a continuation of the informal working session to look at the role of the Commission and Office of the Legislative Auditor in gaining access to public data held by state agencies, and to look at changing the Commission's topic selection process for program evaluations.

Mr. Nobles reviewed a draft Commission policy on requests for public data where the agency refuses to release that data. Peter Wattson, Senate Counsel, indicated he had reviewed the draft and felt it was okay. Don Gemberling, Department of Administration, indicated it was sometimes difficult to get state agencies to comply with the Government Data Practices Act. Richard Walzer, Department of Revenue, expressed concern about matters that might be in litigation. Representative McGuire indicated more clarification was needed in the law and that it should not allow for reclassification of data. Senator Rest suggested the policy spell out certain circumstances under which it would not grant requests for data.

Mr. Nobles indicated that if directed to gather and review data, the OLA would not publish any findings or report, but would maintain that information in the same manner in which work papers are maintained. He indicated the legislation is a band-aid approach to the bigger problem of how to make the Government Data Practices Act work.

The Subcommittee agreed to recommend to the Legislative Audit Commission that the focus be narrowed to requests from legislators for the purpose of public policy oversight only, and that the current law be modified to reflect that. Mr. Nobles, Mr. Wattson, and Mr. Gemberling are to work on those changes.

Members turned their attention to the program evaluation topic selection process. They reviewed the strengths and weaknesses of the current process. They agreed the process is basically a good one, but recommended several changes: evaluation proposals should be evaluated against the topic selection criteria, legislators making topic suggestions be allowed a short time to defend the selection of that topic, and that balance in evaluation subjects be added to the criteria.

The meeting adjourned at 3:05 p.m.

Senator Sheila Kiscaden, Chair

Jean Barnhill, Recording Secretary



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