Legislature Can Do So Much More

Joe Ramlet, opinions editor

Recently, I saw numerous memes floating around social media poking fun at states with Democratic supermajorities while Minnesota, with a one-seat majority in the State Senate, has been able to pass landmark legislation after years of stagnation and divided government. These major accomplishments were made possible by the bold legislative agenda of the state Democratic-Farmer-Labor party and the visions of Gov. Tim Walz leading the charge at the State Capitol.

So many of these things have real impacts for people. Reproductive rights were codified into law and gender-affirming care was protected by executive action. Minnesota schools will now provide breakfast and lunch to all students, free of charge, regardless of their family’s income. Our undocumented neighbors can safely and legally pursue driver’s licenses, a push that was supported by the Augsburg community. The right to vote was restored to 55,000 Minnesotans who have completed their felony incarceration. Benchmarks were set for the state to be 100% clean energy by 2040.

And those are just the headlines. The Legislature also banned discrimination based on natural hair, cut taxes, made Juneteenth a state holiday, invested in infrastructure across the state, and targeted carjackings and catalytic converter thefts.

Many of these accomplishments are long overdue and have been in the works for years. Unfortunately, Republicans in the Minnesota Senate have found it more important to pander to big-party politics and obstruct any efforts at the Capitol to improve the lives of Minnesotans. We saw this yet again, for example, when Steve Drazkowski said, “I have yet to meet a person in Minnesota that is hungry,” on the floor of the Senate. Drazkowski is a Republican senator from Mazeppa, a small town located north of Rochester. I think that says all you need to know about him, and he probably hasn’t talked to very many of his constituents that are very likely struggling with food insecurity.

Luckily, the DFL finally flipped the Senate, and with the House and Governor remaining under Democratic control, these changes can finally take place. Even without Republicans in the way, many of these successes that are so-called “landmarks” are overdue investments in Minnesotans.

Even with these accomplishments, there is still so much to be done. Many potential legislative proposals are still on the table. Namely, the Legislature has to pass a budget bill to fund the state government, but that’s already in the works — and ahead of schedule when compared to previous years. But the Legislature also has the opportunity to legalize recreational marijuana and expunge low-level drug offenses, establish paid family and medical leave to protect working Minnesotans and their family members, end the tax on Social Security benefits to create income parity for our seniors and so much more.

I hope our legislators lean into these proposals with the same vigor and attention they’ve given the first 100 days of the legislative session. With five weeks left for them to finish their work at the Capitol, they have a lot ahead of them. But there is such a potential for even more, and I hope they take that challenge head-on. In the meantime, however, I am proud to call myself a Minnesotan and feel lucky to live in this state.