Legislative forum highlights district policy concerns

The forum saw local state lawmakers hear from constituents on issues relevant this legislative session.

Imani Cruzen

Local state lawmakers met with constituents at a forum near the University of Minnesota campus Sunday to discuss policy issues relevant to community members in the University-area district.

Sen. Kari Dziedzic, DFL-Minneapolis, Rep. Mohamud Noor, DFL-Minneapolis, and Rep. Diane Loeffler, DFL-Minneapolis, spoke to constituents about a “driver’s licenses for all” bill, affordable housing, climate change and healthcare and how those issues are being addressed this legislative session. The event, one of about 50 forums statewide hosted by the ISAIAH faith coalition, was held at the University Lutheran Church of Hope.

Jose Luis Sanchez Campos spoke to legislators about the driver’s licenses for all bill, which would provide driver’s licenses to Minnesota residents without proof of legal immigration status. Sanchez, who emigrated from Mexico, highlighted his own difficulties of traveling between two jobs by bus.

“My story is just one of thousands of immigrants and my feelings represent just one of many people’s feelings and struggles,” Sanchez said in an interview through an interpreter. “[I spoke] to create awareness and to push them to try to help us pass the driver’s licenses for all [bill].”

Dziedzic said the bill is not just about dignity, but represents a public safety issue and an economic issue for farmers.  

“It took a lot of conversations to convince some of our Democratic colleagues too that this was a public safety issue,” Dziedzic said. “[In 2015], we couldn’t get the House to go with us. So, we’re … continuing to have those conversations.”

Minneapolis resident Kevin Branting spoke about his medical history and need for regular care through Medicaid, which is largely funded by a two percent tax expected to expire at the end of this year.

“I urge you to preserve the two percent provider tax,” Branting said.

Loeffler, an author of a bill to preserve the tax, said Republicans and Democrats disagree over how ending the tax would affect Minnesota residents.

“The Republicans are trying to say this is a tax increase. It is not,” Loeffler said. “It will not reduce health care costs if it is discontinued. What it will do is increase the number of uninsured.”

Chris Zann spoke about his experience being homeless for the past 13 months and his difficulty finding housing as a convicted felon.

“You’ve got a lot of problems. Please address them all. Healthcare, affordable housing, driver’s licenses,” Zann said. “Give dignity to these people.”

Minneapolis resident Kristen Anderson asked how the state can address climate change equitably and how the legislators would encourage action within their districts. Loeffler said while it’s good the state is taking steps toward clean energy, further action is needed.

“I’m hopeful that together we can build that bright future, but we have to get to the naysayers,” Loeffler said.