Newspaper article

Not All Laws Come from High-Powered Lobbying Campaigns

Newspaper article

Not All Laws Come from High-Powered Lobbying Campaigns

Article excerpt

Every year, a handful of controversial bills dominate attention at the Legislature. Abortion, bonding and the Vikings stadium are among the issues that have sucked up the policy oxygen and gotten the bulk of media coverage this session.

But each year, other bills quietly make their way into law - the product not of high-powered lobbying campaigns, but of hard work by citizens and legislators intent on improving public policy.

One such bill was signed by Gov. Mark Dayton and takes effect Aug. 1. It addresses an area of law that predates Minnesota's constitution - yet which in more than 150 years had developed into a maze of unwritten rules that weren't always clear even to its most experienced practitioners.

The topic: receivership, a process akin to bankruptcy in which a court takes control of an asset and appoints a guardian - a receiver - to manage the asset and ensure it's not wasted.

Before you start yawning, consider that receivers have been at the heart of many of the high-profile fraud cases in the news recently, in Minnesota and elsewhere. Receivers have been appointed in the cases involving Bernie Madoff, Tom Petters and Trevor Cook.

Receivers are also increasingly being brought into real estate foreclosure cases to manage the foreclosed properties. Each year in Minnesota, receivers are appointed in thousands of cases. Yet although Minnesota law contains 299 separate references to the appointment of receivers, there's not a single mention of how receivers should operate, how they should be held accountable for the assets under their control and how they should report to the court on the assets with which they are entrusted.

"The world has gotten so much more complicated, and there is so much in these receiverships," said Jim Baillie, a senior partner with the Minneapolis law firm Fredrikson & Byron who led a two-year effort that developed the receiver bill. …

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