Despite bipartisan support on a range of racial justice issues, including voting rights restoration, public transit support, drivers’ licenses for immigrant communities, and juvenile justice reform, the Minnesota legislature dissolved into an unmitigated disaster in the last days of session.
The final minute of the legislative session. Legislators aren't even sure what bill they're voting on.
Despite a $2 billion surplus, our elected officials chose to make painful cuts to MinnesotaCare that would triple the costs to low-income patients, eliminate a citizen pollution oversight agency, and privatize the state auditor's office.
Moment of silence on the Capitol steps for all who have fought for voting rights before us.
The "compromises" reached at the end of the session were essentially 11th hour deals brokered by a small handful of elected officials, negotiating private backroom deals determining the fates of 5.5 million Minnesotans. This is not what democracy looks like.
The inability of these legislators to prioritize the racial and economic disparities faced by millions throughout the state is an embarrassment to the progressive state of Minnesota and has real, painful consequences for our communities. It means 47,000 Minnesotans will lack a basic voice in our democracy. It means our aging public transit system will deteriorate, roads and bridges will crumble, and immigrant communities will continue to be marginalized. And it means people on MinnesotaCare who are already barely getting by will face massive increases in healthcare costs.
NOC members testifying on the need for increased funding for public transportation.
Much of the blame belongs to House GOP leadership, which refused to hold a hearing for voting rights restoration (among other issues) despite wide bipartisan support. But the failure was on both sides of the aisle which raises some serious questions about the priorities of Senate DFL leadership.
Although equitable transportation funding was a major priority for both parties, at the end of session, the legislature just decided not to work on it. And though Senate DFL leadership promised voting rights was their top policy priority going into the public safety conference committee, the final bill prioritized gun silencers over voting rights.
If the goal of the session was to silence the demands of progressive Minnesotans--it didn't work.
Rallying in the cold at the Capitol for transit.
Over the last four months, we've spent countless hours at the Capitol, talking to legislators about voting rights, earned sick and safe time, fair scheduling, and the need for increased investment in public transportation. We shared our stories with the media and rallied on the Capitol steps. As part of a coalition of more than 70 organizations, we helped make voting rights a priority this session like never before. And we made history when the bill to Restore the Vote passed the Senate floor for the first time ever.
NOC members at the Capitol after Restore the Vote passed through its first Senate committee.
Building power is not just about passing laws. It's about building and multiplying a base, growing a movement, and developing strong leaders. We are more determined than ever to organize in our communities to close our worst-in-the-nation racial disparities.
Although the legislature failed abysmally to deliver meaningful change for our communities, we see major opportunity for change in the city of Minneapolis. We're organizing for a workers' rights agenda, including earned sick and safe time, fair scheduling, and a living wage. We're working harder than ever, and together we'll win real, meaningful change in 2015.
Rallying for a $15 minimum wage in Dinkytown, hours after our office burned down.
Closing Minnesota's worst-in-the-nation racial disparities can't wait. Since the legislature adjourned Monday, our members have testified before the City Council on ending the ban on spitting and lurking, two low-level offenses that disproportionately target people of color, and marched for a $15 minimum wage outside McDonald's shareholders meeting. We'll be at City Hall on Friday, June 5 to pack the city council chambers as the council votes on ending the ban on lurking and spitting in Minneapolis. We invite you to join us.
Thanks for being part of the movement. Onward and upward.