New IRRRB rules could change board composition

Changes to the composition of the Iron Range Resources and Rehabilitation Board are in store after redistricting and the fall elections made it constitutionally impossible to convene. Urmila Ramakrishnan, legislative correspondent for the Mesabi Daily News and other northern papers, reported the story earlier this week.

Law currently requires that half the board be comprised of legislators whose districts were 50 percent located on the Iron Range. Now, with one less House member and a big combination of Senate districts, that’s not possible to follow.

New rules relax the “purity” rule to a third and eliminate the citizen board members, currently appointed by the governor, House Speaker and Senate Majority Leader, respectively.

Normally, it would be worth howling about the loss of citizen representation, but in practice those positions never panned out the way they were supposed to. The IRRRB has always been composed mostly of local Iron Range legislators who, with the commissioner, have authority over the region’s unique taxation of mining revenue in lieu of local property taxes.

Citizen board members were introduced under Gov. Tim Pawlenty to add new perspective to the board, and while many fine people have served in this capacity, I can’t recall many instances where they didn’t vote along with the majority of the legislators or raise any major protest to board action. The longest serving among them, Joe Begich, is himself a former state representative and Iron Range political regular.

Really, your options are to keep the board as elected representatives (accountable to the voters) or create a system of electing board members, a monumental task that would make Minneapolis council races look like a leisurely recumbent bicycle ride through an organic garden. It’d be good for business here at ol’, but probably an unholy nightmare that would end in prison for many an ambitious township board director.

UPDATE: Also, IRRRB Commissioner Tony Sertich was confirmed by a Senate panel Wednesday to continue in his job leading the state’s most unique region agency.

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