Kyrgyz leaders study Minnesota government, U.S. democracy

by Latasha Webb

Top Kyrgyzstan parliament members learned the details of Minnesota’s legislative process from Senate and House workers after touring the Capitol on Tuesday.

Despite Minnesota’s recent legislative mishaps, other countries view Minnesota’s government as a model.

The five Kyrgyz leaders, all under 40 years old, are working to build a democratic nation in a country that has been free of Soviet Communist rule for only 10 years.

“We are quite familiar with the process of legislation. Our process is quite similar,” said Shamshibek Medetbekov, a member of the Assembly of the People’s Representatives in Kyrgyzstan.

“The state of Minnesota was suggested as the state where agriculture was reasonably developed,” he said.

The Kyrgyz leaders made the journey to the United States to visit Washington, D.C., Minnesota and New York, which Kyrgyzstan leaders chose as models of democratic government.

Kyrgyzstan’s parliament members are studying Minnesota’s Legislature as guests of the U.S. State Department’s International Visitor program.

U.S. embassies invite international leaders to observe state and federal governments through the program.

The Kyrgyz leaders received a tour of Minnesota’s State Capitol, where they learned details of legislative proceedings.

Jaymie Korman, who led the group through the Capitol, told the leaders, “By law, (the Legislature is) limited to 120 legislative days every two years. All laws have to have agreement between the House and the Senate.”

After the leaders took pictures of the House and Senate chambers, Korman led them to the Supreme Court chambers and told them, “This is the highest court of appeals in the state,” before giving them such details as what each button on a desk meant and what the paintings on the walls symbolize.

“Every city has a mayor, an official elected citywide, who presides at the meetings of the City Council,” Peter Wattson, of Senate Counsel and Research explained to Kyrgyz leaders.

Wattson spent an hour going over the details of local, state and federal government, focusing mostly on the Legislature and answering questions from the foreign leaders.

Andrei Loboda, a member of the Legislative Assembly, expressed concern that Minnesota’s government does not communicate efficiently with the local community.

“Our legislators usually maintain close contact with the local authorities,” he said.

Christy Novak, information specialist for the House, said, “Issues become so large at each level, it might be difficult to always connect.”

Kyrgyz leaders received information packets on Minnesota’s state government, Senate and House directories, two issues of “Session Weekly” and detailed answers to their questions about the budget, public interest in state government, bill writing and Gov. Jesse Ventura’s approval rating.

“We appreciate this very much. It was very informative for us,” said Medetbekov before extending informal invitations to Kyrgyztan to everyone in the room.

Latasha Webb covers the Legislature and welcomes comments at [email protected]