Photo by Tom Olmscheid of the Minnesota State Capitol Building refurbished rotunda.

If you were a state legislator, what laws would you try to pass? What laws would you try to repeal or amend?

You might not have spent a lot of time thinking about it and these might be tough questions to answer quickly.

It seems that the closest thing to a correct answer (if cynical to some) might be that you would try to pass, repeal, or amend legislation that would get you re-elected.

And what kind of legislative work would that be?

Bold and sweeping laws that have a substantial impact on society might seem attractive at first. Except that any legislation that changes the status quo might come at the expense of some of your constituents. In any significant legislation, power and money will be shifted in one way or another.

Legislators can and do make a lot of political headway with very small  non-controversial statutory tweaks on behalf of particular special interests or constituents.

One has to imagine that this was the motive over a 2013 legislative amendment to Minn. Stat. 112A.33, Subd. 3, the high school head varsity coach statute, amended at the time to provide, “The existence of parent complaints must not be the sole reason for a board not to renew a coaching contract.”

The amendment was reportedly in response to a 2010 lawsuit brought by Mr. Christopher Corey against the Windom Area School Board over his contract’s non-renewal as boys varsity basketball coach.

It seems odd because parent complaints do not appear to have been the sole reason for the non-renewal of Mr. Corey’s coaching contract.

Does it not also seem odd that our legislature takes up its time tweaking this law in this way?

For one thing, why shouldn’t a school board be allowed to terminate a coach’s contract in response to parents’ complaints? Furthermore, is this a problem worthy of our legislators’ time and energy? With all that legislators could address, they spend their time trying to stick up for high school sports coaches facing the risk of non-renewal of their coaching contracts solely due to parental criticism?

The pièce de resistance, if you will, of this legislative loopiness is that the statutory amendment is useless. If, hypothetically, a coach proved beyond all doubt that he was fired solely due to parent complaints (which is of course impossible), “the School Board could decline to renew his contract anyway, for a different reason, or no reason at all” (see the recent U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit Decision at p. 9).

There will never be an end to this kind of silly legislation. It is low-hanging fruit in legislator’s ravenous hunger for  votes. Indeed, it seems amazing that they ever stick their necks out to pass important legislation (which, of course, they generally do not).

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