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The Best (and Worst) Moments of the 2023 Legislative Session.

It’s been a whirlwind of a legislative session with progressives championing everything from marijuana legalization to abortion rights and paid time off for Minnesota workers.

But, these victories have come with roadblocks. Conservatives in the Minnesota House and Senate have taken every opportunity to fight against bills that invest in our workers, schools, families, and communities.

In case you missed it, here’s a recap of the need-to-know from the 2023 legislative session. 

Best: Minnesota progressives codified abortion laws and protected reproductive rights 

One of the first priorities that progressives delivered this session was protecting the right to abortion. 

In January, Governor Tim Walz signed the PRO Act into law, codifying our right to safe, legal abortion and comprehensive reproductive health care in Minnesota.

And because the right to abortion is continuously under siege in our neighboring states, Governor Walz signed the Reproductive Freedom Defense Act to keep Minnesota a beacon of access for reproductive care in the Midwest.

The bill will protect patients coming to Minnesota from a state that banned abortions and doctors who practice in Minnesota or outside of Minnesota.

Worst: Every Minnesota conservative in the Senate voted against codifying the right to abortion

Even though our progressive trifecta secured the passage of this critical legislation, every single conservative member of the Minnesota Senate voted against the bill. And they even launched an informal filibuster to prevent the bill from passing the Senate.

And, during the debate, conservative lawmakers made countless harmful, out-of-touch comments. 

In a particularly infuriating moment, conservative senator Glenn Greunhagen asserted that abortion and pornography lead to women being abused. And at one point, Gruenhagen exclaimed: “Ladies, come to your senses. Think of what you’re doing.” 

Minnesotans are sick and tired of having our rights put under attack. Abortion is essential health care. It is unacceptable that our conservative lawmakers continue trying to take away our reproductive rights. 

Best: Progressives delivered Universal School Meals for Minnesota students 

In March, Governor Walz signed landmark legislation to fund universal school meals for Minnesota students! 

Under this new bill, Minnesota will pay the gap between federal funding and the meal cost regardless of a family’s income, providing all students with free school lunches and breakfast.

Worst: A conservative MN senator says he has never met a hungry Minnesotan

Senator Steve Drazlowski made national news headlines for his insensitive comments about the bill to provide universal school meals for students, saying:

I have yet to meet a person in Minnesota that is hungry. I have yet to meet a person in Minnesota that says they don’t have access to enough food to eat. Now, I should say that hunger is a relative term. I had a cereal bar for breakfast. I guess I’m hungry now.

Steve Drazkowski’s comments are out-of-touch and clueless about the struggles that Minnesota families and kids are facing. 

Last year, one in six  Minnesota students were food insecure. Of those students, 25% are from households that didn’t qualify for free or reduced-price meals.

But unfortunately, Drazkowski is not an outlier. 

In fact, most conservatives in the Minnesota Senate and House voted against providing free breakfast and lunch for school students.

Best: Progressives legalized adult-use cannabis 

Minnesota House and Senate progressives passed groundbreaking legislation to legalize recreational adult-use cannabis! 

The new regulations will take effect as early as August 2023. 

This law takes crucial measures to repair the legacy of racial injustice created by decades of criminalized marijuana use. 

And not only will cannabis enter a regulated system, but Minnesota will see programs aimed at protecting youth, public health, and road safety and generating new tax revenue to invest in Minnesota. 

Worst: Minnesota conservatives tried everything and anything to oppose legalizing marijuana 

Listening to conservatives try and think of ways to oppose marijuana legalization was almost as embarrassing as it was exasperating. 

At one point during the debate, conservative Senator John Jasinski argued against legalization because sniffer dogs would lose their jobs. 

Another senator, conservative Jim Abeler, cited the fictional 1960’s movie “Refer Madness” as he argued against the cannabis bill. 

And it gets worse. A conservative representative, Marion O’Neill, tried to argue that “legalizing marijuana is a backdoor to take your guns away.” 

She was preceded by her colleague, who thought she would make her point against recreational marijuana use by bringing 5 pounds of hemp bud into a committee debate arguing that the proposed regulation would allow Minnesotans to have too many joints… 

We know, we’re exhausted too. 

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It’s been a whirlwind of a session. And though progressives have championed victories across the state, conservatives tried to road block us every step of the way. 

We need to hold conservatives accountable for opposing the things that matter most so that we can continue to build a better Minnesota for the years to come.

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