Local lawmakers meet with voters ahead of the Minnesota Legislature’s final weeks

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Much has been accomplished by the Minnesota Legislature during the 2023 session but with only a month left, there may be some issues voters find crucial to address that could be glanced over until next year.

“It’s expected that we’ll get a lot of refugees due to climate change,” said Mary E. Jones, a member of the Rochester League of Women Voters. “There’s just so many aspects to this that if it happens real quickly it might be difficult for our state. They’re doing a good job getting a start on it but it will be a continuing issue.”

Local legislators met with their constituents this morning around the Rochester area.

Minnesota House Representative Andy Smith (DFL) and State Senator Liz Boldon (DFL), met with the League of Women Voters-Rochester at Zumbro Lutheran Church in Rochester.

State Senator Carla Nelson, who has been hosting Saturday sessions with voters all month, hosted open district hours at Otto’s Bakery in Byron.

Both events held discussions on issues that voters hoped to be addressed in the state legislature before its conclusion in mid-May.

Legislators have addressed some issues that have been hot discussions amongst the public, such as making Minnesota a refugee state for people who identify as transgender. Other hot topic issues such as marijuana legalization, which the house is set to vote on this Monday, is something some voters are still not ready for.

“Obviously there’s a lot of different thoughts within our own caucus, people who voted for me,” said Smith. “With marijuana, to be honest the research we have shows that it is a substance that is certainly not as dangerous as people want us to believe and is able to be used responsibly, recreationally. And we shouldn’t criminalize it and people should be able to do that responsibly.”

“It’s not really a partisan issue,” said Nelson. “What I have heard over and over again is that there is great concern amongst public safety. Because unlike alcohol, there’s absolutely no tests to determine when someone is impaired.”

All representatives were able to get a grasp of what voters were hoping for to be completed in the final weeks of the session today.

“The number one that bubbled up for me was democracy issues and making sure that we are passing policies that make it easier for people to vote,” said Boldon. “Including things like voter registration, automatic voter registration, pre-registration of 16 to 17-year-olds. Those pieces that really expand and protect our democracy and make it easier for people to vote was very clear here today that is what people want.”

Each of these representatives is hopeful to accomplish some forms of legislation that their constituents have asked for with only a month to go in the session.

The Minnesota House Floor session to vote on marijuana legalization starts at 11:30 a.m. on Monday morning.

Smith plans to vote in favor of legalization as well as Bold once it reaches the Senate floor. Senator Nelson has not yet decided how she will vote if the bill reaches the Senate.