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Senate bill designed to spur innovation

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ST. PAUL -- County officials say state government too often ties their hands, which costs taxpayers.

"Allow those who are working in the trenches to share ideas," Beltrami County Administrator Tony Murphy requested in a recent Senate committee meeting.

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Those ideas may not always match state bureaucrats' ideas of how things should be done, but they may be better, he said.

Granting permission to use innovative ways to do county business is why Sen. John Carlson, R-Bemidji, wrote a bill allowing some pilot projects across the state to showcase ways counties can provide services more efficiently.

Washington County Commissioner Lisa Weik said her county tried to update how it provides services to those with chemical dependencies, but red tape the state put in its way made the change very difficult.

If Carlson's bill were law, things would have gone smoother and quicker, she said.

"We can test drive this service delivery model," Weik said.

The new ways to run programs would be shared with other counties and the Legislature so new ideas do not remain in one county.

"Everything is changing," Murphy said, but how counties serve citizens remains much the same.

Murphy said he has no problem with the state ordering mandates, but does not think the state needs to say how counties fulfill those orders.

"We need to have the flexibility over how the mandate is carried out," he said.

With that flexibility, Weik said, county officials would be better able to keep down property taxes. Otherwise, she said, Carlson's bill would be invisible to the public.

Don Davis reports for Forum Communications Co.

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Don Davis
Don Davis has been the Forum Communications Minnesota Capitol Bureau chief since 2001, covering state government and politics for two dozen newspapers in the state. Don also blogs at Capital Chatter on Areavoices.
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