A new session dawns
As you read this article, the 2015 Minnesota Legislature has begun its work. Newly elected members of the House have been sworn in and a new speaker of the house has been elected. The committees charged with putting together the state budget for the 2016-17 biennium have begun their work.
As a Democrat, returning to St. Paul in the minority brings a new perspective to me. My first term was spent in the majority, a term in which so much work on behalf of all Minnesotans was accomplished. In fact, that session was one of the most productive in decades. Now, the Republicans will control of all committees and the speaker's chair. They will set the agenda and control which bills actually receive a hearing.
This will be a time, in minority party status, when a lawmaker's ability to work across the aisle is truly tested. It is a time to focus on issues that are important to Duluth, yet perhaps nonpartisan enough so as to have a chance. A large majority of bills passed each session are indeed nonpartisan. Regardless of party affiliation, sometimes things just make good sense for the people.
Many are asking me now, "What are your priorities for this session?" My answers are pretty simple. For one, we want to make sure we protect our great city and state from moving backward. We have a structurally balanced state budget for the first time in 10 years. Our projected surplus is not nearly enough to consider tax cuts unless we want to hinder ourselves in future bienniums. We passed some incredible policy initiatives that make Minnesota head and shoulders above neighboring states and we are headed in a very positive direction.
Another priority will be to start laying some groundwork for a 2016 bonding bill. That is one area where the new House majority needs our help to pass a bill. It will be my priority to work with our City Council and administration to identify the project(s) that stand the best chance of inclusion in a final bonding year.
And, of course, there will be other issues to work on, too. There is always some district particulars that seem to come up that require statutory work, and often they can be fairly straightforward.
In closing, I think it is more than appropriate to stress that relationships built today may seem trivial now, but somewhere down the road they may become far more important.
Erik Simonson, DFL-Duluth, is the Minnesota state representative for District 7B.