In recent weeks, the big story at our State Capitol has been about school safety and gun violence. This is an issue where everyone deserves to have their voice heard, whether you’re a student, law-abiding gun owner, parent, teacher, or concerned citizen.
I proudly participated in the March for Our Lives in Washington, D.C. alongside my daughter and her classmates from Henry Sibley High School. In response to the historic marches across the country, I joined high school students and Minnesotans of diverse backgrounds on March 26 to announce the Senate’s first comprehensive plan to address gun violence. It focuses on three categories: Schools, Research, and Gun Safety.
The new plan takes reasonable, common sense steps to address gun violence without infringing on any responsible firearm owners’ Second Amendment rights. I am very disappointed that Republicans are not allowing Minnesotans to discuss this important issue in a public hearing. We must have the courage to discuss solutions in the Legislature, and pursue ideas to address gun violence that all Minnesotans can agree on.
Less visible but just as important, some good bipartisan work was recently completed, such as the unanimous approval of new contracts for our state employees.
Minnesota state workers have been waiting for a year to have their contracts ratified by the Legislature. Our state requires top-quality workers, but we often lose them to private industry where they can earn more money. Approving state employee contracts has historically been a smooth and bipartisan effort, and contributes to running the business of the state efficiently. Last year these contracts were held up by some party politics, but the contracts recently passed the Senate and House on bipartisan votes and were signed into law by Governor Dayton. This is part of the basic work of making sure our government can function, and I’m glad the partisan maneuvers cooled off.
Minnesota’s pension fund has been in trouble for years, as beneficiaries’ costs begin to exceed workers’ contributions. A common sense solution which involved a little give on both sides was carefully negotiated by Senator Julie Rosen (R-Blue Earth). I am very pleased that the Senate came together to pass the plan with unanimous support. We are awaiting a House vote on this good, reasonable bill to ensure that we are able to fulfill our commitments to police officers, firefighters, teachers, and other retirees.
The rollout of the new Minnesota License and Registration System, also known as MnLARS, has not gone well. Minnesotans have contacted me about difficulties having your plates renewed or your titles transferred. The Legislature recognized this, and passed with bipartisan support emergency funding to continue vital fixes to the system. However, this and any future funding was tied to careful legislative oversight. It’s important to keep in mind that development of MnLARS began in 2008 after strong bipartisan concern over security flaws in the old system, which was built in 1983.
My second year at the Capitol has been very different from my first. When legislators develop relationships with each other across party lines, creating solutions becomes easier and less partisan. I expect there will be some big battles toward the end of session, but it’s encouraging to find that on issues like pensions, contracts and MnLARS, legislators are motivated to keep the work of government moving forward.
This column was first published in the South-West Review.