Tensions run high during annual legislative forum

The Forum News Service held its annual “Legislative Preview” forum this week with legislative leadership and Governor Walz. The forum, held annually at the beginning of a new legislative session, is an opportunity for leaders to outline their goals for the Legislature. The 2021 forum was significantly more contentious than usual.

Given last week’s attack on the Capitol building in Washington D.C., the Minnesota Senate Majority Leader and House Minority Leader were both pressed to acknowledge that the presidential election was not stolen. However, both refused. Instead, both Republican leaders suggested we should listen to people who think the election is stolen. This came even after Governor Walz disclosed direct threats to his family from last week’s St. Paul protest, including the State Patrol removing his son from the Governor’s residence.

The Republican leaders also attempted to draw an equivalency between the unrest in Minneapolis following the murder of George Floyd and the Capitol assault, despite the clear incitement that President Trump engaged in and the continued refusal by Republican elected officials to call the 2020 election free and fair.

The DFL Minority Leader reminded attendees that while freedom of speech and peaceful protest is fundamental to our constitutional rights, there are limits to when it comes to violence and acts of terrorism. The actions at the US Capitol were not achieved overnight but were incited by months of misinformation about the outcome of the 2020 Presidential Election spread by the Trump administration. She also highlighted the role and responsibility of lawmakers in the Senate and House to deal with facts, and while individuals are entitled to ask questions, lawmakers cannot perpetuate lies about the election.

When pressed a final time to refute the allegation that the election was stolen, the Republican Senate Majority Leader refused, despite the lack of evidence found of widespread fraud or irregularities while investigating 61 election-related lawsuits.

Before Governor Walz left the meeting, he asserted that he does not feel comfortable at this time giving up his peacetime emergency powers if the members of the Legislature would disregard facts put forth by the CDC and continued displaying such behaviors as gathering without masks. The governor stated his disappointment in the refusal of the Republican Caucus to engage with the facts in front of them.