Senator Jason Isaacson: Under GOP Majority, Legislature Beholden to Special Interests
The 2018 legislative session ended Sunday, May 20. In my five years of public service at the Capitol, I have never witnessed a Legislature more beholden to big money special interests.
The GOP majority killed a lot of good ideas and ignored the voices of ordinary people – all in an effort to tee up political attacks for the midterm elections. It was a shameful display of partisanship the entire session, and I think Minnesotans deserve to know what happened.
The session began mere days after a shooting left 14 children and three teachers dead in Parkland, FL. Stoneman Douglas was the third-deadliest school shooting in U.S. history. In Sante Fe, TX, days before the session ended, the fifth-deadliest school shooting occurred. Ten Americans lost their lives that day. By the end of the legislative session, 22 school shootings occurred in America – an average of more than one per week. More kids have been shot to death in school than soldiers on the battlefield this year.
Tens of thousands of brave Minnesota students, teachers, and parents visited the Capitol this year to demand better criminal background checks, red flag laws, and other proposals to stem the bloodshed. Despite robust grassroots organizing and public opinion polling showing nearly universal support across all demographics, the Senate GOP majority did not hold a single public hearing about gun violence this year. Speaker Kurt Daudt said publicly that he believes any new laws to address gun violence would need the backing of the NRA.
It is downright shameful that the GOP majority sided with the NRA over students. What kind of message does that send to our young people? Although I am not surprised by my colleagues’ inaction, I refuse to give up on passing common sense gun safety in Minnesota. I will continue to partner with students, teachers and families to prevent another mass shooting from happening.
According to the Minnesota Department of Health, opioid overdose deaths have increased 600 percent since 2000. Dozens of pharmaceutical industry lobbyists prowled the Capitol halls in the final weeks of session to kill a bipartisan plan that would have required opioid manufacturers to share in the cost of treatment and public safety. Instead of holding Big Pharma accountable for the opioid crisis they helped create, the GOP majority killed the bill, and now taxpayers will shoulder 100% of the costs of the opioid crisis.
My colleagues on the other side of the aisle waited until the last minute to do the hard work of legislating. In the dark of night less than 24 hours before our constitutional deadline, with little to no debate, they passed a 990-page phone book-size budget packed with controversial policies that have no place in a finance bill. Even worse, their tax bill lets multi-national corporations keep foreign income repatriated to the United States tax-free, costing Minnesota taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars in coming years. I am glad Governor Dayton vetoed both bills.
When a new Legislature returns to the Capitol in January 2019, lawmakers must do a better job sticking up for ordinary people. Special interests have gotten their way for too long. If you want to learn more about what happened during the session, I’m holding a town hall meeting Thursday, June 14 from 6-8 p.m. at Shoreview City Hall.
This commentary was originally published in the Shoreview Press.