Following the murder of George Floyd and coming amidst the unprecedented public health emergency of the COVID-19 pandemic, the 2021 Legislative Session opened with the opportunity to deliver the transformative change Minnesotans were demanding. Despite the promise of these changes, the 2021 Legislative Session ended with much of this work, and the completion of the two-year budget, undone.
Instead of focusing on the needs of Minnesotans, Senate Republicans focused on hyper-partisan and extreme legislation that would restrict voter access, discriminate against trans youth, reopen schools and businesses without safety plans or resources, and pushed to roll back clean air and water protections. Senate Republicans also continued to push the big lie that our elections were not free and fair, which is a cornerstone to our democracy.
Unlike Senate Republicans, the Senate DFLers fought throughout the session on behalf of Minnesotans across the state, because we are committed to building the state that all Minnesotans deserve. Instead of stoking division, we can and must ensure that everyone has the opportunity to thrive, no matter their background.
As we rebuild and recover following the COVID-19 pandemic, we need to support Minnesotans in their home and in their workplace and help them stay connected. We also recognize that from the birth of a child to taking care of a sick or disabled family member, everyone should have access to affordable health care, safe and affordable housing, paid family and medical leave, and economic security.
We must invest in our schools to close the opportunity gaps our children are facing and support their mental health needs, which have only grown during this crisis. As our students move on to post-secondary opportunities, we need to ensure that they are affordable and accessible to all students and that we are meeting the needs of a 21st-century workforce.
Minnesotans know we must come together to take bold action against climate change and toward a clean energy future with healthy communities and a healthy climate. This is an opportunity to create jobs, innovate, and make Minnesota a national leader. In doing so, we make our clean energy economy work for everyone by prioritizing environmental justice in all decision-making.
Protecting the freedom to vote is a core value of the Senate DFL. Expanding – rather than suppressing – voter access is what Minnesotans are asking for. Expanding mail-in and absentee balloting (especially for people with disabilities and rural communities), extending early voting periods, and allowing voter pre-registration for 16-year-olds are some of the ways to strengthen and advance our democracy.
When the Legislature came back for a special session to pass a state budget, Senate DFLers remained committed to building the final budget that supports every Minnesotan and delivering on the transformative changes our state needs to ensure everyone can thrive.
While there are several provisions in the budget bills that we can be proud of, there is still a lot of work left to do. There were several important pieces of legislation that the Senate DFL advocated for that did not make it through, like Paid Family Medical Leave and Earned Safe and Sick Time. We also recognize that while federal money helped us significantly this year, we must discuss the need for ongoing state-level funding to tackle long-term projects and programs that could address inequalities in our state. We will still need to continue to fight for comprehensive legislation to address climate change and major election policy reforms. Perhaps, one of the biggest items still left undone is to pass police reform measures that will truly lead to a state where everyone can feel safe in their communities.
The Senate DFL will not back down from the work left undone and will continue to fight on behalf of Minnesotans and the values we all share. When Senate Republicans treated the confirmation of the governor’s commissioners as a partisan political game, the Senate DFL fought back and forced the adjournment of the special session. We brought an end to the games and waste of taxpayer dollars and will now focus on listening and learning from our communities and take their stories back with us to the Capitol. We will come ready to continue to fight for the issues that will make a better Minnesota for everyone.