We’re halfway through the short ten-week legislative session and the introduction of new bills has slowed while committee and floor debate has increased. But despite the ticking clock, Republicans in the House have spent much of their time on bills that are, to be frank, a waste of taxpayer resources–and some ideas that could be actively harmful to Minnesota’s future and the values that we all share.
It was difficult to narrow down the list of detrimental bills that are being prioritized by Republicans this session, but here are a few to give you an idea of what we’re dealing with:
This one you’ve probably heard of: Representative Gruenhagen decided to follow cues from a few other states and introduce legislation that blocks trans people from using the bathroom. He believes that trans people threaten safety and privacy in bathrooms, changing rooms, and other areas where privacy is paramount. We appreciated what Representative Lesch had to say about Gruenhagen’s introduction of the bill: “I know you, and I know you actually believe this.” It’s an important reminder that we all need to spend some time with those who are different from us more often. See David Montgomery’s piece on the bill here.
Why is it a waste? There wasn’t even a vote on this bill, just a big splash and no results. Maybe that’s because Gruenhagen and his allies know that DFL lawmakers, and Governor Dayton would stand on the right side of history and block the bill.
Another bill that’s been making a lot of noise this week (maybe because of how many puns can be made on the subject) is Representative Rarick’s ‘Fireworks Freedom’ bill, which would permit larger fireworks to be sold in Minnesota in the month or so leading up to the Fourth of July. My favorite response to the bill: various Republican lawmakers claiming that anyone against the bill doesn’t like fun and Representative Atkins firing back, saying “While I’m pro-fun and pro-freedom, I’m also pro-fingers and pro-eyes.” See MPR’s piece on the bill here.
Why is it a waste? Count me in the anti-fun camp, if that’s what it means to be supportive of the continued possession of fingers, arms, eyes, eyebrows, and the like. This is another bill that Governor Dayton has promised to veto, and it’s frustrating to watch Republicans claiming that anyone who disagrees with them hates fun and freedom. Plus, various groups (including people that really know what they’re talking about, like the fire marshals) have come out against this bill, warning that legalizing larger fireworks in Minnesota can lead to dangerous, expensive, and unforeseen consequences – like the loss of an eye, I guess.
Fetal Tissue Research
Representative Whelan has introduced a bill to help realize her vision for the University of Minnesota’s medical research program. Specifically, she wants to defund the U unless they start getting fetal tissue only from the sources that Whelan approves of. (The reasoning for this bill stems from the debunked Planned Parenthood video farce from 2015.) Weirdly, the U doesn’t seem to want to become the leader that Whelan has envisioned, and the testifiers that she called weren’t exactly convincing: instead, they argued and interrupted the polite questions from representatives like Rep. Murphy in the HHS committee. Here’s a January article from Rewire, and you can watch the recent committee hearing here.
Why is it dangerous? Because Republicans only care about science when it furthers their religious beliefs, because Governor Dayton and the DFL Senate won’t support it, and because it would set back important research to cure diseases.
Various Anti Choice Proposals
Thanks mostly to Representative Lohmer, there are a few different anti-choice bills on the table. One of the most worrisome is Representative Lohmer’s attempt to defund Planned Parenthood and redirect funds to organizations that don’t provide abortions. There are many infuriating parts about this — one, that there are simply not the clinics to absorb the need, given that 55% of Planned Parenthood clinics in Minnesota are in rural or underserved areas; two, that state funds are never used for abortions anyway; and three, that statewide polls show that Minnesotans are supportive of continuing to support Planned Parenthood’s deeply important work for women’s health around the state. See a letter to the editor in the Star Tribune here.
Why is it dangerous? See above. The proposal was discussed and could potentially be included in a larger funding bill, which — though the governor has promised to veto it — means that there will be some heated conversations ahead in order to keep Minnesota moving forward. Also, it’s just one more example of Republicans catering to their ultra-conservative base at the expense of everyone else.
Unless you’re an anti-choice, anti-science fireworks lover, Republicans aren’t doing much for you this session. Luckily, Governor Dayton and Senate DFLers have put together plans that will work better for all Minnesotans.